absentee ballot, Fayette County Election Bureau

Fayette, Greene see uptick in voter registration for presidential race

By Patty Yauger pyauger@heraldstandard.com
Published 2:15 AM EDT

In nine days voters in Fayette and Greene counties, along with those across the state and country will go to the polls to choose the next U.S. president.

While other important races are on the ballot, it is the most-talked about contest at the dinner table, around the water cooler or by the pundits, prognosticators and analysts.

The candidates — Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP pick Donald J. Trump, have acknowledged the importance of Pennsylvania’s voters if their visits and those of their surrogates are any indication.

Recent polls have Clinton ahead of Trump in the state, but local new voter registration figures and those that have changed party affiliation, favor the GOP.

According to Rob Gleason, chairman of the state Republican Party, 243,139 registered as GOP voters by the Oct. 11 deadline, with more than 97,600 former Democratic voters switching to the Republican Party. Democrats gained about 38,000 former Republicans.

“Enthusiasm is clearly on the side of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania this year,” said Gleason. “Republicans are making historic gains in voter registration in the Keystone State.”

Larry Blosser, Fayette County Election Bureau director, attributed some of the number increases to the state’s new online registration program.

First time voters and those that wanted to change their voter registration could do so by completing an online application.

While there were some glitches, the bureau did its best to ensure that everyone that wanted to have the opportunity to vote in the general election, would be able to do so, said Blosser.

Since Jan. 2,109 Democrats switched their party affiliation to Republican, while 216 Republicans moved to the Democratic Party.

Blosser, who has watched the county voting habits for many years, ties the party switch to voters not favoring the candidate winning the nomination of their respective party as party affiliation has no restrictions in the general election.

“You can be a registered Democrat and vote for a Republican in the election,” he said. “(A registration change) is a statement that you are not aligned with that (party) candidate, but instead, like the other party’s candidate.”

New voters totaled 3,590 since the beginning of the year. The county election records do not reflect if the new registrant has never voted or was earlier purged from the rolls or moved from another location.

The bulk of the new voters – 2,164 registered after the April primary.

While the numbers have increased significantly, Blosser said the 2008 presidential race registrations were greater.

“This is a close second,” he said of the 2016 race.

The interest in the presidential race will likely translate into a higher voter turnout on election day, Blosser added.

“Everyone wants to pick the new president,” he said, estimating that 60 percent or more of the county’s nearly 83,000 registered voters will turn out. “I don’t believe it will be as large as the turnout in the 2008 race.”

The county has typically tilted Republican when it comes to a presidential election.

In 2004, then-Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry carried the county over incumbent President George W. Bush, and although only by a narrow margin, a majority of voters then opted for GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain over his Democratic challenger Barack Obama in 2008.

In 2012, county voters again chose the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, over Obama.

Greene County, too, has experienced an uptick in registrations with 1,217 new registrants since the primary, said Tina Kiger, director of elections, with 317 opting to sign on with the Democratic Party and 653 people with the Republican Party. The remaining 147 new registrations were with other parties, such as Independent, Libertarian or the Green Party, among others.

The Greene County voter rolls also saw 298 voters change their party affiliation to Republican while 52 others requested that they be listed as a Democrat. The party changes took place after the April 27 primary.

Kiger said it is typical to have a turnover in party registrations leading up to a presidential year primary, but there has been more activity this year.

“This is an exceptional one with so many people registering with the Republican Party,” she said.

Total Democratic voters continue to outpace the GOP numbers in the county by a 1.5-to-1 margin, with 12,474 Democrats and 12,474 Republicans on the county voting rolls.

While there are other state races on the ballot, Kiger speculates it is the top of the ballot race that has drawn the most interest.

“It is the presidential race,” she said.

Like Fayette County, Greene County voters have routinely supported the Republican presidential candidate.

McCain had a slight edge over Obama in 2008, according to the figures, while Romney garnered 58 percent of the vote count in 2012 over Obama, who secured 40 percent of the vote county.

Kiger, too, anticipates a heavy turnout at the polls.

