State House seats up for grabs

Comitta chal­lenges Truitt in 156th Dis­trict

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lu­cas Rodgers lrodgers@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Lu­casMRodgers on Twit­ter

In the race for Penn­syl­va­nia’s 156th state Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, a dis­trict lo­cated in the heart of Ch­ester County that in­cludes the county seat, West Ch­ester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, a Demo­crat, is chal­leng­ing in­cum­bent Repub­li­can state Rep. Dan Truitt, who has rep­re­sented West Ch­ester area vot­ers in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the past six years.

Truitt, 47, a busi­ness­man from East Goshen, has served three terms since he was first elected to the state House in 2010, and he’s now seek­ing re-elec­tion for a fourth term.

Comitta, 64, is serv­ing her sec­ond term as mayor, and be­fore that she served on West Ch­ester

Bor­ough Coun­cil for four years. This is her first time run­ning in a state-level elec­tion.

Truitt said some of the most im­por­tant is­sues for peo­ple in the 156th Dis­trict are ed­u­ca­tion and job cre­ation. He said he’s al­ways look­ing for things to make im­prove­ments to.

Truitt said pen­sion re­form would be a big push if he’s elected to another term, and he’s look­ing at a plan to pay off the debt over 20 years. He said this would free up a lot of money that could be used for ed­u­ca­tion, and make Penn­syl­va­nia’s fi­nances more sta­ble, which would also make the state more at­trac­tive to job cre­ators. He said he also wants to sim­plify the tax process for busi­nesses to save money and help the econ­omy.

Comitta said ed­u­ca­tion is al­ways a No. 1 is­sue for her to fo­cus on, and she men­tioned that the Penn­syl­va­nia Con­sti­tu­tion lists main­tain­ing and sup­port­ing public ed­u­ca­tion as one of the main re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly. Comitta has first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence in the public ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem be­cause she used to be a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher at the Oc­torara Area School Dis­trict. She said she sup­ports univer­sal pre-K to help chil­dren have the best start in life, as well as find­ing ways to fi­nance the school fund­ing for­mula to make it fair for schools in ev­ery zip code.

Truitt said Penn­syl­va­nia’s corrections sys­tem needs to be re­formed, and he be­lieves the state should stop lock­ing up peo­ple who don’t need to be locked up – specif­i­cally non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers – and there should be a cap on the pri­son pop­u­la­tion in the com­mon­wealth. He said there needs to be a way to re­ha­bil­i­tate non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers in­stead of pun­ish­ing them with pri­son sen­tences. If the pri­son pop­u­la­tion is capped and driven down, this would also save the state money each year, he added.

Dur­ing her time as mayor, Comitta said she has worked to sup­port com­mon-sense gun leg­is­la­tion, and as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, she would con­tinue to sup­port these mea­sures, such as: univer­sal back­ground checks for all gun pur­chases and a “no fly no buy” pol­icy so in­di­vid­u­als on the government’s no-fly list – which pre­vents them from fly­ing in and out of the United States – would also not be per­mit­ted to pur­chase a gun. She said these poli­cies are not an at­tack on the Sec­ond Amend­ment, but they are re­spon­si­ble ac­tions that the vast ma­jor­ity of cit­i­zens and vot­ers pre­fer.

Truitt said he be­lieves he’s done an ex­cel­lent job serv­ing con­stituents in the 156th Dis­trict, and he has his fin­ger on the pulse of how the peo­ple feel and how to rep­re­sent their in­ter­ests. “I’m a tough ne­go­tia­tor with my col­leagues; I com­ply with the Con­sti­tu­tion, and I com­ply with my con­stituents in a way that doesn’t turn me into an outcast, but I still get things done,” Truitt said. “Some­times I vote against my own party, but my mo­tives are good and my op­po­si­tion is prin­ci­pled.”

Comitta said she wants to find ways to fight the opi­oid epi­demic, which she de­scribed as a mul­ti­pronged, com­plex is­sue across the com­mon­wealth and a growing prob­lem in Ch­ester County. She said peo­ple who be­come ad­dicted to opi­oids of­ten face crim­i­nal charges, but in most of the cases it’s a public health is­sue, so the whole com­mu­nity needs to work to­gether to ad­dress the is­sue, and the fo­cus should be on preven­tion and treat­ment.

Truitt said he has a proven record of suc­cess as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­cause dur­ing his six years in the House, he’s had six bills that have been passed into law, which is higher than the aver­age of most leg­is­la­tors. He said vot­ers have made a big in­vest­ment in him by elect­ing him for three terms so far be­cause the Leg­is­la­ture in Harrisburg op­er­ates un­der a se­nior­ity-based sys­tem. “The longer you’re there, the more you can get done, the more your in­flu­ence grows, and the more your abil­ity to get things done grows,” he said. “To take me out and re­place me doesn’t make sense un­less I’m do­ing some­thing wrong.”

Comitta is term-lim­ited from run­ning for mayor again, but she said she is prac­ticed in the art of com­pro­mise and build­ing trust­ing re­la­tion­ships in the com­mu­nity, so she wants to con­tinue that work in the state House. “The rea­son I’m run­ning is be­cause I’m re­ally deeply com­mit­ted to help­ing shape a healthy fu­ture for ev­ery­one, start­ing with our chil­dren, and go­ing all the way up to our se­niors,” Comitta said. “I would like to be able to con­tinue to be in a po­si­tion to bring peo­ple to­gether to make that hap­pen.”

She said she has been a mayor for all the peo­ple, and she will be a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive for all the peo­ple. “In the Leg­is­la­ture, I won’t care if you’re a Demo­crat or a Repub­li­can,” she said. “True leaders don’t play pol­i­tics, we get things done.”

Truitt was born and raised in Delaware County, and he moved to the West Ch­ester area af­ter col­lege. He owns and op­er­ates Truitt En­gi­neer­ing, and he lives in East Goshen with his wife and two sons. Truitt has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing from Vil­lanova Univer­sity and a mas­ter’s de­gree in com­puter sci­ence from West Ch­ester Univer­sity.

Comitta was born in Buf­falo, New York, but she’s lived in the West Ch­ester area al­most her whole life, since her fam­ily moved to West Goshen when she was 2 years old. She lives in the bor­ough with her hus­band, Tom, who is the founder and pres­i­dent of Thomas Comitta As­so­ciates, a town plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­ture firm; Carolyn Comitta is the vice pres­i­dent and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of the com­pany. She has a bach­e­lor of sci­ence from West Ch­ester State Col­lege and a mas­ter’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion from Wi­dener Univer­sity. She has two adult chil­dren who have moved out of the area.

The 156th Dis­trict in­cludes the bor­ough of West Ch­ester and the town­ships of Birm­ing­ham, East Goshen, Thorn­bury, West­town, as well as the north­ern sec­tion of West Goshen. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8. Each term for state rep­re­sen­ta­tive lasts two years.

State Rep. Dan Truitt, R-156 West Ch­ester Mayor Carolyn Comitta

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