State House seats up for grabs
Comitta challenges Truitt in 156th District
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