“It is going to be interesting,” she said.

absentee ballot, Fayette County Election Bureau

Absentee voter requests on track with 2008 numbers

By Patty Yauger pyauger@heraldstandard.com
Published 2:00 AM EDT

Those that will not be in Fayette or Greene counties on Election Day still have a few days to cast an absentee ballot.

Although the clock is ticking, voters have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to receive an absentee ballot application and until 5 p.m. Friday to have the marked ballot in the hands of their respective county election bureaus.

Larry Blosser, Fayette County Election Bureau director, said application requests for the ballots have been brisk, with more than 2,050 sought by those that will be unable to visit their precinct polling place on Nov. 8.

He said that that the staff has not tracked how many have been returned to the office, either in person or by mail.

“There are Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others requesting absentee ballots,” he said. “There are a lot of people in this area that go south at this time of the year and they want to make sure they vote before leaving.”

While the 2,000-plus figure is high, it remains less than the 2008 presidential election numbers, Blosser added.

Tina Kriger, Greene County Election Bureau director, said 817 voters have requested an absentee ballot application to take part in the election.

More than 400 ballots have been received by the office.

The use of absentee ballots is only allowable for those that will not be in their municipality during voting hours or have a medical reason that would prohibit them from going to the polls.

“I had a person call requesting an application saying they wouldn’t have transportation that day,” said Blosser. “That is not a legitimate reason.”

The application requires a specific reason for the absenteeism.

“We vet the applications,” said Blosser. “If there is a discrepancy, we call them and help them resolve the issue, if possible.”

Blosser and Kiger are advising those that do want to vote via an absentee ballot to do so promptly as mail service can be unpredictable.

“I would suggest that they bring in their application and vote at the counter,” said Blosser. “The turnaround time can be two to three days.

“If you drop off your application (at the election bureau office ) on Tuesday, you may not receive your ballot until Thursday, maybe Friday.

“At that time your only option is to bring your ballot to the office.”

Blosser also cautions that only the voter listed on the application can return his or her ballot.

“We can’t take your husband’s or wife’s ballot or those of your parents,” he said. “We can only receive (the lone voter ballot).”

The ballots will be delivered to the respective precincts on election day, where they will be opened and counted after the polls close.

Military absentee ballots, too, are being received from the Armed Forces serving stateside or around the world.

Special accommodations — including the extension of deadlines — have been made for the military voters to submit their ballots.

The Fayette County Election Bureau is located at 22 E. Main St., Uniontown. For additional information regarding absentee voting, call 724-430-1289.

The Greene County bureau office is located at 93 E. High St., Waynesburg. For additional information, call 724-852-5304.


Congressional hopefuls weigh in on candidacy, presidential choices

By Patty Yauger pyauger@heraldstandard.com Updated Oct 27, 2016

The three candidates vying for the 9th Congressional District representative seat offered their views on energy, infrastructure and who should be the next president, during their first face-to-face meeting leading up to the Nov. 8 election.

 
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, Republican Art Halvorson of Manns Choice, who will appear on the Democratic ticket, and write-in Democratic candidate Adam Sedlock of Uniontown, took part in the candidate forum Friday at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.

The forum was hosted by the HeraldStandard, Greene County Messenger and The MonValley Herald Standard, in partnership with the Mon Valley Alliance and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

The unique three-way race has Democratic leaders backing Sedlock, although Halvorson will appear on the ballot. Shuster has the support of the GOP. Halvorson said Democratic voters put him on the ballot because of their shared values. “Party leaders are nice to have on your side, but I have the people on my side,” he said. “The people took this election into their own hands, spontaneously and organically because they didn’t have a choice.”
There was no Democrat on the primary ballot

Halvorson said Sedlock’s lack of serious participation in the primary process — he waged a write-in campaign — provided an opportunity for his Democratic supporters to do likewise. “They nominated a likeminded, conservative Republican to be the Democratic nominee,” he said. “Clearly, I have a lot in common with those pro-life, pro-conservative
values, pro-family Democrats.

