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Races contested in state House districts

May 30, 2020 Digital Media Exclusive

Three contested state House of Representatives races will appear on ballots in Butler County's primary election Tuesday.

There will be contested races for the Republican line in the House's 11th and 12th districts in Butler County as well as in the 8th District, which includes nearly one-third of Mercer County's precincts and some in Butler County.

11th District

A Butler business owner hopes to unseat state Rep. Marci Mustello.

Ryan Covert announced earlier this year that he would run for the Republican nomination for the state House's 11th District, a seat held by Mustello.

Mustello's term expires at the end of the year.

On the Democratic side, Sam Doctor of Butler Township is running unopposed.

A 1997 graduate of Butler Area High School, Covert is one of the owners of Snack-N-Pack, Butler Hot Dog Shoppe and Over the Top Truck Wash & Fleet Detailing.

In a previous interview with the Eagle, Covert said that in addition to spending tax money wisely, he intends to focus on the opioid crisis as well as look at expanding industry in Butler. He said he is the son of a steelworker, and wants to keep union jobs alive in the region.

“I've been serving people with restaurants and it's kind of related. Try to make people happy and try to provide for the people,” he said. “Government's a business and people are paying for it so people should be happy for what they're paying for.”

He said that he wanted to help bring more industry jobs back to the area, including helping the agriculture industry.

Mustello won a special election in May 2019 to replace Rep. Brian Ellis, who resigned from the House in March 2019.

She defeated Doctor.

Since taking over the 11th District, Mustello said she has worked to understand her constituents' needs.

“Really, I have been more of a listener over these past six months. Listening and learning,” she previously told the Eagle. “I really leave it up to the people I serve to see what they would like to see done.”

“I'm very proud of the seamless transition from my predecessor to my office. We didn't miss a call or a walk in,” she said.

12th District

Scott Timko, a Cranberry Township resident and graduate of Knoch High School, is running against incumbent state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe for the 12th District in the Republican primary Tuesday.

District 12 covers a large swath of southern Butler County, including Adams, Cranberry, Forward and Penn townships as well as Callery, Mars, Seven Fields and Valencia boroughs. On the Democratic side, Daniel Smith Jr. of Adams Township is running unopposed.

Metcalfe, an Army veteran, has served since 1999 and is now in his 11th term in office. He is the majority chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

In his 10 reelection campaigns, he has faced a Republican challenger for the General Assembly only twice, both in presidential election years. He won the nomination against Gordon Marburger by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 and by an even larger 23-point margin against Robin Redding in 2008.

On his website, Timko, 54, outlined a traditional conservative platform, focusing on reducing taxes and regulations on businesses, advocating for a strong military and supporting the Second Amendment. The Republican challenger's site states that he supports environmental projects “in a comprehensive infrastructure program,” including grants to support parks and hunting and fishing lands.

He also supports longer prison sentences for drug dealers and fair trade policies to protect jobs traditional to Western Pennsylvania.

Timko was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force and served tours during the Gulf War and in Bosnia and Rwanda. Since leaving the Air Force in 2000, he has worked as a commercial pilot.

8th District

After winning the race for the state House 8th District during a special election in March, Republican Tim Bonner will once again have to run for the seat in Tuesday's primary.

During the special election, Bonner defeated Democrat Phil Heasley in all 15 Butler County precincts, according to returns. He filled a vacancy left by Rep. Tedd Nesbit, who resigned his post to become a Common Pleas judge in Mercer County. Bonner, a lawyer, will serve the remainder of 2020, but is running June 2 primary to be the GOP candidate for the 2021-22 term.

Scott Jaillet is running against Bonner on the Republican line, while Heasley runs unopposed on the Democratic ticket. Heasley, 29, is a Center Township resident who operates Butler Gymnastics Club, a family business.

The 8th District covers 31 of Mercer County's 90 precincts and 15 precincts in Butler County.

Jaillet grew up in Coolspring Township and has lived in Grove City since 1993, according to information from the Mercer County Republican Party. He works as an electrical engineering technician at Grove City College. He is also a Navy veteran, serving from 1984 to 1994. He said he also has strong links to Butler County through some relatives who live there.

“I've been trying to buck the system here on not spending too much money and not polluting the road with election signs, and I want to carry that over to the state. I'm pretty firm on that,” Jaillet said. “I want to work for the people. I'm going there more for them than any agenda on my side.”

His first focus, he said, would be to “figure out how to reduce taxes, whether income or downsizing government, where we can automate certain things.” And his long-term goal would be to increase job opportunities in the region.

Bonner is a partner at the McNickle & Bonner law office, which has locations in Cranberry Township and Grove City, Mercer County.

Bonner is anti-abortion and endorsed by the National Rifle Association. He brings with him experience in the fields of criminal justice, health care, education and the nonprofit sector

Unopposed races

Unopposed in the June 2 primary are candidates for the following state House districts:

In the 10th District, incumbent Aaron Bernstine, of Lawrence County, is on the Republican ticket and Kolbe Cole, of Beaver County, is the only Democrat in the race. The district includes parts of Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties.

The 14th District is represented by Jim Marshall, a Republican from Beaver County who is seeking reelection. Zachary Wilson of Beaver County is running as a Democrat. The district includes parts of Beaver and Butler counties.

The 60th District is represented by Jeff Pyle, a Republican from Armstrong County who is running for reelection. No Democrats are running for the seat. The district is on the southeastern part of Butler County and includes parts of Armstrong County.

The 64th District is represented by R. Lee James, who is seeking reelection and running unopposed. There are no Democrats running. The district is mostly in Venango County with a portion in Butler County.