Westmoreland GOP committee chair plans to run for 54th District House seat |

Westmoreland GOP committee chair plans to run for 54th District House seat

Patrick Varine

Michael Korns doesn't want Pennsylvania to become the next Illinois.

The Midwestern state recently passed a budget — it had not had a complete state budget since July 2015 — that would impose a 32 percent hike on income tax, and lawmakers convened a special session this week to battle over school funding.

Korns, 35, of Murrysville said focusing on Pennsylvania's finances is a big part of why he plans to run for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Eli Evankovich.

“I think that Pennsylvania has everything that it needs to be a growing, robust state — a well-trained workforce, good natural resources, good (geographic) location,” said Korns, an attorney who chairs the Westmoreland GOP committee. “But government is failing at all levels in the state.”

Evankovich, also a Republican from Murrysville, announced in late 2016 that he would not seek re-election in the 54th District.

Korns said his strong feelings about the direction in which the state is headed prompted him to action.

“It's choking our economy,” he said. “It's preventing jobs from growing, and it's causing a trickle-down effect that's leading to young people moving away. So when an opportunity came, I thought the only way to make a change is to step forward and put your name out there.”

Korns pointed to Wisconsin as an example of a state that has made strides toward improvement from a fiscal and business standpoint.

“They've gotten their workforce costs and their pension costs better under control,” he said. “Their higher education system is far more economical and a better value to citizens than ours. Their local government is more efficient because they don't have the fragmentation we have, and they've passed some laws to make Wisconsin more attractive to employers.”

Before Evankovich's election in 2010, the district seat had been held by a Democrat since 1969.

“We know that the majority of registration in the district is still Democrats, so the only way to win that district as a GOP candidate is to gain Democrat support,” Korns said. “I'll be knocking on doors and trying to garner as much support as I can.”

No Democrats or other Republicans have announced their intentions to run.

If Korns wins, he will be part of a family of elected officials: His wife Jamie won a Murrysville council seat in 2016.

Korns is confident in his chances.

“It's a district that has conservative values, regardless of party,” he said. “With an open seat, I'm sure it will be a hotly contested race, and we'll be prepared for that.”

The district includes portions of Westmoreland County, including Murrysville, Upper Burrell, Lower Burrell, Allegheny Township, Export and part of Penn Township, as well as Harrison, Fawn and West Deer in Allegheny County.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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