“We’re proud to be on the ballot.” Sedlock said that his course of action came after the Democratic Party offered no candidate to challenge the GOP primary candidates. “I saw that there was a vacancy, and a vacancy should not occur in a Democratic society,” he said. “We need to have a choice.” His decision to seek the nomination came after the submission of petition time frame had expired, he said. “The write-in campaign was embraced by the Democratic Party at all levels,” said Sedlock. “All the 12 county chairs in the (congressional district) were grateful and thankful for the decision. “The people did have a voice.” Sedlock claimed that Halvorson thwarted the process by having staffers elicit Democratic votes by advising primary voters that he represented the party.
“He still espouses the tea party values,” said Sedlock. “He does not embrace the Democratic values of the Democratic Party.” Shuster, meanwhile, said he did not actively pursue the Democratic nod, yet still received hundreds of Democratic write-in votes.
When questioned about whether a three-way race will potentially upset his reelection,
Shuster said he feels confident he will be successful in his bid for a ninth term in office.
“I think my record speaks for itself,” he said. “I am motivated by service. “There are some that say this is about power. It is not. The power belongs to the people and the election is when the people have the power to say who is going to represent them. Who they are going to give the responsibility to serve them in congress.”
Two of the three candidates — Halvorson and Shuster — said they plan to cast their presidential ballot for Trump while Sedlock believes the Democratic presidential nominee — Hillary Clinton — is best suited for the office. Shuster, who had been with Trump prior to the forum at a campaign rally in Johnstown, said while there are positions Trump has taken and remarks made by him that he does not agree with or support, he will make the best choices for the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently one position is vacant due to the February death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
“If Hillary Clinton is allowed to become President of the U.S., she will have one nomination and likely two more,” he said. “She will change the Supreme
Court for two generations. “She will appoint someone that is extremely liberal. (A liberal bench) will chip away at our religious freedoms, our second amendment rights, and the
rights businesses care about until we don’t know this country.”
Halvorson said he would pull the lever for Trump, and agrees with his philosophy concerning “career politicians” like Shuster.
Quoting Trump that “career politicians have been a total disaster in Washington,” Halvorson said it was time to rid Congress of the longtime politicians
like Shuster, in November.
“That’s what is a stake here (in the election),” said Halvorson. “Is Congress going to continue to be run by the power brokers supported by their donors and the lobbyists and the corrupting influence?”
Sedlock, meanwhile, said a Clinton presidency avoids a Trump “dictatorship.” his is a gentleman that has not paid (federal) taxes for 18 years,” said Sedlock. “He thinks its smart.
“How do we fund the military? How do we build our roads? “This is a gentleman that demeans women and gets away with it like its nothing.” Sedlock said a future with Clinton at the helm will allow for “clean energy, a clean environment and a future for the children and grandchildren.”

The full video of the forum can be viewed on the HeraldStandard website at http://www.heraldstandard.com.

Candidate Forums

Drugs, tax reform discussed in 52nd District forum

By Steve Ferris sferris@heraldstandard.com Updated Oct 27, 2016

Both candidates running for the 52nd District seat in the state House of Representatives agreed that drugs are a problem in the area, but have different views on fixing it.
Republican Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis, is facing a challenge in his run for a second term from Democrat James Mari, the tax collector in North Union Township. They discussed a variety of topics in a recent forum hosted by the Herald Standard and The Mon Valley Herald Standard at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
Warner said the supply of opioids should be addressed, and he does not believe methadone or suboxone treatments are the best ways to treat addicts.

“We’ve become way too lax in our society for prescription drugs in general,” Warner said.
He supports a bill to require monitoring when people try to get refills of certain pain killers to reduce the supply of drugs on the streets.Many addictions start with the use of those drugs, he said.
 
Methadone and suboxone are more addictive and have longer lasting withdrawal symptoms than heroin, he said.
“We’re just feeding them one drug and it takes longer to get off of that,” Warner said.
Mari said parents and schools should educate their children about the dangers of drug use.
He said he would work with police to combat drugs and supports longterm
“It takes a short time to get addicted, but it takes a lifetime to heal,” Mari said.
He said methadone and suboxone help, but are not cures.

