Tuesday, August 7, 2012

GOP rep, Dem primary challenger vie for Orie seat - The Tribune-Democrat

PITTSBURGH â€" Republican state Rep. Randy Vulakovich and Democrat Sharon Brown were vying to replace Jane Orie in a special election for her vacant Pittsburgh-area state Senate seat.

Orie's 40th District seat was up for grabs Tuesday because the Republican resigned in May shortly before she was imprisoned for using her state-funded Senate staff to do political campaign work.

Vulakovich, 62, knows something about that, winning a special election to replace state Rep. Jeff Habay in 2006 and then winning that year's Republican primary and general election to retain the seat where he's served ever since. Habay is another Republican from Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs who traded elective office for prison after illegal campaigning by his state-funded staff.

Brown, 59, most recently ran against state Rep. Mike Turzai and lost in in the 2010 general election.

The Democrats asked Brown to run for Orie's seat after Ross Township commissioner Dan DeMarco declined. DeMarco lost the 2010 general election to Orie, 58 percent to 42 percent, even though she had been charged with campaign corruption months before.

The long-term political fate of Tuesday's winner remains unclear.

The current 40th District contains most of Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs and the southern part of neighboring Butler County and tends to vote Republican.

Under a plan approved by the five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the 40th District will move east, across the state, to the fast-growing Poconos region in Monroe County. That means whoever wins the special election for Orie's remaining term through 2014 would have to run for re-election in the newly-drawn 38th District, a seat now held by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, a Pittsburgh Democrat.

The reapportionment plan is subject to several legal challenges filed with the state Supreme Court, which could still accept or reject the new legislative boundaries.

Under the current plan, Ferlo's district would shift to absorb the North Hills suburbs where the strong Republican support could neutralize the advantage Ferlo now enjoys in a district that has a majority of registered Democrats.

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