The battle in the 169th district is heating up

Dave Kralle (right) dis­trib­utes his cam­paign lit­ter­at­ure to Michelle Palys and her daugh­ter, Isa­bella, 3. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


The clock is tick­ing on the 169th Le­gis­lat­ive Dis­trict be­ing based in the North­east.

The Le­gis­lat­ive Re­ap­por­tion­ment Com­mis­sion has voted to move the dis­trict to a fast-grow­ing area of York County. The new maps have been ap­pealed to the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court.

The win­ner of the Nov. 6 con­test between Demo­crat­ic state Rep. Ed Neilson and Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger Dave Kralle will likely serve only two years be­fore the seat moves.

Both can­did­ates hope to keep the seat in the North­east. Rep. Denny O’Bri­en long held the seat be­fore va­cat­ing it in Janu­ary to join City Coun­cil.

Neilson, 49, of Mill­brook, a former polit­ic­al dir­ect­or of the loc­al elec­tri­cians uni­on and a former of­fi­cial in Gov. Ed Rendell’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, was dir­ect­or of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at Chartwell Law Of­fices when he de­cided to enter the race.

Kralle, 26, of Nor­mandy, was an aide to O’Bri­en.

In an April spe­cial elec­tion, Neilson de­feated Kralle with 54.1 per­cent of the vote. He was un­op­posed in the Demo­crat­ic primary. Kralle won the Re­pub­lic­an primary, set­ting up the re­match.

In an ef­fort to keep the 169th dis­trict loc­al, Neilson sub­mit­ted testi­mony to the re­ap­por­tion­ment com­mis­sion and met with Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic le­gis­lat­ive lead­ers.

“I met with both sides of the aisle from day one up there to lobby to keep this dis­trict,” he said.

Neilson told Re­pub­lic­an House Speak­er Sam Smith that he’s doesn’t blindly vote with his party in Har­ris­burg and that the GOP would do bet­ter to move an­oth­er dis­trict, if Phil­adelphia is to lose a dis­trict.

In ad­di­tion, he cited pop­u­la­tion trends in the last dec­ade.

“The 169th in­creased in pop­u­la­tion,” he said.

The state Su­preme Court already has re­jec­ted the com­mis­sion’s first set of maps, re­quir­ing the 2012 races to be held us­ing lines drawn 10 years ago. That de­cision should help Demo­crats cut in­to Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans’ ad­vant­age and win back some House seats that the GOP took in the 2010 Re­pub­lic­an wave elec­tion.

Still, Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­pec­ted to hold both the Sen­ate and House, and Kralle thinks he’d be the bet­ter lob­by­ist to keep the 169th in the North­east, if the court again throws out the maps.

Kralle also con­tends that he’d be a bet­ter le­gis­lat­or than Neilson, who serves in the minor­ity party.

“It’s im­port­ant that I get elec­ted be­cause my party will be in the ma­jor­ity the next two years. We need some­body in Har­ris­burg who can use those two years ef­fect­ively,” he said.

If the Su­preme Court ac­cepts the maps, Kralle’s home would be loc­ated in the 173rd dis­trict, rep­res­en­ted by Demo­crat­ic Rep. Mike McGee­han.

Neilson’s home would be in the 174th dis­trict, rep­res­en­ted by Demo­crat­ic Rep. John Sabat­ina Jr. He de­clined to spec­u­late on a pos­sible show­down with Sabat­ina in the 2014 primary.

“One elec­tion at a time,” he said.

The re­match does not seem to have the ex­cite­ment level of the spe­cial elec­tion, but both men say they are act­ive on the cam­paign trail.

Neilson won’t run cable tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials this time, but he’ll send out up to five mail­ings. When not in Har­ris­burg, he’s meet­ing voters at their door­steps and at the St. Martha car­ni­val.

“Every night, I’m home, I’m out,” he said.