Property tax reform, education

Warner said property taxes should be reduced or eliminated — and noted the most recent legislation would replace property taxes by raising sales and income tax rates.
Replacing revenue generated by property taxes with revenue from higher sales and income taxes is a massive tax shift, he said. “We’re looking at a $13 billion tax shift here,” Warner said. Mari, who has been a tax collector for 10 years, said House Bill 76 would eventually eliminate property taxes. He said raising the sales tax is fair because everybody would pay it. The candidates were asked if taxes on casino revenue are helping to reduce property taxes. Warner said the state’s underfunded pension system is eating up the casino money.
“The problem is that the majority of the money for education is going to a faltering pension system,” Warner said. Mari said gaming should be expanded to include military veteran organizations, clubs and other establishments. Warner said solving the pension problem would solve the education funding problem. “I believe, economically, it is the biggest financial problem we have,” Warner said about the pension fund. The pension plan is $7 billion out of balance, he said. “The tax dollars aren’t making it to the classroom,” Warner said. Both men said they would be willing to study school consolidation if it would save money. However, any consolidation plan should protect the jobs of teachers and other employees, Mari said.

Candidate Forums

52nd candidates discuss government reform

By Steve Ferris sferris@heraldstandard.com Updated Oct 27, 2016
The men vying to represent the 52nd Legislative District agree that the state House has too many members, and its size should be reduced. While Democrat James Mari said he hasn’t studied the resolution that would reduce the number of House members to 151 from 203, he said he supports reducing the size because it will save the taxpayers.
Incumbent state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis, said the number of House and Senate members should be reduced and voted for a bill that would do that.

Any reduction should be done carefully to make sure rural areas are represented, he said.
Pennsylvania has the largest full-time Legislature in the county. Texas is a larger state, but its Legislature is part-time, he said. Both candidates said they would support having an independent commission of citizens set legislative and congressional district maps.
Warner said his district includes half of East Huntingdon Township and the other half is in another representative’s district. Mari said he would also support a plan to provide the area with fair representation.

Per diems and state pension

Warner said he doesn’t take the state pension, nor accept per diem payments for travel or lodging. He said it was difficult to decide against joining the pension plan because he has family, but he promised he would not enroll in the pension plan or accept per diems or a vehicle from the state when he ran for his first term. The pension plan available to legislators is greater than the one for state employees and teachers, he said.
Democrat challenger James Mari, a tax collector in North Union Township, said Warner accepts reimbursements for mileage and lodging, which he contended is the same as accepting per diems. Mari did not say if he would accept per diems or enroll in the pension plan if he was elected. Warner said getting reimbursed for expenses is not the same as accepting per diems. Reimbursements for travel and lodging expenses documented on receipts saves tax dollars, he said. Per diems can be greater that the actual costs and lawmakers who accept them pocket the extra money, he said.


Warner said legislators must be able to disagree without resentment, and understanding the point of view of other lawmakers is the key to bipartisanship. Mari said too much emphasis is placed on party affiliations. “We need to throw the ‘Ds’ and ‘Rs’ away,” Mari said.He said he works with all taxpayers when they need help with their taxes and legislators must work for all state residents. Warner said he is a Republican because he believes the government should be smaller and less intrusive. “I believe the government that governs less governs best. … I just think our federal government has gotten way too big,” Warner said. He said the federal government should be involved only in issues involving the U.S. Constitution and states should be left to handle everything else.
Mari said he is a Democrat because it helps working class people and is supported by unions, which built the country. The men were asked to reveal who they’re going to vote for in the presidential election. Warner said he will cast a vote for Trump, though he doesn’t support everything Trump says or does. “He’s an outsider. He’ll bring something fresh to the equation,” Warner said. He said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would put coal miners out of work and called the National Rifle Association her greatest enemy.
Mari said both candidates have presented good ideas, but he wanted to watch the third debate before deciding who to vote for.
The forum was held prior to the third presidential debate.

