Shawn Flaherty is gaining attention in Harrisburg: The political newsletter Pennsylvania Report dubbed him "Rookie of the Year."
For Democrat Shawn Flaherty, 2006 "is getting to be a long period of campaigning." So far this year, Flaherty says, he's knocked on 10,000 doors in the 30th district, which includes Hampton, O'Hara and parts of Ross.
That's because he's run for this seat twice this year.
The Fox Chapel attorney first ran in the April 11 special election to finish out the remaining term of former Rep. Jeff Habay, who had resigned in the midst of ethics violations and federal indictments. Flaherty also won the May primary, making him the Democratic nominee to serve a full term beginning next year. Now he's campaigning in the general election, facing off against Republican Randy Vulakovich, a retired police officer from Shaler.
Back in the spring, Flaherty said he'd parlay his legal work in county property-assessment appeals into efforts to push for property-tax reform. His goal is to eliminate school property tax and fund education with income and sales taxes. So far, he says, he's been making headway by building a consensus with the Republican legislators, who he says respect his command of the issue.
"You can't do it without the expertise," says Flaherty. If he gets re-elected, he pledges that tax reform will his No. 1 issue, because "school property tax has become so burdensome to so many people."
Flaherty has been working on Cover All Kids, a health-insurance program proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell to take care of uninsured children whose parents make too much to qualify for the current state insurance program. Flaherty has also been a proponent of the "I-SaveRx" program, in which the state would save on drug costs by importing prescription medication from Canada, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand.
Flaherty -- the boy of "Nobody's Boy," legendary local politico Pete Flaherty -- was a political novice when elected. But he's already gaining attention in Harrisburg. Last month, the statewide political newsletter Pennsylvania Report dubbed him "Rookie of the Year." Flaherty "made quite an impression in Harrisburg," the publication asserted, and "will be on the first track for future positions" if he survives the re-election.
Vulakovich also says he supports property-tax reforms. Instead of eliminating school property tax, he'd reduce local tax rates by requiring the state to fund at least half of each school board's budget.
Summing up his tax-reform platform, Vulakovich says, "We need a major reform at the way we finance our schools and relieve those with the most to lose." He also advocates capping spending increases by state and school boards to no more than compensating inflation.
After 27 years on the Shaler police force, Vulakovich says he hopes to continue his public service by serving in the legislature. He has no political experience, although his son, Randy Jr., an aide to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, has been helping with the campaign.
In the lead-up to the special election, scandals erupted about the candidates' naughty behaviors: Flaherty admitted to have fathered a child out-of-wedlock. His Republican opponent, banking scion Mike Dolan, was revealed to have a history of drunk driving and using a fake driver's license. But Vulakovich beat Dolan in the May primary.
So far, this race hasn't yielded any such scintillating revelations.