JESSE WHITE TO SEEK STATE HOUSE SEAT IN 46th DISTRICT

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Attorney Jesse White, 37, of Cecil Township today announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 46th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives. White held the seat for four terms. He was defeated in 2014 by Republican Jason Ortitay, a purveyor of cheesecakes.

“The residents of the 46th District deserve a state representative who actually understands what it means to serve the people, not the corporate masters who write the campaign checks,” said White, referencing the staggering $400,000 spent by special interests on attack ads against him in 2014. “Jason Ortitay actually introduced legislation to give huge tax cuts to corporations while schools in the 46th District were so underfunded they were about to close. If that doesn’t show how tone deaf Jason is to the people he’s supposed to represent, I don’t know what does.”

White credits his wife, Eileen, for encouraging him to run.

“Our two sons are just a few short years away from starting school, and as a parent I have real concerns over what our schools will look like if the Legislature continues to cut education funding,” she said. “I told Jesse he was in a unique position to do something by fighting to give not only our kids, but kids across Pennsylvania, the education they deserve.”

White has vowed to tell voters what they need to know to make an informed choice on Election Day, even if it isn’t always politically popular.

“I have no problem speaking truth to power, nor do I have a problem speaking truth to stupidity and one thing I learned during my eight years in the Legislature is that the two often go hand in hand in the halls of the State Capitol,” White said. “The fact we are in the middle of the longest budget impasse in the history of Pennsylvania proves the Legislature needs a strong dose of common sense from people who actually understand the problems real people are facing.”

After a 2014 campaign virtually devoid of any issue-based debate, White is determined to keep the focus on the issues. One of his proposals is to hold a debate in each of the 13 municipalities that compose the 46th District so voters can see beyond the endless parade of negative mailers and television ads.

“Let’s start now, so everyone can see who is a serious candidate and who is an empty suit,” White said. “Anyone who isn’t willing to debate ideas in a spirited yet respectful way doesn’t deserve a single vote on Election Day.”

White says he intends to hold Ortitay accountable for his failure to pass a state budget, which caused area school districts to nearly close their doors and increase property taxes.

He also intends to demands answers about the questions dogging Ortitay about his decision in 2013 to move in with an older female family friend in Burgettstown for a week, during which time he changed his voter registration but none of his other information.

“Somehow it’s gotten lost in the shuffle that Jason Ortitay is under active investigation by the PA Attorney General’s office for allegations of lying under penalty of perjury,” White said.

White added that time has shown that the “blatant lies told about me in 2014 simply weren’t true, and the public sees that.”

“From citing newspaper articles that didn’t exist to lying to the public about actual votes that I cast in the Legislature to biased media outlets labeling me a criminal to trying to strip me of my law license to things too disgusting to describe, I have been put through the crucible and emerged with my integrity and my reputation intact,” the 2012 PA Humane Legislator said.

White pointed to a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board dismissing a high-profile attempt by his political adversaries to discredit him over the use of pseudonyms on various websites as proof positive that the attacks against him were nothing more than political in nature.

The candidate vows history won’t repeat itself this time around.

“I already have pending lawsuits for defamation from the last campaign, so if they try to tell the same lies again, they’ll just end up making me a millionaire from the lawsuits,” White said. “If that’s the way they want to play, it’s their choice. Their goal was to bankrupt me the first time around, and they managed to succeed. The focus needs to be on what’s best for the district. It’s not about me, and it’s not about a small group of bullies who believe they should get their way because they have the shrillest voice in the room.”

White stressed an emphasis on returning to the same issues he championed during his first stint in the Legislature – including property tax reform, providing infrastructure to communities, small business development and tackling the inequality of the property tax reassessment process.

In 2013, Jesse White reached across the aisle and worked with both Democrats and Republicans to reform the way property tax reassessments are conducted in Pennsylvania. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.

He also wants to continue his efforts to combat the heroin epidemic in the region, noting that his own family has seen the negative impacts of drug abuse, as well as mental illness.

