Control of the State House Will Be Determined by Upcoming Special Election in Allegheny County

Legislators of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are sworn-in, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. The ceremony marks the convening of the 2023-2024 legislative session of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Smith)

By Ashley Adams

February 1, 2023

Three vacant Allegheny County state House seats are up for grabs next week in a special election. Democrats need to win all three races to take back control of the House.

Majority control of the state House of Representatives will be decided Feb. 7 as voters in three different Allegheny County districts head to the polls for a special election.

Democrats won 102 seats in the November election, but one of their reelected incumbents, Rep. Tony DeLuca (D-Allegheny), died of cancer in October and the other two seats were left vacant when Austin Davis was elected lieutenant governor and Summer Lee was elected to the US House.

The three vacancies have left Republicans with a temporary 101-99 majority, but the GOP recently lost a member after Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver of Northumberland County won a state Senate special election this week to fill the 27th district seat left vacant by John Gordner, a Republican who resigned mid-term to become a Senate lawyer.

Democrats must win all three seats in the special election to regain control of the House for the first time in 12 years. The chances of that happening are promising, as each of the seats have been held by Democrats for about 40 years, with voters supporting them by significant margins.

Here are the candidates in each of the special elections:

32nd District – Joe McAndrew (D) vs. Clay Walker (R)

Democrat Joe McAndrew faces Republican Clay Walker for the seat that has been vacant since the death of DeLuca in October. The 32nd legislative district includes the communities of Penn Hills, Oakmont, Verona and a sliver of Plum.

McAndrew of Penn Hills serves as the chair of the Penn Hills Democratic Committee and is a former executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. He worked on the 2022 campaign for US Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-Allegheny) and also worked for former Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

McAndrew supports raising the minimum wage, protecting reproductive rights, ending gun violence, LGBTQ+ rights, and equitable school funding. He has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.

Walker is a pastor from Veron. He is an Army veteran and has served as a customer service representative for a major health organization.

Walker is endorsed by the Gun Owners of America, is pro-life, and supports a school choice program.

34th District – Abigail Salisbury (D) vs. Robert Pagane (R)

Democrat Abigail Salisbury faces Republican Robert Pagane for the seat left vacant by the resignation of Lee in December. The 34th legislative district includes the communities of Wilkinsburg, Edgewood, Swissvale, Churchill, and North Braddock.

Salisbury of Swissvale runs a law firm that focuses on smaller nonprofits and advocacy groups and currently serves on the Swissvale Borough Council. She is the former director of JURIST.org, a legal news and commentary organization hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s law school.

Salisbury’s priorities are bringing resources back to the district, supporting entrepreneurs, investing in public education, and funding infrastructure that can adapt to climate change. She has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.

Pagane of Wilkins is a former law enforcement officer and is currently a kickboxing instructor. He served on the Baldwin Borough police department for 20 years, including 13 as a K-9 handler.

Pagane’s priorities are school safety and lowering the taxation on senior citizens in the state.

35th District – Matthew Gergely (D) vs. Don Nevills (R)

Democrat Matthew Gergely faces Republican Don Nevills for the seat left vacant by Davis who resigned in December to become the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. The 35th legislative district includes the communities of McKeesport, Clairton, Duquesne, Homestead, Munhall, and White Oak.

Gergely is McKeesport’s finance director and previously served as city administrator and as a McKeesport Area School District official. He has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.

Nevills is a Navy veteran and small business owner. He served on the Clairton Redevelopment Authority Board and the Clairton Municipal Utilities Authority Board. In 2019 he unsuccessfully ran for the 18th congressional district seat. 

Both candidates have history with the 35th district seat. Gergely’s brother Marc was the last person to represent the district before Davis, serving for more than a decade before he resigned in 2017 due to a scandal involving an illegal gambling ring. Nevills ran against Davis in November for the seat and lost.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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