PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — He has been a lawmaker for years and now is the leader of his party in the state Senate.
But Senator Jay Costa, a Forest Hills Democrat, is facing a rare challenge in the Democratic primary from a local businessman who says it’s time for a change.
The Costa name was political gold until two Costas, Rep. Paul Costa and Rep. Dom Costa, lost their state House primaries to fellow Democrats two years ago.
That leaves Senator Costa all alone.
Now, he, too, has a Democratic challenger.
“I am kind of pushing for the future of the Democratic Party, which is a young, aggressive party of young people that could succeed and could take over the state government, which I know has held back a lot of progress, particularly from Senator Costa,” says Bill Brittain, a 38-year old businessman running against Costa in the 43rd Senatorial District.
Brittain, the owner of Shadyside Nursery, says Sen. Costa is part of an old boys’ network influenced by the wealthy.
“He is very entrenched in a system and it has worked the way he has helped make it work for the past 24 years. And I don’t think that is the way forward,” Brittain told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
But Sen. Costa makes no apologies for holding the top spot among Democrats in the Senate and says it helps this region.
“We don’t want folks from other parts of the state making decisions, with respect to the issues that are important to us,” says Costa. “We want to have an ability to have a voice at that table, and I think that’s what I bring in my position as Democratic leader.”
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano Interviews Jay Costa And Bill Brittain
Sen. Costa says he listens closely to constituents in the 43rd District, which stretches from Pittsburgh to Penn Hills and into the Mon Valley.
“Fought for a number of areas like health care, gun safety measures, environment, education funding, criminal justice reform. Those are just a handful of the areas I have heard from folks here that I brought to Harrisburg,” Costa said.
Costa points to his record as a reason for reelection.
“I hope I have earned the continued support of the voters of our district,” says the senator.
But his challenger calls for change.
“We need to fundamentally address who has the power in the economics of the system or we will never change anything,” says Brittain.
Democratic voters will make their choice on June 2.