The race for the 51st District of the state House of Representatives is a classic showdown.
On the one side is veteran lawmaker, Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Township, who is seeking his sixth term in the state Legislature.
On the other side is a newcomer, Matthew Dowling, R-Uniontown, who is making his first run for public office.
Mahoney touts his record in office and his outreach efforts to help people in need of assistance in dealing with state government. Dowling said his experience as a small-business owner will help put him in good stead as a lawmaker.
During a forum held earlier this month with the two candidates, Mahoney appeared to have a good grasp of the issues, although for him, everything somehow tied into his favorite issue of school consolidation. Mahoney has come up with a plan to consolidate the administrations of the school districts in Fayette County. He said it would save taxpayers money as well as allowing more money to be spent on the education of students in the county.
Mahoney said that improving the county’s education system is crucial for the overall betterment of Fayette County’s economy, noting the county will continue to lose population until that happens.
Dowling said he believes the only way to improve the county’s school system is through pension reform. He said the spiraling cost of pensions is draining money that should be used for the education of the county’s students.
While they have their differences on the education issue and other various problems facing the commonwealth, both candidates have a proven track record of community service.
Mahoney sponsors annual senior and veterans information and health fairs and holiday food drives. He also contributes to annual Christmas dinners for the needy and college scholarships for one high school student in each school district within his legislative district.
Dowling founded the annual “Share the Spirit” event, which raises funds for local nonprofit agencies. The initiative is done in partnership with the Community Foundation of Fayette. He also served for a year as district governor for Rotary International.
There was strong support on the board for both candidates. Mahoney was praised for being accessible and for being independent, especially in standing up to Gov. Wolf on the budget last year.
Dowling was praised for his intelligence and hard work in becoming familiar with all the topics discussed at the forum. He also has seems to be working well with local Republican lawmakers, state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Bullskin Township, and state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis. No matter the outcome of this election, he appears to have a bright future in politics at some level.
In the end, the board endorsed Mahoney, noting with his tenure on the job he’s better positioned than a newcomer like Dowling to help residents of the 51st District.
However, the endorsement came with a caveat that Mahoney should drop his plans for school consolidation unless he can find a way to make it happen quickly. He’s been working on the plan for several years without success. If this fight can’t be won, then it’s time to move on. There are other pressing problems that also need to be dealt with.
The 51st Legislative District includes the City of Uniontown, Georges, German, Henry Clay, Nicholson, South Union, Springfield, Springhill, Stewart and Wharton townships and Fairchance, Markleysburg, Ohiopyle, Point Marion and Smithfield boroughs in Fayette County along with Addison, Elk Lick, Lower Turkeyfoot, Summit and Upper Turkeyfoot townships and the boroughs of Addison, Confluence, Garrett, Meyersdale, Salisbury and Ursina, in Somerset County. The salary for the position is $85,339.