Pennsylvania speaker will face a familiar challenger


By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

The man who gave Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Sam Smith a scare in the 2012 election wants a second chance at the seat.

Cris Dush has announced he’ll challenge Smith, R-Jefferson, in the GOP primary for the 66th Legislative District seat. He nearly pulled the upset last time, losing by fewer than 500 votes while beating Smith in Jefferson County.

REMATCH FOR SMITH: Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Sam Smith will face a familiar challenger in the 2014 GOP primary.

Since then, Dush said, many people have told him to run again – and that he must just focus more on the Indiana County portion of the district, which Smith won handily the last time.

“There’s a lot of excitement about me being in the race. I’m really jazzed about the way things are going on that front,” said Dush.

Dush readily admits he made mistakes in his first run. He got into the race late and didn’t learn until the end of the campaign to rely on people who could get him in front of larger groups of voters, something that makes a difference when winter’s lack of daylight makes it awkward to knock on doors, he said.

This year,that means talking to veterans groups, local governing bodies, mayors and business groups to help get out his message early and effectively, Dush said.

Despite the tweak to his strategy, Dush’s campaign platform won’t shift, he said. He’s going to remain “solid” on issues from the last election, including setting term limits for legislators, reducing the size of government and eliminating the unfunded mandates that often burden local government.

“That honestly is what irritates people the most.

“They don’t really have a voice, and that’s what they’re looking for.”

Dush also wants to attack what he calls “milker bills,” which he described as legislation that stirs discussion on controversial issues that fire up both parties’ bases, prompt more campaign donations and, thus, lead to established powers keeping their influence.

Smith’s campaign could not be immediately reached for comment, but the state party backed the 14-term incumbent who is serving his second stint as speaker.

Chairman (Rob) Gleason has a great working relationship with the speaker, and he has led his caucus in a direction for a better Pennsylvania,” said Megan Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania GOP. “He has been true to his roots, and it helped control government spending and making the right priorities for taxpayers.”

This time, Smith and Dush won’t have to battle for part of Armstrong County after redistricting removed it from the district. Dush also doesn’t expect a third challenger in the Republican primary, as was the case in 2012.

Candidates from the major parties can start circulating their nominating petitions Feb. 18, and must file them by March 11. The primary election is May 20.

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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