Melissa Hart (R-PA 4)
Hart is the first Republican to represent Pennsylvania's fourth House
district in 18 years, and the first female GOP member elected to the
House in the state.
Hart, a 38-year-old no-nonsense lawyer, began her political career
by beating an incumbent Democrat for a state Senate seat in 1990. She
won re-election twice, chaired the Finance Committee and helped push
through a $4 billion tax cut that she considers her most important achievement.
Hart also worked to make professional development mandatory for public
school teachers statewide, despite some resistance from teachers' unions.
A strong opponent of abortion, Hart also introduced legislation to de-criminalize
abandonment of newborns by designating "safe haven drop-offs"
for unwanted babies.
Hart won this largely Democratic blue-collar district north and east
of Pittsburgh by touting her conservative social agenda and playing
up her organized labor roots. She beat Democratic state representative
Terry van Horne to fill the seat of Democratic Rep. Ron Klink, who ran
unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
Hart holds a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor's
degree from Washington and Jefferson College. Before her election to
the House, she worked for 13 years as a real estate lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Capturing a key House seat for the Republican Party, Melissa Hart has
endorsed a broad conservative agenda. Anti-abortion, pro-gun, and skeptical
of government in general, she has been welcomed by party leadership
and awarded key assignments on the Judiciary, Financial Services and
has spent an exciting first few months in Washington, lunching with
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, flying on Air Force One and appearing
recently in her home district with the president to promote his tax
In her first few weeks on the Hill, Hart says she has kept in mind
the dictum "seek no incremental change."
"This administration and this House leadership have big goals,"
Hart said in a recent interview. "They may get only incremental
change on some of them, but if you seek only incremental change in the
first place, you won't get anything at all."
Hart captured the heavily Democratic, blue-collar district of Pittsburgh
suburbs last year, defeating a Democratic state representative. During
a sometimes bitter campaign, Republican Party press releases pointed
out a racial slur her opponent had used (and apologized for) on the
state House floor in 1994. Hart raised more than twice as much as money
as her opponent.
"Crossing over the party line was not really that hard for a lot
of folks," Hart said. "I was where they were on a lot of issues...
It's a more conservative, kind of religious area -- pro-life, that was
very important. Taxes mean a lot to them too, it's a big chunk out of
Hart calls herself a firm believer in states' rights, and remains dubious
of what she calls "the feds."
"If I am confused about an issue, if I can't decide which way to go, I will go in the way of [federal] government not doing anything."
On the other hand, she has been willing to promote government action
in some areas that effect her constituents, such as preventing Japan,
Brazil and other nations from selling steel in the U.S. below cost.
She also pledged to support Democratic legislation to protect steelworker's
pensions when employers go bankrupt.
She's also willing to negotiate on the future of Social Security.