Friday, February 15, 2008

Incumbent legislators face challengers

Most incumbent state lawmakers from Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties will encounter opposition at the polls this year.

The last time legislators faced the voters was 2006 when the July 2005 pay raise was still fresh on the minds of Pennsylvania citizens.

Capitalizing on the anger over the middle-of-the-night pay grab, activist Russ Diamond, founder PACleanSweep, recruited more than 110 candidates to run against incumbents who supported the pay raise. Thirteen candidates who signed the PACleanSweep reform pledge were elected to the House of Representatives in 2006.

They were among 55 new legislators sent to Harrisburg that year. With another 24 incumbents announcing retirement this year, the look of the Pennsylvania Legislature could change dramatically. All 203 state House seats and half of the 50 state Senate seats are up for grabs in 2008. The deadline to file nominating petitions for the April 22 primary election was Thursday.

In Berks County, state Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, a Democrat who has served in the Senate for 34 years, is running unopposed in the primary for the 11th Senate District nomination. O'Pake will face a Republican challenger, Reading City Councilman Stephen P. Fuhs, in the November election.

This is the first time O'Pake will face Berks County voters since he voted in favor of the pay raise and took the money as unvouchered expenses, a practice the state Supreme Court rule unconstitutional.

In Chester County, state Sen. Andrew Dinniman is running unopposed in the primary for the 19th Senate District seat. Dinniman won a special election in 2006 to complete the term of Sen. Robert Thompson, a Republican who died in office. Dinniman will face Republican challenger Steve Kantrowitz, a retired Navy admiral, in November.

In Montgomery County, four potential candidates have lined up to replace state Sen. Connie Williams, who is not seeking reelection to the 17th Senate District seat she has held since 2001.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Daylin Leach is giving up his 149th House District seat to run for Williams' vacated Senate seat. Three candidates have submitted nominating petitions for the Republican nomination: Lower Merion Township Commissioner Lance Rogers, Montgomery County Sheriff John P. Durante and Delaware County businesswoman Lisa Paolino.

Rogers has received the Montgomery County GOP endorsement and there is speculation Durante will withdraw his name from the ballot. Since the district is mainly in Montgomery County, Paolino is a longshot to win the nomination.

Rep. Tom Quigley, a Royersford resident who has held the 146th House seat since 2005, is seeking the Republican nomination for a third term. His opponent in November will be Democrat James Prendergast of Lower Pottsgrove.

Rep. Tim Hennessey, a North Coventry resident who has represented the 26th House District since 1993, is seeking reelection for another two-year term. There is no opposition in the primary, but Hennessey will face Democratic challenger Fern B. Kaufman of West Caln in November.

In the 70th House District, freshman Rep. Jay Moyer, a Lower Salford Republican who won the seat in 2006, will face Democratic challenger Dwayne D. Royster of Norristown in November.

In the 128th House District, Rep. Sam Rohrer of Robeson, a Republican who has held seat since 1993, is running unopposed in April but will face Democrat John C. Woodward of Wyomissing in November.

In the 130th House District, freshman Rep. David Kessler of Oley, who won the seat in 2006, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Kessler will face one of three potential Republican challengers in November: Aaron J. Durso of Birdsboro, Richard Gokey of Amity and Billy A. Reed of Rockland. Reed lost to Kessler in 2006.

Rep. Mike Vereb of West Norritown, a freshman Republican who won the 150th House seat in 2006, is seeking reelection. His opponent in November will be Democrat Kelbin Carolina of Lower Providence.

Rep. Barbara McIlvaine Smith, a West Chester Democrat who won the 156th House District in 2006, is running unopposed in April, but she will face Republican Shannon Royer of West Goshen in November. McIlvaine Smith beat Royer by 34 votes in 2006.

There will be a new state representative in the 157th House District because Republican Rep. Carole Rubley is retiring from the seat she has held since 1993. The Democratic candidate is Paul J. Drucker. His Republican opponent is Guy Ciarrocchi. Both live in Tredyffrin.

In the 167th House District, Rep. Duane Milne, a freshman Republican elected in 2006, is running unopposed in the GOP primary. His Democratic opponent in November will be Carol Palmaccio. Both live in Willistown.

Barring a successful write-in challenge or a third-party candidate, it appears three area lawmakers will return to office by default.

Republican Rep. Douglas G. Reichley of Emmaus, who has held the 134th House seat since 2003, is running unopposed in the primary. No Democrat has filed for the race.

Republican Rep. Bob Mensch of Marlborough, a freshman lawmaker who won the 147th House seat in 2006, is seeking reelection. No Democrat has filed in the district.

In the 155th House District, Rep. Curt Schroder of East Brandywine, who has represented the district since 1995, is running unopposed in the Republican primary. No Democrat has filed for the seat.

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