State Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, is not seeking re-election, and the winner of the seat likely will be chosen during the April 24 primary election because no Democrats have filed.
The district includes the Pittsburgh International Airport corridor and parts of the South Hills (Bethel Park, Jefferson Hills, Mt. Lebanon, Pleasant Hills, South Fayette, South Park, Upper St. Clair and Whitehall) in Allegheny County, along with Peters in Washington County.
Sponsored by the Peters Township Republican Committee, the debate was televised and attended by about 50 people. It included D. Raja, 46, a business executive and former Mt. Lebanon commissioner; state Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, 54, an insurance company president who represents the 44th Legislative District; and Sue Means, 60, a nurse from Bethel Park.
Though there were tense moments among them at times during the two-hour debate at the Peters Township Middle School, Mr. Raja and Mr. Mustio didn't touch much on their battle over the airwaves.
In a television ad that has been running since late last month, Mr. Mustio's campaign has accused Mr. Raja of outsourcing jobs to his native India and features an image of Mr. Raja with the Indian flag superimposed in the background.
During his opening statements in the debate, Mr. Raja said he came to America 25 years ago to attend the University of Pittsburgh and founded a successful software company in the spare bedroom of his Scott townhouse.
Today, Mr. Raja said his company is still based in Scott and employs 400 people, with 80 to 100 of those in India, and about 94 percent of the firm's money is spent locally.
Mr. Raja's campaign has an ad slamming Mr. Mustio for voting in favor of the 2005 pay raise and for taking taxpayer-funded per diems and other perks as a legislator.
During the debate, Mr. Mustio said he regretted voting for the pay raise and said he returned the money.
Mrs. Means kept her focus on what she sees as a bloated state government that needs to be kept on a strict spending diet.