“A good legislator needs to be a problem solver, and sometimes that means standing up to your own leadership to advocate for your district,” the former lawmaker said. “I learned the powers that be on both sides of the aisle don’t necessarily like someone rocking the boat, but sometimes that’s what we’re elected to do. We’re advocates, not lemmings. If you don’t stand up for your district, who will?”

Jesse White and his wife Eileen live in Cecil Township with their sons Atticus and Augustus, their dogs Abigail and Delano and two cats who take great joy in making Jesse’s life miserable. A graduate of Washington & Jefferson College and Duquesne University School of Law, Jesse operates his own law firm in the heart of McDonald Borough.

During his tenure in Harrisburg, he served on the Judiciary, Labor and Industry, Aging and Older Adult Services and Consumer Affairs Committees, and also as vice-chairman of the Southwest Democratic Caucus.

The 46th Legislative District includes Bridgeville, Collier, Heidelberg, Oakdale and South Fayette Townships in Allegheny County and Burgettstown, Canton, Cecil, McDonald, Midway, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith Townships in Washington County. For more information about Jesse White and the campaign, please visit www.supportjesse.com or visit www.facebook.com/supportjesse.

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“No, really. I asked him to run. Seriously.”

My wife Eileen asked if she could record a short video (that she wrote totally by herself) for the campaign, and of course, I said yes immediately. For someone whose experiences with politics have been uglier than most, it took incredible courage to speak up.

I love Eileen so much for her support, her selflessness and her desire to make the world a better place for our kids- in addition to the many, many other reasons I love her.

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How to Wage a War On Heroin Addiction in PA

Heroin addiction breaks families into tiny pieces in ways most people are lucky enough to ever experience. It breaks down the toughest fathers and the most nurturing mothers. It’s easy to enable an addict without intentionally trying, and it’s just as easy to be wildly manipulated by someone you care about.

 
This is a real problem that’s growing worse by the minute, and so far not much has worked to address and curb the heroin problem in Pennsylvania. The real victims are often the children of addicts, whose lives are endangered by their parents’ heroin addiction. We need more tools to properly wage a war on heroin addiction, particularly when it comes to protecting these children.
 

Here are ten proposals I believe would help stem the tide of heroin addiction in Pennsylvania. I realize some of them are harsh, but if you’ve ever dealt with a heroin addict, you know it often takes a hardline, tough-love approach to break through and see positive results. If elected to the Legislature, I intend to write and pursue aggressive legislation based on these ideas to give law enforcement, schools and families the tools necessary to seriously crack down on heroin addiction.

 

  1. Automatic loss of parental rights for convicted heroin users. Parents convicted of heroin possession who have minor children should automatically have their parental rights terminated for a period of at least six months in order to protect the children, and then the burden should be on the parents to petition the court to get them back by proving they’re actually clean and turning their life around.

 

  1. Expand PFA protection to include children of heroin addicts. We need to amend the Protection From Abuse Act to allow third parties to obtain a PFA on behalf of a minor child who is being neglected due to a parent’s heroin use. Right now there is no quick or easy way to get a child out of a dangerous and abusive situation other than calling CYS. There needs to be a way for extended family members or other selected third parties to have standing to file for a PFA on behalf of a minor child with a parent addicted to heroin, because it’s absolutely abusive behavior.

 

  1. Don’t always just go after the kingpin- go after the users themselves instead of trying to get everyone to be a Confidential Informant for law enforcement. Yes, it’s important to go after the top of the food chain, which in this case is the heroin dealers themselves. But most local police officers know who the users in there are, so let’s get serious about going after them as well as the dealers. And once they’re arrested…

 

  1. No more plea bargaining by district attorneys for heroin charges. We need to stop allowing heroin addicts cut plea bargain deals and wind up back on the streets again right away so they can keep using. Let’s adopt a zero tolerance policy and start tossing more heroin addicts behind bars, if for no other reason than to protect their children. How can we do that?

 

  1. Decriminalize and regulate marijuana. Over 25,000 people are arrested for marijuana possession every year in Pennsylvania, and there is no doubt heroin is far more damaging than marijuana in terms of children being endangered by parental addiction. So let’s get our priorities straight and focus on the addiction we need to focus on. (For the record, I don’t have a horse in this race because I don’t smoke pot. It’s just common sense public policy).

