For almost 45 years, Pete Daley was a fixture in Mon Valley politics.
Elected mayor of California in 1973 at the age of 22, Daley served in that post until being elected to the state House of Representatives in 1982. He went on to win 17 consecutive elections, representing the 49th Legislative District of the state House of Representatives.
But Daley announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t seek re-election, and two newcomers, Democrat Alan Benyak of Carroll Township and Republican Bud Cook of West Pike Run Township are running in next Tuesday’s election to replace him.
Both Benyak and Cook survived tough primary elections to win the nominations of their respective parties. Benyak outlasted five competitors while Cook defeated Melanie Patterson of Belle Vernon.
They bring different qualifications and backgrounds to the campaign. A Charleroi attorney, Benyak is the solicitor for Charleroi Borough and the Municipal Authority of Belle Vernon. While a member of the U.S. Army he was the recipient of several awards for his service, including the Meritorious Service Medal.
Cook is an e-marketing and promotions consultant for financial service professionals, attorneys, insurance companies and others. He has authored a marketing tool for the Mon Valley region entitled “Destination Points’’ to promote attractions, activities and assets in the district.
While Benyak and Cook agree on the major problems facing district residents such as opioid abuse, blight and education, they differed in their solutions to the woes. Among their disagreements were property taxes. Benyak said he supports a shift from property taxes to a 1 percent sales tax while Cook said he’s against that move because it would only be a tax shift.
Overall, the board was impressed with Cook’s energy and enthusiasm in seeking the seat. After losing to Daley two years ago, he came back stronger this time campaigning non-stop for the past year. However, Cook didn’t get into much specifics during the forum held last month with Benyak, telling those in attendance that they should check out his website for more answers. That wasn’t enough. Cook should have given more details to the questions posed at the forum.
Benyak, on the other hand, did give detailed information full of specifics. He was very knowledgeable about the issues and didn’t hesitate in sharing his views with the audience.
Benyak was also forthright in saying that he supports Hillary Clinton as the nation’s next president. Cook talked around this issue, refusing to say who he will vote for.
For all those reasons, the board endorses Benyak to replace Daley in Harrisburg.
The 40th Legislative district includes parts of Fayette and Washington counties. In Fayette County, it includes Franklin, Jefferson and Washington townships, along with Belle Vernon, Fayette City and Newell boroughs. In Washington County, the district includes Carroll, Fallowfield, North Bethlehem, West Bethlehem and West Pike Run townships, along with Allenport, Brownsville, Bentleyville, California, Charleroi, Coal Center, Cokeburg, Deemston, Donora, Dunlevy, Elco, Ellsworth, Long Branch, Marianna, New Eagle, North Charleroi, Roscoe, Speers, Stockdale, Twilight and West Brownsville boroughs.