Candidate Forums

Candidates for 50th discuss issues at forum

WAYNESBURG — In an atmosphere of civility, the two candidates running in the 50th Legislative District squared off in a forum last week and fielded a host of questions ranging from the opioid crisis to property tax reform, from municipal blight to legislative gridlock, and from educational funding to pensions and per diems. The two participants — two term incumbent Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, and her Republican challenger, Betsy Rohanna McClure, a registered nurse from Franklin Township — engaged in a back and forth exchange during the one-hour forum sponsored by the The Mon Valley HeraldStandard,
HeraldStandard and the Greene County Messenger held at Waynesburg Central High School.
Moderator of the event was Christopher Whitlatch, chief executive officer of the Mon Valley Alliance, and the questions he asked were designed to elicit specific responses to relevant issues affecting the legislative district that includes all of Greene and parts of Fayette and Washington counties. “First, there is no magical piece of legislation that is going to fix this problem,” Snyder said, when asked about solutions to the opioid crisis.
She said she was one of four state House members to serve on an opioid taskforce, and while there is so much more to do, there came agreement there has to be education, prevention and treatment. Snyder said she visited all seven school districts in the 50th and spoke to middle school kids. “I wanted them to understand and see the importance of
making good choices, of being leaders instead of followers,” she said. “This is all about communities and kids — educating our kids, making sure we have prevention. And for those who falter, making sure we have treatment.” McClure said as a school nurse, she is on the front line of this. “First, we need jobs and opportunities. If there are more opportunities for people, they will hopefully stay away from drugs,” she said. McClure believes the education process begins in the elementary schools. “We can’t wait to start in high school. That will be too late.”

Property tax reform

McClure said she would be in favor of the elimination of property taxes but questioned where the money comes from to fund schools. “We can’t have other taxes rising,” she said. Snyder said property tax reform and education funding are linked. “Property taxes have to be reduced, but you have you have a sustainable source of revenue to fund out public education system and take the burden off property tax owners,” she said. “I would never vote to cut school funding,” McClure said. She said bringing more jobs to the area would bring more people to help with the burden of the property tax. Snyder suggested that the state doesn’t pay its fair share of the public education system. “They have been negligent,” she said.

Pensions, per diems

Snyder said she does pay into the state pension system. “My opponent says she will not take a pension, but she already has a state pension as a school nurse. I am not doing my job for my pension. I am doing it to protect other people’s pensions,” she said.

With respect to per diems, Snyder said she is reimbursed for hotels and travel back and forth to Harrisburg. “I am reimbursed. I wish I didn’t have to be,” she said.
McClure said she would work to eliminate those per diems. “Many legislators from Fayette and Washington counties do not take per diems.” Each candidate was asked why they became a member of their respective political party, and whether they would tell the audience who they will be voting for in the presidential race. “The Democratic Party has always stood for the working class,” Snyder said. “I believe in the middle class, and I believe in the American dream.” Snyder described the presidential election as an “embarrassment,” and said right here, right now, “I am an undecided voter.” McClure said she has been a Republican all her life. “I believe in less taxes and freedom,” she said. “I became politically active because of health care. “The Affordable Care Act has been an intrusion,” she said. Her vote will go to Donald Trump, she said. No matter who is elected to lead the country, Snyder said when one of her constituents has a problem, they won’t call Trump or Hillary Clinton to fix it. “They will call Pam Snyder, state rep, to fix it,” she said.
The district covers all of Greene County, East Bethlehem Township and Centerville in Washington County and Brownsville, Luzerne and Redstone townships and Brownsville and Masontown boroughs in Fayette County. The 50th includes Albert Gallatin, Bethlehem Center and Brownsville school districts in Fayette and Washington counties, and all of the districts in Greene County.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Candidate Forums, Uncategorized

Candidates in 49th Legislative district square off

By Christine Haines chaines@heraldstandard.com Oct 14, 2016

MONESSEN — When voters head to the polls Nov. 8, those in the 49th Legislative District will elect a new state representative for the first time in more than 30 years. Democrat Alan Benyak of Charleroi and Republic Donald “Bud” Cook of Coal Center are vying for the seat held by Rep. Peter J. Daley since 1983. Daley, D-California, announced earlier this year he would not seek an 18th term in office.

Benyak, an attorney, and Cook, an emarketing and promotions consultant, recently discussed the issues facing the district at a public forum sponsored by The Mon Valley Herald Standard, the Mon Valley Alliance and the Greater Rostraver Chamber of Commerce.

