election results, Uncategorized

Cook apparent winner in 49th District

By Christine Haines chaines@heraldstandard.com Updated 8 hrs ago

The race for the 49th State Legislative District pitted Democrat Alan Benyak against Republican Donald Bud Cook, with Cook coming out the apparent winner according to Tuesday’s unofficial results.

Throughout the evening as votes were counted, Cook maintained a lead over Benyak that initially mirrored the lead Donald Trump had over HillaryClinton in the presidential race in Washington and Fayette Counties, with about 60 percent of the vote.

As the evening went on, Benyak picked up a greater percentage than Clinton in those counties, with approximately 46 percent of the vote, but it was not enough to overcome Cook’s lead.

“In 2014 we knocked on 9,000 doors and that wasn’t enough. This year we knocked on 20,336,” Cook said. “I interviewed for the job with the bosses.”Cook said he understood the needs of the district, with a primary emphasis on jobs.A freshman representative isn’t going to get a lot accomplished in Harrisburg, but we can get people united and work to resolve our problems in this area,” Cook said.

Benyak could not be reached for comment.

Cook and Benyak were seeking the seat that has been held for the past three decades by Democrat Peter J. Daley, who announced at the beginning of the year that he would not be seeking re­election.

Benyak, an attorney, and Cook, an e­marketing and promotions consultant, addressed numerous issues during the campaign, including opioid addiction.

Benyak said he supports pending state legislation to allow charges to be brought against anyone who provides illegal drugs that cause injury to anotherperson. He also called for programs to treat addicts, noting that the attorney general’s office is overwhelmed by drug cases.

Cook said he outlined his plan to fight drug addiction in the region on his campaign website including monitoring prescription painkillers, increasingeducation on drug abuse awareness and supporting drug take­back programs.

Benyak said he is a supporter of property tax reform, shifting to a 1 percent increase in the sales tax. Cook said he would rather address blight issues,increasing the property values in the region, thereby increasing property taxes.

When it comes to how each would work with others in Harrisburg, Cook said he was a team builder and would work with others to resolve issues.

“You attack the problem, not the people” he said.

The two candidates had very different spending habits during their campaigns. Benyak spent $42,557 and received in­kind contributions of $73,548, for
a total of $116,105, according to the latest report.

Cook spent $5,062, with in­kind contributions of $5,232, for a total of $10,294. Those figures do not include any money spent by others for or againsteach of the candidates that did not go through their campaign committees.

Cook was also outspent in the Republican Primary race, where Melanie Patterson outspent him by a 5­1 margin.

Of the six Democratic candidates in the Primary, Benyak showed the highest expenditures with a total of $49,133 between his own spending and that of his campaign committee.

election results

State House Election Results (11:30 PM)

49th District:

  1. Donald”Bud” Cook (R)- 13, 354- 54.26%
  2. Alan Benyak (D)- 11,259- 45.74%

50th District:

  1. Pam Snyder (D)- 10,875 – 52.72%
  2. Betsy Rohanna-McClure (R)- 9,7 54- 47.28%

51st District:

  1. Matthew Dowling (R)- 8,090- 54.26%
  2. Tim Mahoney (D) – 6,825- 45.74%

52nd District:

  1. Ryan Warner (R) – 11,772- 64.62%
  2. James Mari (D)- 6,446 – 35.38%
election results

State House Districts Preliminary 

Representative in the General Assembly

49th Legislative DistrictCounty Breakdown



    Votes: 11,259



    Votes: 13,354

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50th Legislative DistrictCounty Breakdown



    Votes: 9,926



    Votes: 8,690

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51st Legislative DistrictCounty Breakdown



    Votes: 6,825



    Votes: 8,096

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52nd Legislative DistrictCounty Breakdown



    Votes: 6,446



    Votes: 11,772

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Information Articles, Polling Place Information

National election playing havoc with local races

By Christine Haines chaines@heraldstandard.com

Published Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:15 AM EST

The presidential election is a wildcard in area legislative races, with some political leaders thinking it may help their candidates, while others doubt there are any coattails to ride.

One thing is certain — voter registration has swelled in recent weeks in both Washington and Westmoreland counties, with temporary staff brought in to help process the paperwork in a timely fashion.

In Washington County, 14,000 new voters registered in the past year, with a net increase of 10,000 voters over last year.

“Over 5,000 of those new registrations were dumped on us on deadline day. We brought in extra help. We couldn’t close out our books for the election until those were processed,” said Wes Parry, the assistant director of the Washington County Elections office.

Parry said there is one polling place change to note in California Borough. Precincts 1 and 2 will move back to the borough building to vote. Those precincts had been voting at St. Thomas Aquinas Church because of construction at the borough building, but that is now complete.

Westmoreland County Elections Director Beth Lechman said there are no changes in her county.

