Libertarian Andrew Hreha, Republican Abby Major and Democrat Frank Prazenica are all candidates for the Pennsylvania 60th Legislative District seat state Rep. Jeff Pyle vacated when he retired earlier this year.
The district covers parts of Butler and Armstrong counties, as well as Blacklick, Conemaugh and Young townships in Indiana County.
All three spoke during a candidates’ night at Kittanning Country Club on April 28, sponsored by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce.
Robert Sodini, chairman of the chamber’s government affairs committee, introduced the candidates before they spoke.
Abby Major, who served as state Rep. Pyle’s chief of staff for 10 years, said it has been a privilege spending the past 20 years learning from and working with Pyle, and even learning from Jeff Coleman when she served as his intern at age 15.
“I could not have asked for a better mentor and friend in Jeff Pyle all these years and I am so proud to have his support and endorsement in this race,” Major said.
She said she can trace her family back at least five generations to Armstrong County.
“Over the years, I have gotten to know the people of this district very well,” Major said. “We are working class women and men who care about important issues like ensuring fair elections, upholding our Second Amendment rights, defending our values and preserving our individual liberties.”
Major said she has seen what financial struggles can do to a person and a family. Her own parents lost her childhood home because they couldn’t afford the property taxes.
“That’s why when the governor tries to increase our taxes or divert money from rural Pennsylvania to the cities, I will stand against him every single time and say “No,” she added.
Major joined the Army when she finished high school because she knew her family couldn’t afford to send her to college, she added.
She deployed to Baghdad in 2005 for 12 months.
In the Army, she was trained as an intelligence analyst with a top secret security clearance, she said.
Part of her responsibilities as a soldier included analyzing terrorist activity in the area.
“During the war we were short staffed, so I ran our intelligence section alone for most of the year as a private,” Major said. “I briefed the command each morning with my analysis and informed our soldiers about potential dangers they were heading into before they left on missions.”
She was stationed at a small base about 13 miles south of the safe zone that was attacked by terrorists with mortars on a daily basis, Major added.
“I will fight to defend the freedoms and rights of the people of this district with the same tenacity that I fought for all Americans’ freedoms and rights while I was in Iraq,” she said.
Major said a selling point as a potential representative is that she knows what the job entails from years of working with state Rep. Pyle, and how to navigate the daily problems and issues that arise on the job.
She said she has established relationships with all of the surrounding state representatives, state senators and their staffs, and knows exactly who to go to to fix issues that arise.
She has also been working with Rep. Pyle on projects including the ACMH Cancer Center and BC3 project in Ford City.
She said she has received endorsements from the NRA, Gun Owners of America and Firearm Owners Against Crime.
Major has also received endorsements from two pro-life groups, the Pennsylvania Pro- Life Federation and LifePAC; and from pro-business groups such as the PA Chamber PAC, Commonwealth Partners – The Chamber of Entrepreneurs PAC, and the PA Realtors PAC.
“I have dedicated my life to public service,” she said. “It would be an absolute honor and a privilege to earn your vote for this position that I am so passionate about.”
Andrew Hreha, the Libertarian candidate for the 60th District seat, is 22 and a senior at Waynesburg University. hE initially planned to become a media person working for the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he has an internship.
But the actions of Gov. Tom Wolf in response to the COVID-19 pandemic changed that, he said.
Business owners’ livelihoods were destroyed or shut down “with the blink of an eye, with the stroke of the governor’s pen,” he said.
“That’s my biggest reason for getting so involved and working to seek office,” he said.
Hreha said if elected, he will work to take more powers away from the governor.
“What happened in the last year was an absolute tragedy,” he said.
People with businesses shouldn’t have been taken lightly and had their businesses deemed “unnecessary,” Hreha said.
“We cannot ever allow it to happen again,” he added.
Hreha, who is a Stover Scholar at Waynesburg University studying the U.S. Constitution and moral leadership, is a communications major, and is chief editor of The Yellow Jacket — the Waynesburg student newspaper.
He said as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate, he didn’t “fit in any political box,” until he found the Libertarian Party.
Hreha, had an internship with the Libertarian Party last summer, also managed to start a Libertarian Party affiliate in Armstrong County with Benjamin Seevers in July 2020.
He says if elected, he will give $30,000 of his $90,000 salary to charitable organizations such as food banks.
Hreha is also in favor of reducing the legislature to a part-time organization.
He said people become dependent upon big government, and that there is a lot of wasteful spending in government.
Hreha said he agrees with James Madison in The Federalist Papers 10, that having more political parties leads to greater freedoms.
He quoted Madison as saying, “Liberty is to faction as air is to fire.”
If Hreha won, it would send the message that Libertarians can be elected to other offices, he said.
He is a supporter of the Secnd Amendment.
Frank Prazenica, Ph.D., the Democratic candidate, grew up at 1120 Fifth Ave., Ford City, right across from Ford City High School.
As a Leader Times paperboy in charge of the other paperboys in Ford City years ago, he said they organized and successfully demanded a raise of 5/100 of a cent per paper from the former Leader Times management.
Prazenica served as an officer in the military, and in civilian life, as a long-time educator, going from teaching math to being a principal, assistant superintendent, then superintendent.
He benefited from having the former IUP Armstrong Campus in Kittanning, which helped a lot of kids who couldn’t afford to go to other campuses.
At first, he taught math, including high school geometry and Algebra II, Prazenica said.
“I loved to teach, I loved kids, I loved doing things for people,” he said.
He earned multiple degrees, including a master’s degree to become certified as a school principal.
He then moved on to serve as an assistant high school principal, then principal, at Burrell High School. He then became senior high school principal, then assistant superintendent, for the Plum Borough School District.
Prazenica then worked as superintendent of West Mifflin Area School District from June 2001 to August 2006.
Among other jobs, he was also superintendent of South Butler County School District and later worked as acting superintendent and superintendent search consultant for Leechburg Area School District and South Butler County School District.
He serves on the Freeport Area School District board of education, and is also president of the ARIN Intermediate Unit 28 board of directors.
During the 2006-07 school year, he received the distinguished educator award from the Tri-State Area School Study Council of the University of Pittsburgh.
Prazenica is also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
He served as company commander for the 332nd Engineering Co. formerly based in Kittanning, and as a battalion commander for the 389th Personnel and Administration Battalion based in Clarion.
In the military, he also served as the emergency preparedness liaison officer for West Virginia, Prazenica added.
“If anything, I have a loud voice,” he said. “I will be very aggressive if I go to Harrisburg.”
“I’m going to make things happen for the 60th District,” he added.
Anne Cloonan is a staff reporter for the Leader Times, a Sample News Group sibling of The Indiana Gazette.