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Heffley beats Yaich in 122nd state House race

Republican takes seat held for 28 years by McCall.

By Margie Peterson and Arlene Martínez

Of The Morning Call

November 3, 2010

For Carbon County Republican Doyle Heffley, the second time was the charm.

Heffley beat Democrat Justin Yaich 56 percent to 44 percent, with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, to win the 122nd state House seat held by Keith McCall, who is retiring after 29 years. Heffley, former chairman of the county GOP, lost to McCall in 2008.

“I think voters wanted something a little bit different this time,” Doyle said.

Yaich, 30, a Jim Thorpe borough councilman, said he was hurt by a national wave of displeasure with Democrats.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Yaich said. “People are fed up with the president. He’s extremely liberal and our country is a moderate country. He has taken us down a path people are not comfortable with.”

Heffley, 40, was endorsed by the state Chamber of Commerce. Yaich won labor endorsements, including from the largest teachers union — the Pennsylvania State Education Association — and the Service Employees International Union. He was also backed by the League of Conservation Voters and endorsed by McCall. The candidates were each endorsed by different Fraternal Order of Police branches. The Schuylkill Carbon FOP Lodge 13 endorsed Heffley while FOP Lodge 38, the state police who cover Carbon, backed Yaich.

While both candidates hit the airwaves and newspapers with ads, they also hit the streets. Heffley said he knocked on about 8,000 doors over the course of the campaign. Yaich spent long days going door-to-door and greeting voters at diners and coffee shops. “I’ve eaten more breakfasts,” Yaich said in a recent interview. “I feel like I’m turning into a giant piece of bacon.”

The candidates differed on several issues but none more starkly than on whether the state should tax producers working on the Marcellus shale natural gas reserve, which runs through Carbon County. Heffley opposed enacting a severance tax on producers, fearing it could weaken the expected boost to the local economy. Instead, he argued, the state Department of Environmental Protection should strictly enforce regulations safeguarding the public and environment against dangers from the drilling and increase penalties for those who don’t comply.

Yaich backed a severance tax, saying it was necessary to pay for infrastructure improvements and environmental protection for communities most affected by the drilling. “Why should we allow big gas companies to pass those burdens onto us?” he asked.

On the issue of school funding, Yaich favored moving away from the property tax as the primary way to pay for education and instead expand the state sales tax. Heffley wanted to reduce unfunded mandates on school districts and to require all state proceeds from gaming to go toward property tax relief.

Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call

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