One of the biggest issues facing not just the region, but the state as a whole, is opioid addiction. “People are dying every day,” Cook said. “At http://www.votebudcook.com we have a whole plan out there that addresses the drug problem.” Benyak said that he can see drug deals, and at times drug use, from his office window in Charleroi nearly every day, and each time he calls the authorities. “We need to treat these people because it is something that will be with them their entire life,” Benyak said. Benyak said he supports pending state legislation to allow charges to be brought against anyone who provides illegal drugs that cause injury to another person. “The U.S. attorney’s office is overwhelmed,” Benyak said of the need for the state legislation.

Property tax reform and blight

Benyak said he is a supporter of property tax reform, shifting to a 1 percent increase in the sales tax. That would allow people to pay taxes based on what they are able to spend, not on their place of residence, he said. Cook said the previously proposed property tax independence act is simply a tax transfer, shifting from property tax to a sales tax.
“That’s not a solution,” Cook said. “Now the government has its hand in your pocket 365 days a year instead of one. I think we need to address the blight in our area that has taken away a lot of the property tax.” Benyak said blight is a serious problem in the legislative district. “The number one reason for blight is property taxes are so high people just walk away from their properties,” Benyak said. “There are good things going on now. In Charleroi there is the land bank. I do have to give Donora credit for thinking outside the box and having their street department tearing down houses.” Cook said regulations often get in the way of communities fixing themselves up. He cited the case of a property in Washington County, where a local  contractor was hired to tear down a structure only to have the project stopped by the state Department of Environmental Protection because the contractor wasn’t licensed to handle asbestos removal. “It doesn’t take a lot to get these communities cleaned up,” Cook said.


Both candidates support additional funds for education.
“Where you come up with the money is a great question. You would have to look at every single item in the budget and prioritize them,” Benyak said. Cook said districts need to think outside the box when it comes to funding, partnering with nonprofit groups, state agencies and area universities to provide programs for students.
“It’s not always about passing new laws and spending more money,” Cook said.
He indicated he supported the concept of charter schools as alternatives to traditional education. “Competition is a good thing, but they too need to be held to a high standard,” Cook said. “I support basic public education,” Benyak said. “The problem with charter schools is they aren’t held to the same standard.” When asked whether high school students should have to pass a question civics test using the questions from the U.S. citizenship test, Benyak said he would like to review the proposal first.
“I don’t know what those 100 questions are. Would it be the same questions in all of the school districts?” Benyak asked. “I would defer to the attorneys here and say we need to review,” Cook said. Cook said he was amazed when he was gathering signatures for his nominating petition at how many people between the ages of 25 and 35 were unaware of how the political system worked.

Harrisburg, jobs and pensions

As for the political gridlock in Harrisburg, Cook said he is all for building a team.
“You attack the problem, not the people” he said. Benyak said people need to respect one another and keep an open mind. “I’m always able to get along with other people. My father was a steelworker and my mother was a secretary. I was taught to respect people. I’m a middle of the road guy,” Benyak said. On the role of recreation in the region, Benyak said it is one element of a diverse economy. “I’ve always viewed it as the icing on the cake, and in this particular district, there isn’t much cake left. We need to develop real jobs before we develop recreation,” Benyak said. “My priority is family-sustaining jobs.”
Cook said recreation jobs are the low-hanging fruit for local job creation.
“Seven of 10 jobs are created by small businesses in this country. If Allenport Steel Mill were coming back, it would have come back years ago,” Cook said. Neither candidate has made up his mind regarding taking a state pension, though Benyak noted that they are a long way away from earning a state pension and would need to win multiple terms in office to qualify. Cook said he would submit actual expenses instead of taking the state per diem. Benyak said he still hadn’t decided which reimbursement method he would select.
“I won’t abuse it either way,” Benyak said. In closing, Benyak said he supports a no budget/no pay proposal for the state legislature, forcing lawmakers to come up with the annual budget in a timely fashion. He also said the district has a bright future.
“We can rebrand ourselves. We’ll be something very different in five or 10 years,” Benyak said. Cook said he will continue to walk the walk. “Two things are still respected in the Mon Valley — hard work and fighters,” Cook said. “All my adult life I have attacked problems. Go down Main Street. Is this the best we can do after 25 years?”


