37th District: Reschenthaler is the reform-minded Senate choice
October 29, 2015 12:00 AM
There are campaigns and then there are fights. The contest to fill the vacant seat in the state Senate’s 37th District is the latter.
Both the Democrat, Heather Arnet of Mt. Lebanon, and the Republican, Guy Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills, kicked off their campaigns with hard-hitting, somewhat misleading ads, which is unfortunate because there are clear enough contrasts between these two without engaging in hyperbole. The winner will fill the final year of the four-year term of Matt Smith, the Democrat who resigned in June to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Arnet, 41, is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Women and Girls Foundation, where she led a successful campaign against Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts that demeaned women, worked to strengthen city policies against domestic violence involving police and called for banning the unnecessary shackling of female inmates during childbirth. Through the foundation’s GirlGov program, she instructs high school students on the ins and outs of the state budget, so she has a deep understanding of the fundamental and divisive stalemate in Harrisburg today.
On the issues, she lines up with traditional Democratic positions, although she did not support Gov. Tom Wolf’s early proposal to raise both the state sales and income taxes, because of their impact on lower-income Pennsylvanians.
Mr. Reschenthaler, 32, a graduate of Penn State’s Behrend campus in Erie and Duquesne University Law School, was commissioned to the Navy Judge Adjutant General corps and volunteered for duty in Baghdad, where he prosecuted war criminals. In 2012, he returned to Western Pennsylvania and briefly worked in real estate law before being elected district judge in 2013. He resigned that position to run for the Senate.
Ms. Arnet has called attention to Mr. Reschenthaler’s time as co-host of a conservative radio show for a short period after he returned to civilian life. The comments of his co-host, former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie, are troubling — racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant — and Mr. Reschenthaler’s participation raises a red flag. Nonetheless, it does seem that he largely functioned, as he has said, as a counterweight, and he quit after a few episodes.
His positions on state issues are consistent with the majority Republicans in the Legislature. Like Ms. Arnet, he believes sales taxes are regressive, but as a general principle he said he is opposed to tax increases. Although the Post-Gazette parts company with Mr. Reschenthaler’s opposition to a severance tax for Marcellus Shale drillers and an increase in the minimum wage, he holds the sound views that Pennsylvania does not belong in the business of selling alcohol and that new state and school district employees should be assigned to 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than traditional defined-benefit pensions.
The 37th District spans a large portion of Allegheny County’s southern, western and northern communities, plus Peters in Washington County, and has been represented in recent years by political moderates, Republican John Pippy from 2003 to 2012 and, more recently, Mr. Smith. This time, voters don’t have that option. Given his support for fundamental reforms necessary for Pennsylvania, the Post-Gazette endorses Guy Reschenthaler.