Daniel Smith Jr. is a Butler County native and longtime resident, who grew up in Zelienople and now lives in Adams Township with his husband, Don. He has been paying close attention to his state representative, Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry), for years. Smith has grown frustrated as Metcalfe has continually focused on bombastic and divisive issues, such as opposing same-sex marriage and attacking immigrants’ rights. Over the years, Smith felt that with every controversial Metcalfe issue that made headlines, Pennsylvania’s 12th House District suffered from being cast in a negative light.
Then a video was released in December 2017 of Metcalfe freaking out when his colleague, state Rep.Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), touched him on the elbow during a committee meeting on land use. Metcalfe exclaimed, “I am heterosexual. I love my wife, I don’t like men, as you might. Stop touching me all the time.” The video went viral and was mocked on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Stephen Colbert.
“The moment he had at the committee meeting, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Smith. “Yes, what [Metcalfe] said pissed me off. But I saw the rest of the representatives in the meeting shake their heads. And I was thinking, ‘How does a district keep voting for this person?’ Then I thought, I needed to do something.”
Smith, who says he has been mulling a run against Metcalfe for years, finally decided it was time to do so. He is running as a Democrat; he has been a registered Republican for years, and has voted for Democrats and Republicans in the past. Smith believes voters in the area, who largely support Republicans, are ready for a change, regardless of party.
“They look at Republican, Democrat, that is it,” says Smith. “And they don’t realize the Republican they keep putting in office keeps embarrassing us, like nationally. … Yes I was intimidated by the machine Metcalfe has. One, me being gay, and two, being a newcomer. But there has to be a way to reach the constituents. I have absolute faith in people in District 12 that they want progress and to move forward, and I don’t think that [me being gay] is a hindrance.”
Smith says the large population growth that Cranberry has experienced is causing traffic problems in the district, and that a state representative should be fighting to fix those issues. Smith cites his business experience as a potential benefit to the district. Decades ago, he started at BNY Mellon in Pittsburgh as a customer-service representative and has since been promoted to a senior supervisor position.
Smith also believes that Metcalfe’s focus on far-right, controversial, statewide issues is distracting him from his job supporting the 12th District, which covers Cranberry, along with Adams and Clinton townships in Butler County. He says Metcalfe’s push to ban same-sex marriage and make Pennsylvania an English-only state aren’t doing much to make the district better. Smith says, if elected, he will focus on working with local municipal leaders to bring in funding to the district to improve infrastructure and roads.
Smith says that if someone would run a business the way Metcalfe works as state representative, “they would have been fired years ago.”
Smith adds that he has been accepted for campaign training by the Victory Fund, a political-action committee set up to help elect more LGBTQ individuals. Smith says he is for “equality” and that he supports Pennsylvania’s Fairness Act, a bill that would grant civil-rights protections to LGBTQ Pennsylvanians statewide. (For several years, Metcalfe has used his committee chairmanship to block this bill from seeing a vote.)
But he says his sexual-identity doesn’t define him. “I am focused on local issues, not just being the ‘gay candidate.’”
Smith says his main campaign focus will be on easing traffic congestion in the district. He also mentions supporting hunters’ rights by eliminating a ban on Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania and providing more support, financially and politically, for first responders.
Smith will be speaking at Pittsburgh’s Women March on Jan. 21.