Outgoing state Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-51st) talked about his future plans, accomplishments and regrets during the past 1 years in office during an interview Friday.
Defeated by political newcomer, Republican Matt Dowling of Uniontown in the past November election, Mahoney believes it was related to what he called “Trump Mania.”
Mahoney said he believes the Republican wave swept throughout Western Pennsylvania. And, in the case of his district, he said the Republican party in Harrisburg poured money into the hands of his opponent.
“The Republicans spent over $300,000 against me,” he said. “Part of their marketing efforts were signs that said “I’m with her,” and identified me with Hillary Clinton. Those weren’t my signs.
“This young man (Dowling) who was just elected didn’t raise more than $3,000. Most of it came from Harrisburg people. He’s indebted to someone. … Where are his values going to be? Are they going to be with the people who financed his campaign or with his Fayette County constituents?”
Mahoney said people believe that Dowling is a conservative.
“Well not paying your mortgage bill on your home doesn’t seem conservative to me,” he said. “It sounds like you’re trying to put a debt on the people who invested in the bank.”
The Uniontown businessman said that he never considered a political career as part of his future until later in life.
Mahoney traced his entry into the political arena at the age of 50 to somewhat of a a “midlife crisis” that came when his oldest son, Tim Mahoney Jr., began managing his businesses.
“I didn’t know what career I really wanted (then),” Mahoney said. “I think that I was the right person at the right time. It wasn’t about a title – I never dreamed about being a politician when I was younger.
“I’ve owned 28 taverns, bars and restaurants. I’ve built over 100 houses, and I have 150 rental properties. I couldn’t see myself sitting on a back porch,” he added.
His father, James Mahoney, a Republican, was chief of police in Uniontown for 30 years.
“He always taught us – and there were seven children in my family – that you weren’t any better than other people and you needed to help them,” he said.
His conversion to the Democratic Party came as a result of his early work as a coal miner.
The life experience also resonated during this year’s Presidential campaign when he confronted Bill Clinton on Hillary’s infamous remark that she would, “Put a lot of coal miners out of work,” over pollution issues.
“I started in the coal mine,” Mahoney said. “ I was trapped for four hours once. We had to walk out in water up to our noses. That’s what changed my mind about the coal mines.”
Mahoney said he became a Democrati when Hillary made the statement about the coal miners.
“That really did it around here,” he said. “I think that was her downfall in Pennsylvania. I told her husband (Bill) that when I met him at Meloni’s Restaurant in Uniontown. He said that he didn’t know why she made the statement. That man’s a politician – he could fit in anywhere.”
Mahoney said that his biggest personal regret is that, “I feel sorry that I can’t help people like I have been able to. That’s the sadness of the whole thing. … I enjoyed the 10 years.
“When you’re able to help somebody, that’s the satisfying part,” he added. “For example, telling an 80-year-old woman that she’s eligible for heating assistance, someone who didn’t even know that they were qualified.”
However, Mahoney said he did miss major family events while he was in office.
“Five grandchildren were born in the last five years. But my family understands,” he said.
Asked about his accomplishment in office, Mahoney quickly cited the Open Records law and the Castle Doctrine.
His biggest political regret was not making progress on property tax reform that he believed would have been possible by adopting a system similar to Maryland’s school district consolidation.
Mahoney claims that applying the Maryland system to Fayette County would have resulted in a $50 million annual savings to taxpayers and would have improved schools.
“My one regret is that we didn’t get tax relief in Fayette County,” Mahoney said. “We need to get rid of these imaginary power lines – the school boards where everybody wants their little niche of power.
“I’ve met school board members who have their grandchild hired – the only problem is that the grandchild hasn’t been born yet. We’re not being fair to our school teachers, to our property owners or our kids.”
Will Mahoney consider running for political office in the future?
“I don’t know if I’ll go back into politics. I’ll leave the door open,” he replied. “A lot of those people in Harrisburg get a title, and they think that they are above people. With me it’s what you see is what you get.
“I never went to the galas – I was a hands-on person. Sometimes you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall and you wonder what will break first – your head or the wall,” he added.
Mahoney said Fayette County is always among the last in the state to receive funding.
“Coming from the East End of (Uniontown) … I’ve had friends who are on the bottom and have had trouble with the law. Then, I have good friends who are billionaires.
“That’s the problem in Harrisburg. I think it’s just like Washington, D.C.,” he added. “People have different reasons why they are there. They are there for a job and for a paycheck but not for the right reasons. “
Mahoney said he wishes everyone would step into politics at the age of 50.
“That’s when you’ve learned the life values. Then you serve ten or fifteen years and get out,” he said.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Mahoney family’s annual free Christmas dinner to the needy will continue to go on now that he is no longer in office.
“I will continue the Christmas dinner,“ he said. “That was one of the most gratifying things – it may be one of the most important things I started.
“Giving the needy a meal or just a place to go on Christmas day for people who didn’t want to be alone is very gratifying. My whole family has become involved.
“People want to donate to the dinner now and that’s OK. But I’m not financially distraught. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do it,” he added.
“Now other people want to step in and help so we’ll make it larger and better. I’m grateful to Hartsek Catering, too, because I’m no cook,” Mahoney laughed.
Franklin LaCava is a staff reporter for The Daily Courier and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 628-2000 ext 116.