Nearly one year ago, state Rep. Jesse White’s political future appeared to be in jeopardy after he admitted to attacking some of his critics through anonymous comments on various online message boards.
On Tuesday night, however, he brushed aside a challenger in the Democratic primary to win his party’s nomination and a spot on the November ballot.
“You hear the phrase ‘teachable moment.’ Well, I think I’ve had a teachable year,” White said. “I think I’ve learned how to be a better person and a better legislator.”
Even with White’s candidacy causing a deep rift within his 46th state House district after his numerous online personas were revealed last May, he won with convincing vote totals in both Washington and Allegheny counties. He received 3,078 votes and nearly 57 percent of the total compared to challenger Tom Casciola’s 2,352 votes.
White, 35, of Cecil, now will face Republican Jason Ortitay of South Fayette Township, who ran unopposed in his party’s primary. Ortitay received 1,269 votes in a Republican primary that had few competitive races in this area.
White attributed his victory to vigorous campaigning on the issues without going negative. White said he believes his pushback against the Marcellus Shale industry resonated with many of the communities in his newly configured district that extends into Allegheny County.
“It shows the people living in the shale (fields) that, although it is bringing in an economic benefit, they appreciate me looking out for them and their families,” White said.
Casciola, a homebuilder and Cecil Township supervisor for the past 22 years, did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment on the results.
White said he’s not concerned about his history becoming a liability in the general election and that he believes he will be able to pull together enough bi-partisan support to defeat Ortitay. Until then, he’s looking forward to becoming a father as he and his wife, Eileen, are expecting a baby in early June.
“It was a really rough ride there for a while, but I’m looking forward to reaching out to the people who weren’t with me now … and working with them on a positive message,” he said. “As long as we stay on the issues, I think we’ll be OK.”
In the 49th Legislative District, incumbent Peter J. Daley, 63, of California Borough, outpolled his Democratic opponent, Randy J. Barli, 59, of Coal Center, 3,643 to 1,433, according to unofficial results from Washington and Fayette Counties. It was the sixth primary contest between the two. Daley contends the Barli’s motivation is retribution for winding up on the losing end of a lawsuit in which Daley represented him.
Daley, who has been a representative for more than 30 years, advances to a contest in November against Republican Donald “Bud” Cook, 57, of West Pike Run Township, who was unopposed in the GOP primary.
Staff writer Barbara S. Miller contributed to this story.