By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
A political newcomer from Hermitage is making plans to take on one of the old hands representing Mercer County in Harrisburg.
Hermitage lawyer Michael T. Muha, 29, is gearing up for a 2014 run against 50th District state Sen. Robert D. “Bob” Robbins.
On Wednesday, Muha mailed the paperwork to Harrisburg creating the “Friends of Michael T. Muha” political action committee, chaired by Hermitage Democrat Rhonda Paglia.
In the coming days, he plans to launch an official Web site, Facebook page and Twitter account as he prepares to run against Robbins.
Robbins, 68, is serving his fifth term in the state Senate. The Salem Township Republican hasn’t publicly announced whether he’s planning to run for another term next year. Messages left for comment Saturday weren’t immediately returned.
Muha used to be a Republican and even worked as an intern for former GOP congressman Phil English.
About five years ago, he said became disenchanted with the Republican Party, which he said has been co-opted by the Tea Party.
Muha described himself as a “Rockefeller Republican,” a reference for a political moderate that’s older than he is, and freely admits he’s “relatively young.” He wasn’t even born when Robbins began his legislative career as a state representative in 1982.
“But I’m experienced,” he said.
And he’s now a Democrat.
“I believe the Democratic party is the true party of the people,” Muha said.
He’s been a private practice lawyer with an office in Hermitage since 2011, when he earned his law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
He also has a master’s degree in American politics from The American University, Washington, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
He’s a 2002 Hickory High graduate who also counts anti-bullying and suicide prevention as pet causes.
In 2011, he shared his own story about surviving peer-pressure and bullying in school with Hickory students.
The GOP-controlled government in Harrisburg hasn’t served the people of the Keystone state well, he said.
“I feel that Bob Robbins hasn’t done much for us,” Muha said. “I feel the Republicans in Harrisburg aren’t doing a good enough job for people.”
The Shenango Valley isn’t “properly represented” by Robbins in the state senate, he said.
The latest state budget didn’t adequately fund education and passed the buck onto local school boards that were forced to make cuts and raise property taxes in many cases, he said.
It also failed to address infrastructure concerns with the state’s roads and bridges, he said.
The state isn’t profiting enough from Marcellus Shale exploration and should impose more taxes on the oil and gas industry, he said.
He supports fracking, but also has “serious concerns” about its environmental impact, he said.
He also wants to lead by example and encourage the Shenango Valley’s young people to stay here and make a name for themselves.
“We’re not doing enough to help kids, especially,” he said. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless.”