In his first 10 elections, state Rep. Chris Sainato has had Republican opposition only three times.
Tuesday will mark the fourth time he has had to face a Republican candidate in a general election.
This time, Gary Cangey of New Castle provides the opposition.
Cangey won the Republican nomination in the May primary by defeating Gregory E. Michalek. Cangey won by 87 votes, capturing 49.9 percent of the vote. Sainato had no primary opposition.
A graduate of New Castle High School, Cangey, 52, is president and owner of Traffic Technologies Inc., which builds and maintains signalized intersections.
He said his experience working on Pennsylvania Department of Transportation projects gives him firsthand knowledge of the “hurdles and regulations” companies have to go through.
Cangey said his business experience provides him the know–how to improve the economic climate for the 9th District and Lawrence County.
Lawmakers, he said, can collect per diems with no backup information, but contractors doing work for the state have to deal with a lot of paperwork. The paperwork and compliance, he maintains, is stricter than in neighboring states.
He believes the state should try to have pipes for shale gas drilling made in Pennsylvania, thus creating jobs. The pipes now come from Canada, he said.
Cangey favors lowering the corporate tax rate — now at 9.99 percent — to 7.5 percent.
He also supports a 5 percent severance tax on the shale gas industry and using the revenue to lower school property taxes for people 70 and older who have lived at their current address for at least 10 years.
Having pipes made in Pennsylvania and imposing a severance tax would have a double impact, he said.
“That’s how you create quality jobs and that’s how you lower the tax burden quickly.”
Cangey also argued that with “sane tax policy” good manufacturing jobs could be attracted to the area.
Asked how he would get industries to relocate to the county, he said, “That’s what your state rep is supposed to do.”
He favors restoring spending cuts made to state-owned universities in exchange for a four-year tuition freeze.
Cangey said he would vote to reduce the size of the Legislature.
“Chris has voted against that.”
Pennsylvania has the second-largest state government, but the most expensive, he noted.
Cangey favors term limits, saying, “You can’t keep electing the same people every time and expect different results.”
He denied he is speaking specifically about Sainato and said, “It’s a direct knock on our whole political climate.”
He said there are “potential hazardous emergencies” with shale gas drilling in Pulaski Township. Noting Sainato is Democratic chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, Cangey said, “There is not a word from him.”
Sainato provided information to the New Castle News concerning some legal issues Cangey has had.
The News found that a protection from abuse order was filed against Cangey in 2010 in Lawrence County. In 2013, he was charged with harassment of a female employee in Armstrong County.
Other legal issues included being in arrears for child support and tax liens filed against his company.
When asked about those issues, Cangey said, “The mistakes of my past I own up to them. I’m moving forward. I paid the fines or the punishment of my mistakes. I moved on.”
In response to Cangey’s comments about drilling, Sainato said companies have to follow Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection guidelines and regulations.
“I’m for responsible, reasonable drilling,” he said.
One thing the two candidates agree on is a severance tax on the shale gas industry. Sainato favors a tax, but not one higher than other states. If Pennsylvania imposed a 5 percent tax, “we would be lower than other states.”
Sainato said the committee work has been his main focus in the current term. One piece of legislation passed this session was to add a veterans designation on driver’s licenses.
This identification potentially allows authorities to contact veterans groups to assist a veteran who may not have any family to help him or her, for example.
The committee has been working on an overhaul of the law governing 911 in Pennsylvania. The system is broken, Sainato said, but the current law has been extended for another year while legislators work on a comprehensive plan that is expected to be approved in 2015, he said.
The committee also has extended the grant program, previously limited to volunteer fire companies, to paid fire departments such as the city of New Castle’s.
“These are issues that affect people’s lives.”
Last week, Sainato noted, the committee conducted a hearing on the state’s preparedness for the Ebola virus.
The only other committee he serves on is the Democratic Policy Committee, which has dealt with issues such as higher education and blight.
Sainato said that between legislative days in session and committee meetings he is out of the district between 150 and 200 days a year.
“I’m a full-time legislator,” he said. “We’re paid a full-time salary. You should be a full-time legislator.”
He said he has not missed a session day in his 20 years, the second longest streak in the House.
Sainato said he also attends community events when he is back in the district, usually on weekends, “to be in touch with the people who elect you. I think it’s important to attend these events.”
Sainato, who has a degree in education and social studies, continues to conduct programs at schools in his district.
He has been around the top among House members in taking per diems, which cover meals and lodging.
“I’m always going to be in the top tier of that because I travel.”
Asked why he doesn’t submit receipts rather than taking the automatic per diem — now at $172 per day — he noted that he would have to keep track of a lot of receipts. He also said that the state follows the rate set by the Internal Revenue Service.
Sainato, 55, of Union Township, said that as a committee chairman, he believes he is in a position “where I can get more done for my district. Hopefully, there will be more opportunity to bring back money for economic development” in the future.
A lot of programs have been cut since Gov. Tom Corbett took office, he said. Areas “such as ours” rely on grants such as for economic development, he said.
The state needs to watch spending, he said, “but you need to provide incentives.”
He said he continues to run for re-election because his office has been able to help people.
“You’re able to help people. I think that’s the greatest part of this job.”