Candidate for township supervisor claims opponent berated his teenage daughter

Candidate for township supervisor claims opponent berated his teenage daughter

HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A candidate for Hempfield Township supervisor says his opponent dragged his daughter into the campaign, embarrassing her in front of her classmates.

"He was in her class, and he had, 'just got done yelling at her,' was her quote to me," said Republican Rob Ritson.

Ritson claims his Democratic opponent, David Colecchia, berated his daughter while speaking to her class at Hempfield Area High School Thursday.

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"It was embarrassing," Ritson said his daughter told him. "The whole room was quiet and he was yelling, saying, 'Your father is this, your father is that,' and it made me feel small."

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Colecchia was a guest speaker in a class on civics and local politics.

The two are running for seats as Hempfield Township supervisors.

Incumbent Republican George Reese is also running, but wasn't involved in this exchange.

Ritson says his daughter asked a question and then Coleccchia fired back.

Colecchia declined an interview, but sent this statement:

I am aware Hempfield Township Commissioner Candidate Ritson accuses me of making his daughter cry during an October 12, 2017 Project 18 presentation at Hempfield High School. To my knowledge and understanding this event was active and with student participation including Candidate Ritson's daughter who identified herself when asking me a question. It was answered and at no time did I sense acrimony nor did I observe anyone in the room in tears. I did ask Candidate Ritson's daughter to ask her father about a potential conflict of interest with his candidacy. At the program conclusion many students and the School Coordinator thanked me for participating. It was apparent to me that many of the participants understood the passion I have for the Hempfield community and my goals for Hempfield. I believe I understand what Candidate Ritson is doing and vehemently deny his allegations. However, after reflection about these events it is suggested that Candidate Ritson resign his campaign for conflict of interest.
As Candidate Ritson is State Senator Ward's Chief of Staff he cannot represent both Hempfield and the other communities within Senator Ward's district. To clarify: If as a Hempfield Supervisor he works to obtain a benefit for Hempfield he is in conflict with the other communities in Senator Ward's district as her Chief of Staff. Conversely, if Candidate Ritson in his role as Senator Ward's Chief of Staff works for the other communities in Senator Ward's district he is in conflict with his duties as a Hempfield Supervisor.
This conflict is irreconcilable. It is recognized my candidacy is controversial. People may not like what I am saying. That is why there is a race.
The actions by the Westmoreland County Democratic Committee are disappointing. Where we are today was understood by the Committee at the start of this campaign. They never opposed my candidacy; they understood my platform and passion. They encouraged me to run for this office. I accepted the challenge. Their acting without my Team Committee response to the Committee inquiry surrounding the events of October 12, 2017 is discouraging. Rather, in my view a better response to the Hempfield community by this organization would be to start a dialogue on the issues and gather ideas to resolve them.

The conflict mentioned is Ritson's job as chief of staff for Sen. Kim Ward.

"I don't see a conflict," Ritson told Channel 11.

The Westmoreland County Democratic Party says it's disassociating itself from Colecchia, posting a statement on Facebook: "We were uncomfortable having him associated with our committee. Today you can see that we were correct in our assessment."

Politics today is as divided as we have ever seen it. There are certain acts or incidents however that anyone with any...

Posted by Westmoreland County Democratic Party on Thursday, October 12, 2017

Channel 11 contacted the Hempfield Area School District.

The superintendent said they're also investigating.