 

  1. Take a serious look at methadone and suboxone clinics. Let’s send some undercover agents into these clinics and see just how easy it is to cheat a urine test to get these drugs, and shut down the clinics who don’t regulate it properly for good. It’s just like sending underage kids into a convenience store to buy cigarettes to make sure the store is carding people, except the stakes are way higher. Too many addicts are either abusing suboxone and methadone or selling it to get more money for heroin, so let’s curb the abuse by tightly regulating the suboxone and methadone clinics.

 

  1. Drug testing for people with a heroin-related criminal history in order to receive public benefits. This is not the same thing as making all welfare recipients take a drug test; it’s acknowledging the recidivism rates for heroin use are sky high and heroin addicts will do just about anything to get their hands on more heroin. Parents who use welfare and food stamps as a means to fuel a heroin addiction are like Third World African Warlords- they intercept well-intended relief and subvert it for their own purposes. If you have a heroin-related criminal history, you should be required to take regular tests for a reasonable amount of time to ensure tax dollars aren’t fueling your habit.

 

  1. Develop a standardized educational and support program for children of heroin addicts. Dealing with a heroin addict is extremely difficult for an adult to do- how can we expect children to handle it on their own? Schools in areas with high addiction rates should have resources provided to children of addicts, without informing the parents for obvious safety reasons. There should be a one-on-one prescreening by professionals who know what to ask kids of suspected addicts and then a larger support group with age-appropriate assistance to help these kids understand the mistakes of their parents, and hopefully avoid them.

 

  1. Certain crimes should have aggravated sentences if they are heroin-related. Addicts have no problem stealing from anyone, including family, to support a heroin addiction. Addicts often endanger the lives of their kids because they’re more concerned about getting high than anything else. We should amend the PA Criminal Code to automatically increase penalties for any crime determined to be heroin-related.

 

  1. Honest public education for the entire community, including adults. Many adults, especially senior citizens, don’t even know what heroin looks like. They don’t know what a stamp bag is. They don’t know what kind of paraphernalia to look out for. They don’t know who to call when they see something, and they’re afraid of retaliation for speaking up to law enforcement. This is both bad and easy to fix. We need to get real about protecting our own communities, and a neighborhood watch makes no sense if you have no idea what to watch for, or if you won’t speak up if you do see it. This education needs to include not just facts about heroin abuse, but information about what signs to look for in a potential addict and how to deal with someone you suspect to be a heroin addict.

 

There’s no guarantee these proposals would make a difference, but we have to try something before we end up with a whole generation of kids who think having a needle dangling out of their arm is good parenting.  We can see the price we pay for doing nothing, and that price is unacceptably high. We have to do better.

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The Rise of Donald Trump is more about hating the game than loving a player… and Democrats need to realize they’re partially responsible.

As Donald Trump’s dangerous rhetoric continues to escalate to the point where somebody is almost certainly going to end up dead at one of his rallies, the political establishment and the media continue to feed the beast with non-stop coverage of every word Trump says. I can’t believe someone hasn’t just looked into the camera and asked the three questions everyone who isn’t a Trump supporter is too polite to ask a Trump supporter.

Are you seriously this stupid?
Are you seriously this racist?
Really?

It’s so easy for many to dismiss Trump supporters as ignorant redneck racists, but that’s an over-simplified assessment likely to do more harm than good on Election Day. Again, it’s feeding the beast.

How? Go out and find whoever you believe to be the most stupid person you know, tell them they’re stupid, and wait for them to agree with you and apologize for their stupidity. It’s not going to happen, and you probably just strengthened the resolve of the person you called stupid by engaging them in such an asinine exercise.

The political establishment- neither Democrats or Republicans- have a clue how to counter Trump’s theatrics because they either don’t understand or don’t want to admit Donald Trump wouldn’t be an actual contender for the White House if the other politicians had just done their jobs at least sporadically over the past twenty years. Trump has clearly tapped into the anger of the electorate, but not enough people are paying attention to why exactly the electorate is so angry.