National, State candidates open campaign offices in County

By Patty Yauger, Herald Standard – Uniontown, PA

In less that four weeks, voters will go to the polls to make their choices as to who will serve in the White House, Congress and several state positions.

Republicans and Democrats alike have ramped up their campaigns at every level. While it is typical to see a yard sign with a local candidate emblazoned across it along the roadside or on a billboard, this year candidates are also opening local offices in Fayette County to spur voter support.

Geoffrey V. Skelley, media relations coordinator and associate editor of Saboto’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, Center for Politics, ties the efforts to the close race between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“A number of outlets have reviewed the field office counts for Clinton and Trump in key states such as Pennsylvania,” he said. “In most places, Clinton has a notable advantage, but the two campaign are about equal in the Keystone State.
“Fayette County is by no means one of the biggest counties in the state, but it’s not small either. In 2012, there were 48,649 votes there, which was about 13,000 more votes than the median county in Pennsylvania that cycle.
“The Clinton campaign has more money and has shown more commitment to field operations nationally, so it’s not surprising they’re investing anywhere they can. While Trump is likely to win Fayette, margins matter so both sides will try to limit the advantage the other side can gain in different places. It’s not Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, but every vote counts the same.”

The Hillary Clinton Campaign Office on South Mount Vernon Avenue in Uniontown, Photo by Kelly Tunney, Herald Standard

The Hillary Clinton campaign recently opened an office at a building located at the intersection of M Vernon Avenue and Berkeley Street in Uniontown.
When the call came to help staff the office, Julia Anderson, and Mary Zsiros, both of Uniontown, were ready to sign on to help the Democratic presidential candidate.
Zsiros said a telephone call to the business plaza owner garnered the local Democrats an ideal location for an office.


“There are a lot of people pitching in to make telephone calls, do some canvassing and staff the office,” said Anderson.
On Sunday, the volunteers gathered at the office to watch the televised debate between Clinton an the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.
“It had its highs and lows,” said Anderson, of the debate held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “We’re all hoping the outcome is what we want.”
The office is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.
Jim Davis, Fayette County Democratic Committee chairman, speculates that the office is a sign that Democratic voters are vital in the Nov. 8 election.
“It has been an area that has done well for the Democrats historically,” he said. “I see (the establishment of the office) as an effort by the Democratic Party and those on behalf of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, to let Fayette County and western Pennsylvanian’s know she cares about this area.
“That she isn’t going to abandon this area.”
The area is garnering more interest by both parties because the number gap between the two are narrowing, said David Show, chairman of the Fayette County Republican Committee.
“As the registration gap continues to close in the county and more voters realize their values align with the Republican Party, our votes have a greater importance,” he said. “We will continue to see more attention being paid to Fayette County as we are no longer written off as a democratic county

The Bill Shuster Campaign Office at the former Uniontown Central School on Church Street in the downtown business district. Photo: Kelly Tunney, Herald Standard

While Trump has not opened an office, the old Central Elementary School campaign office of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, is touting the GOP nominee’s campaign with various signs in the window of the Church Street building.
Shuster is seeking his ninth term in office and leased the space in January. Shuster has won Trump’s endorsement in his 9th Congressional race against Republican Art Halvorson of Manns Choice, who will appear on the Democratic ballot.


Democrat Adam Sedlock, a Uniontown psychologist, has mounted a write-in campaign in his bid for the position.
Shuster, meanwhile, said although Halvorson continues to degrade Fayette County residents with his calling the region “the fringe of the district” and Democrats “godless,” he believes it is a vital part of the congressional district.
“I’ve condemned those remarks and continue doing everything I can to better serve my constituents he said. “I have such great respect and admiration for everyone in this region (and) the great people here is why I opened a campaign office in Uniontown.”
Casey Contres, Shuster’s campaign manager, said the office has received inquiries from both Republicans and Democrats over the the past months.
“We encourage anyone to stop by, say hello, and learn more about the work Congressman Shuster is doing for southwestern Pennsylvania,” he said.
The 23 E. Church St. office is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The Art Halverson for Congress Campaign Office at 23 Morgantown Street in the downtown business district of Uniontown, Photo: Kelly Tunney, Herald Standard