Kralle un­der­stands his up­hill climb. He has no com­mit­ments of strong fin­an­cial sup­port from the House Re­pub­lic­an Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, though Reps. Mike Vereb and Bill Ad­olph have helped him. He held a $35 per per­son fund-raiser at Paddy Whacks Ir­ish Sports Pub last month.

Neilson has an easi­er time rais­ing money as an in­cum­bent and has served about 1,700 con­stitu­ents. He has helped cit­izens re­ceive un­claimed money from the state treas­ury de­part­ment. He and his staff met with seni­or cit­izen groups in the sum­mer and held a re­cent seni­or fair at Penn-Crisp Gym. He at­trac­ted a big crowd to Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School in Au­gust for an out­door screen­ing of the movie The Three Stooges.

“It’s more chal­len­ging,” Kralle ac­know­ledged. “I don’t have a dis­trict of­fice where I can serve con­stitu­ents.”

Kralle was giv­en a good chance to win the spe­cial elec­tion, but be­lieves some late neg­at­ives from his op­pon­ents helped lead to his de­feat. He vows to keep his clean-cam­paign pledge, say­ing that it’s im­port­ant to main­tain the in­teg­rity of the polit­ic­al pro­cess even if it does not lead to vic­tory.

“It’s something every can­did­ate ought to take ser­i­ously,” he said.

Kralle has been knock­ing on doors in between tak­ing three classes at Penn to fin­ish his mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The chal­lenger is buoyed by earn­ing an en­dorse­ment from In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire Fight­ers Loc­al 22. The uni­on backed Neilson in the spe­cial elec­tion.

“That’s a great en­dorse­ment to have,” Kralle said.

Kralle op­poses May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s de­cision to ap­peal Loc­al 22’s con­tract award, which was won in bind­ing ar­bit­ra­tion. Uni­on boss Bill Gault lives in the 169th.

“The first thing I told them,” Kralle said of his meet­ing with Loc­al 22 of­fi­cials, “is that I have no al­le­gi­ances to May­or Nut­ter.”

On the is­sue of edu­ca­tion, Kralle fa­vors an elec­ted school board in Phil­adelphia.

“The polit­ic­al ap­pointees are just not cut­ting it,” he said.

Kralle fa­vors in­creases in the Edu­ca­tion­al Im­prove­ment Tax Cred­it and oth­er meas­ures to give par­ents and stu­dents choices when faced with at­tend­ing a pub­lic school that is un­safe or has sub­par edu­ca­tion­al stand­ards.

“I’m in sup­port of full school vouch­ers,” he said.

Kralle has also cam­paigned on tough­en­ing laws against sexu­al pred­at­ors. He said it was ap­pro­pri­ate for Jerry San­dusky to re­ceive a sen­tence that will likely keep him in pris­on un­til he dies.

“I’m pleased that that mon­ster will not have con­tact with chil­dren any­more,” he said.

Neilson said his ser­vice on the House Chil­dren and Youth and Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and Emer­gency Pre­pared­ness com­mit­tees is re­ward­ing. He’s proud that he reads long bills and hasn’t missed a vote.

Neilson is the prime spon­sor of a half-dozen bills.

One would al­low a school to pun­ish stu­dents who bully class­mates on the In­ter­net. He cited the bul­ly­ing of a 15-year-old stu­dent at a loc­al charter school. Some stu­dents made an un­flat­ter­ing You­Tube video about the girl. The ringlead­er of the bul­lies has left the school, and the ab­use has stopped.

“It’s been very sat­is­fy­ing,” Neilson said of the out­come.

Neilson also is push­ing a bill to in­clude phys­ic­al and men­tal dis­ab­il­it­ies as a pro­tec­ted class in the eth­nic in­tim­id­a­tion law. He’s also in fa­vor of a bill to pre­vent the re­lease of pris­on­ers un­til their elec­tron­ic mon­it­or­ing devices are set up. And he wants to use gambling pro­ceeds to es­tab­lish a fund to pay tip­sters who identi­fy the killers of law en­force­ment of­ficers.

“It’s a little mo­tiv­a­tion. They’re go­ing to want a piece of that money,” Neilson said. ••


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