Many Democrats will blame the rise of the Tea Party and the money of the Koch Brothers for oversimplifying the complexities of government, dramatically increasing partisanship within government, and using attack ads to scare people (mainly lower income people) to vote against their self-interest. While these elements can’t be ignored, they may have merely greased the skids to hasten the inevitable conclusion that nobody believes government can do anything anymore.

A favorite saying to promote bipartisanship is there is more that unites Democrats and Republicans than divides us. It’s true, but not in the way you want it to be true. The reality is special interests have co-opted our government. The Republicans are often better at wearing their corporate sponsorship as a badge of patriotic honor, but Democrats often have little problem playing the game when it suits their interests.

I served as a state legislator in Pennsylvania for eight years, during which time I was a member of the Democratic Caucus. One more than one occasion, I watched members of our leadership cut deals to give the Republicans the votes they needed to help out special interests and then publicly feign outrage and despair after the fact. It was well-rehearsed political theater played for the benefit of the media, and by extension the public, to perpetuate the status quo in the State Capitol. I watched it with my own eyes, and it made me sick to my stomach.

Protecting the status quo in government often means preventing changes that might hurt the special interests. How else can you explain the inability of the Legislature and Governor to carry out their biggest campaign promises like liquor privatization and pension reform despite holding huge majorities in the State House and Senate, plus a Republican governor?

The Republicans ran the show in Pennsylvania for four years and somehow couldn’t get anything done. So either those issues are impossible to tackle, and people shouldn’t be voting based on them anyhow, or politicians refused to fulfill real campaign promises because some force larger than the voters stepped in and said no. It’s probably a bit of the former, but it’s certainly more of the latter.

Votes on legislation were invariably tied to campaign donations. It wasn’t always obvious, and fancy terms like “stakeholders” and “our friends” helped make it all seem somewhat less grimy, but it was always part of the conversation behind closed doors when it came time to make policy. (As you can imagine, I was a fairly lousy fundraiser as a legislator, which devalued my voice and influence to many inside the State Capitol.)

This lack of faith in government is the political cesspool that allowed a Donald Trump to exist in 2016. People are tired of the same old rhetoric from both Democrats and Republicans because they know nothing is going to change very much regardless of who is running the show. All they know is they keep getting screwed, or at least honestly believe they’re getting screwed. Both parties created this cesspool when they are repeatedly disrespecting the voters by taking them for granted.

So when a rich guy with a bad hairdo figures out how to not only tap into the public anger, but to stoke the flames by taking advantage of an electorate preprogrammed to respond to scare tactics and the belief that they’re working to subsidize a welfare state, it’s not hard to see how he could gain traction.

The political establishment, both Republicans and Democrats, need to realize they are perceived as the root of the problem, which by default precludes them from being part of the solution.

In a best case scenario, Donald Trump’s presidential run will be remembered as a wake-up call to the petty, obstructionist, arrogant elitists who currently hold public office. In a worst case scenario, Donald Trump is the first Visigoth over the hill.

This election, like all elections, is serious business with real consequences for all of us. Choosing the next President is, of course, important, but we need to look down the ballot at our legislators at the federal and state level, all the way down to municipal officials and school board members. Vote in primary elections. Vote in general elections. Listen to candidates speak, or seek them out to ask questions about the issues. Volunteer for a candidate you like and encourage others to do the same. Don’t be swayed by attack ads. Don’t be swayed by every sensationalistic post on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t assume anyone is looking out for your best interests except you. Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to be fooled into voting against your self-interests.

We’re running out of chances to get our house in order, and if we ultimately fail, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

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Until We Meet Again

This is the 499th post I’ve written for this site since I was first elected in 2006. Of all of them, this is probably the most difficult to write, because this is the last post I will be writing as the State Representative for the 46th District of Pennsylvania- at least for the foreseeable future.

My staff and I couldn’t always help everyone, but we always tried to listen and do what we could, and we sent people somewhere else for assistance only as a last resort. You may not know this, but we kept track of nearly every phone call, email, letter and office visit from constituents. When I looked at the numbers, I was blown away.