Halvorson, meanwhile, has opened an office at 23 Morgantown Road, within the Uniontown city limits.
Richard Latker, Halvorson’s deputy campaign director, said that the office staff will aid canvassers and poll workers in Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties for the final month of the campaign.
Halvorson lost to Shuster in the four counties in the primary. Districtwide, the margin was a slim 1,009 votes, with Shuster garnering 49,393 votes and Halvorson, 48,166 votes.
The loss, said Latker, prompted the opening of the office to deter similar results on Nov. 8.
“We’ve learned from experience that (sharing candidate information at the polls) is very important in a campaign,” he said. “Our ground game in Fayette County was very weak in the primary.
“It was the only full county (of the 9th Congressional District) that we lost.”

In addition to Fayette, the congressional district includes the entire counties of Indiana, Bedford, Blair, Fulton and Franklin, and portions of Greene, Washington, Westmoreland, Cambria, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.
The office has drawn interest about Halvorson’s bid for the seat and discussion about the GOP presidential candidate.
“It starts the conversation,” said Latker.
He is hopeful the presence of the campaign in Uniontown draws support for Halvorson at the polls.
“Fayette County has always been important to us,” he said. “We will be spreading ourselves and ou resources a little thin, but we want to make sure (the county voters) know we want their support.”
The office is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hours will be extended as more volunteers offer their time to man the location, Latker said.

Candidate Forums

Snyder, Rohanna-McClure to square off in candidate forum

By Patty Yauger Herald Standard Court Reporter
Oct 7, 2016

The two candidates seeking to represent the residents of the state’s 50th Legislative District will discuss the issues facing southwestern Pennsylvania during a forum hosted by the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and The Mon Valley Herald-Standard.
Both incumbent state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson Township, and her challenger in the race, Waynesburg Republican Betsy Rohanna McClure, will take part in the Thursday, Oct. 13, candidate forum in the auditorium of Waynesburg Central High School. The district encompasses all of Greene County and portions of Fayette and Washington counties.
Doors will open to the public at 5:45 p.m., with the forum to beg at 6:15 p.m.

  1. Neither candidate was challenged for their respective party nomination in the April primary.
    Snyder was first elected to state office in 2012 after serving nine years as a Greene County commissioner and is seeking a third term.
    A proponent of the coal and natural gas industries, during her first term, Snyder sponsored and led the passage of legislation that requires the state Department of Environmental Protection t receive approval from the state for the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.
    In 2014, Snyder was one of four lawmakers named to a legislativ task force charged with investigating the opioid prescription drug abuse in the state. The Joint State Government Commission’s task force produced recommendations that are now being implemented statewide.
    Rohanna McClure, a Trinity School District nurse and community leader, is a first time candidate.
    A Greene County native, Rohanna McClure earned her nursing degree from Waynesburg College and an master’s in education from California University of Pennsylvania. She has served as a case manager for Albert Gallatin Hospice and Washington Hospital, in addition to teaching college and vocational technical nursing classes.
    Rohanna McClure is a member of the Greene County Historical Society, Pennsylvania State Education Association and VFW Local 4793, among others.
    Herald-Standard, Greene County Messenger and The Mon Valle Herald-Standard Executive Editor Michael Palm said a candidate forum allows each candidate to express their views on a variety o topics.
    “The public deserves the opportunity to be informed about the views of the candidates who would like to represent them,” he said. “We believe the questions posed during our forum will help illuminate the issues most important to voters.”
    Robert Pinarski, publisher of the three newspapers, said that since 1690, Americans have looked to their newspapers for information about economic conditions, politics and the comings and goings of their neighbors.
    “The goal of the Greene County Messenger, the Herald-Standard and The Mon Valley Herald-Standard has been and will continue to be to deliver the most up-to-date information to the communities we serve,” he said. “The candidate forum is an additional informational tool for those that will go to the polls in November.”
    Christopher Whitlatch, Mon Valley Alliance chief executive officer will moderate the forum.
    The Alliance — the consolidation of the Mon Valley Progress Council and the Middle Monongahela Industrial Development Association — was created in April.