“We did not change any polling places this election from the last election. They’ll still have the same voting machines and we trained our poll workers the same way,” Lechman said.

Because of increased voter registration, there will be a few more voting machines in place and extra poll workers will be on hand, Lechman said. The county usually puts out 850 voting machines, but will be using about 880 this election. With 246,000 registered voters, Westmoreland County is at an all-time high.

“The margin between Democrats and Republicans is closer than it has been,” Lechman said.

The senatorial race, much like the presidential race has been contentious since the start with incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and former state Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty, a Democrat, criticizing one another’s record as they crisscross the state seeking voter support.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Everett, will again face his primary challenger, Art Halvorson of Manns Choice, who now will appear on the Democratic side of the ballot in the 9th Congressional District race.

Although he lost the GOP nod to Shuster, Halvorson received enough Democratic write-in votes to secure the party nod.

While not on the ballot, Uniontown psychologist Adam Sedlock, who has the backing of the Democratic party, is waging a write-in campaign for the seat.

In the state legislative race, Westmoreland County Republican Party Chairman Michael Korns said he expects Justin Walsh to do well in the race for the seat in the 58th Legislative District.

“I think Donald Trump is going to do well in Westmoreland County and very well in the 58th District. I think it will help Justin, but Justin’s also been out working for himself,” Korns said.

Korns said Trump’s popularity in the county offers two advantages locally.

“It helps get more Republicans out and it also helps us in making a pitch to traditional Democrats who may not have considered us before,” Korns said.

Walsh is running against Democrat Mary Popovich, with both vying to replace retiring state Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen.

Westmoreland County Democratic Party chair Lorraine Petrosky said it’s hard to predict how the national election will affect local races.

“I’ve been looking at some of the early voting and exit polls that are going on and is there going to be ticket splitting? Possibly. I’m at a loss for words on how this is going to go,” Petrosky said.

Petrosky said Popovich has had strong support in the district.

“We feel very good about Mary Popovich. She is a very good candidate and she has worked really hard for this,” Petrosky said. “You need to have cooperation in the state House and the Senate. You need people who understand compromise.”

Petrosky said as the election nears, the campaign is continuing to knock on doors and make telephone calls.

Washington County Democratic party chairman Ron Sicchitano said that’s the way campaigns are won in this region, face-to-face, with eye contact and a handshake, a technique he admits both his candidate in the 49th Legislative District, Alan Benyak, and Republican candidate Donald Bud Cook, have both been doing plenty often. The men are running for the seat held by longtime state Rep. Pete Daley, who is retiring.

“I anticipate a tight race. On Bud Cook’s side, he’s been campaigning very hard. On Mr. Benyak’s side, he’s very qualified and he’s also worked very hard,” Sicchitano said. “I anticipate a four point difference between them election night.”

Sicchitano said he doesn’t expect the presidential election to have as much impact on the legislative race as it could.

“In the presidential race they’re deadlocked right now, so there won’t be any coattails. This is an election unlike any that has occurred. They’ll be writing books about this election for years, because of the lack of civility. It’s no holds barred. It’s been in the gutter,” Sicchitano said. “There are no champions. The lesser of two evils will be elected.”

Washington County Republican Party chairman Scott Day said he’s expecting a high voter turnout locally.

“There seems to be a lot of energy for Trump in this area and I think it’s going to help the local Republican candidates on the ballot,” Day said.

Day noted that the state Republican committee has also taken an interest in the local races, particularly the race for the 49th Legislative District.

“Bud has not raised near the money Benyak has, but the state Republican Committee has pumped a lot of money into that race as well. They feel it’s a seat that can be won,” Day said.

For his part, Day said, Cook has been working the district hard, knocking on an average of 90 doors a night, expecting to reach some 21,000 households before Tuesday.

Day said the Republican Party has been gaining momentum in Washington County, gaining steadily on the Democrats who had enjoyed a 3-to-1 registration advantage over the Republicans 30 years ago.

Day said the current ratio is 1.2-to-1, with the registration rapidly approaching the point where the two parties are even. Day said that growth is also showing in the number of Republicans being elected to the state legislature from the county.

“We’ve done quite well over the past five to six years,” Day said. “A lot of the people who are moving into the area for the oil and gas industry are Republicans.”

Day said he is hoping on the national level for a decisive victory for one side or the other, not a vote decided by a slim margin that will result in challenge after challenge.

“We’re going to be bogged down in lawsuits. It’s nothing I want to see. It’s going to be a long, drawn-out affair,” Day said.

Voters will also pick the state’s next attorney general, auditor general and state treasurer, and decide whether the state’s constitution should be amended to allow justices serving at the Supreme Court level, along with other judges and magisterial district judges be permitted to serve until the age of 75. The current retirement age is 70.

The polls will be open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Editorial Board Endorsement

49th District H-S Editorial Board Endorsement 

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.

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?”