And who can forget being crushed by a 93 year old woman at Wii Bowling (it happened).

And who can forget being crushed by a 93 year-old woman at Wii Bowling? (it happened).

Since opening our doors on December 1, 2006, we logged 5,482 letters, 5,235 emails, 11,420 phone calls and thousands of other requests for a grand total of 42,480 different constituent service contacts. That number doesn’t even include all of the face-to-face conversations, the visits to the senior centers and schools and the hundreds of personal interactions per week we had with people throughout the community in places like the grocery store and post office. Those are some of the moments I will miss the most.

Election Night 2006

Election Night 2006

You have all watched me grow up over the last eight years. When I was elected, not only did I have a younger face including a head full of hair, but I was also filled with energy and an honest desire to help people. As time passed, I learned how to channel that energy into action and get results.

We helped literally thousands of people get desperately needed public water and sewer lines at either reduced cost or no cost at all. We brought over $73 million in grants and low-interest loans into the district, much of which ended up going our municipalities and their residents directly.

The day we were able to hand refund checks for $3,000 to thousands of residents for sewage tap-ins was one of the best memories I will carry with me.

The day we were able to hand refund checks for $3,000 to thousands of residents for sewage tap-ins was one of the best memories I will carry with me.

Could I be combative at times? Sure. I never tried to hide my personality or my willingness to fight for what I believed in. Politics is a rough game, often controlled by a select few behind the scenes; when I challenged the Good Old Boys network, there was quite a bit of pushback. Whether it was a municipal authority, law firms trying to force a property tax reassessment, the Department of Environmental Protection or certain bad actors in the oil and gas industry, I always put the good of my constituents ahead of my own political consequences.

I want to say a few quick words to my successor, Representative-Elect Jason Ortitay. I cannot respect the campaign you ran against me, specifically the personal attacks on my family. You lied your way into office with over $300,000 in dirty money to attack me and my record, often with statements that simply were not true. Jason, you should be ashamed of the way you were elected.
You have also failed to answer questions about voter fraud allegations being investigated by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. It appears as though you registered to vote in Burgettstown using an address you never lived at, and then you voted there. These should be easy questions to answer. The 65,000 people who pay your salary (which includes me now) deserve the truth.
This voter registration form signed by Jason Ortitay must be explained.

This voter registration form signed by Jason Ortitay must be explained.

Regardless, you are in office, serving in the same legislative body that Benjamin Franklin once served. To be honest, I truly believe you are a puppet of the Republican Party and the oil and gas industry, and I think you would never dream of standing up to them on any issue of importance. Please prove me wrong. On Jan. 6, you will swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. There are too many critical issues going on for you to sit back and allow yourself to be controlled by anyone. I beg of you, make this experience real.

As I close down my district offices and dig up old memories, I realize I will miss the people I represented most of all. As frustrating as it was at times, I thrived on the responsibility of helping real people with real problems, and I took that responsibility very seriously. Rather than focusing on the enemies I made, I will remember all of the friends I made instead. There were times I was simply left speechless by the acts of kindness and compassion I witnessed. Although politics can undoubtedly bring out the worst in people, I am happy to say that every once in a while, they can bring out the very best.

My legislative staff did amazing work for the people of the 46th District. I couldn't have asked to work with better people.

My legislative staff did amazing work for the people of the 46th District. I couldn’t have asked to work with better people.

So I leave my post with a heavy heart and far too much work left to be done. On behalf of my both my staff (Nick Gerek, Jeanne Vega, Debbie Sakovich, Deb Colosimo, Camilla Cionni and Dominic Lemmon) and my wife Eileen and son Atticus, I want to thank you all for your friendship, your kindness and your support. Wherever life takes me in the future, I will never forget the people I met and the lessons I learned over these past eight years. The ups and downs, the good times and the bad, all made me the man I am today, and I’m damn grateful for the experience.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Because of you all, my life will never be the same. Will our paths cross again in a similar fashion? You never know; stranger things have been known to happen. I won’t say “goodbye”; instead I’ll just say “until we meet again”.

After all, decisions are made by those who show up.

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