Two candidates with similar priorities are vying for the 22nd state House district seat, which was vacated by Chelsa Wagner when she became Allegheny County Controller.
Democrat Erin Molchany said she’s running for the seat because she feels more can be done to encourage state government and the non-profit sector to work together to improve quality of life. Her main priority is public transportation because she said an unreliable or unstable transit system hurts the state.
“If we can’t grow, we can’t be competitive as a state, so transportation has been a focal point, not to mention the fact that the trolley (T-system) runs almost exclusively through the 22nd legislative district, so transportation is absolutely a huge priority.”
Mochany said she wants to find a sustainable funding source for transportation.
Her Republican opponent, Chris Cratsley, said transportation is also one of his priorities. He agrees a sustainable funding mechanism is needed, and added it’s possible – as was seen recently when steep cuts to Allegheny County’s transit system were avoided.
“We saw the unions come to the table, commuters, governments – city, county, and state came together, and they came to a solution that’s at least going to hold the Port Authority together and stop the cuts for another year. I’d like to have the opportunity to go the state and work on finding some long-term solutions for those problems,” said Cratsley.
Improving Schools on both candidates' priority list
The candidates also list education as a priority, but differ in their approach to improve the system.
“I’m looking very closely at restoring the cuts that were made to public education. This is about our future, this is about being competitive, this is about ensuring that our kids can be competitive and can be the workforce of tomorrow,” said Molchany.
Cratsley said he has a unique insight into the state’s education system – his wife has taught both in the city and in suburban schools, “and there’s a lot of problems there and there’s things that we need to reform. I’m a supporter of the charter school system. I’m not a supporter of the voucher system with public tax dollars going to privately run schools, but I’d like to see an expansion of the charter system.”
Reasons for Running
Before running for the 22nd district seat, Molchany worked in the non-profit world for 12 years, most recently heading the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project. She said that experience within the community has given her the insight to work for what people want from Harrisburg.
“They want to see a clean, safe community, I mean who wouldn’t? I believe that my community development background and working within my own community in Mount Washington is going to enable me to work towards those ends as well,” she said.
Cratsley, who works at BNY Mellon, said he’s running because the district needs a change.
“I thought it was kind of sad looking through the voter history that really, the 22nd district where we live, there hasn’t been any options on the general ballot in almost ten years. I believe there was one person on the ballot back in 2004 who was originally a Democrat, lost his primary and ran a write-in campaign on the Republican side.”
It's all about Jobs
Another issue both candidates said is a priority is job creation. Molchany said job growth is tied into education and transportation. She supports training programs for Pennsylvanians, and said a reliable transit system allows people to get to and from work. Cratsley agrees on the education and transportation tie-in, as he takes public transit to work every day. As for job creation, he said he’d like to reduce state regulations and taxes that he says are burdensome on businesses and don’t allow them to grow and hire more Pennsylvanians.