State Sen. Lindsey Williams was re-elected Tuesday to represent Pennsylvania’s 38th state senate district, beating Republican state Rep. Lori Mizgorski by about 12 points.

“I’m proud of the work that we’ve done together over the last couple years, and I’ve got a whole list of things I want to do over the next four,” she said to supporters at her watch party hosted by Operating Engineers Local 66 in Blawnox.

Mizgorski did not immediately respond to requests for comment from by the Union Progress.

Williams ran on a pro-labor platform. “I have this pin,” she said, pointing to a pin that says “UNION YES!” on her blue blazer, “and I wear it on the senate floor every day since I got sworn in, and I will continue to wear it every day I’m on the senate floor to remind me of what brought me there and what I’m fighting for, and that’s working families.”

Four years ago, Williams beat Republican Jeremy Shaffer in her first bid for public office by just 549 votes. This year, Williams’ win was stronger — her race was one of the first ones called by The Associated Press.

She was on stage at her watch party before 10 p.m. Tuesday to thank supporters.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe that we’re here so much earlier than last time,” Williams said to laughs from the crowd. 

Supporters of state Sen. Lindsey Williams gather to watch her victory speech on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at Operating Engineers Local 66 in Blawnox. (Noelle Mateer/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

High turnout

The 38th state senate district plays a pivotal role in state politics, stretching from North Hills suburbs such as Shaler down into parts of Pittsburgh, such as Highland Park. And voting patterns for the district can be hard to predict.

The district is “a swing district,” said Steve Kochanowski, treasurer for the Aspinwall Republican Committee. “These seats could determine the future of the state government.” 

And voters seemed aware of it. 

At 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, Kevin Kerr walked out of the Aspinwall Municipal Building and said, “We’re officially over 2018.” 

The chair of the town’s Democratic committee, Kerr had been sitting outside the polling place thanking voters for casting their ballots. He and Kochanowski had been guessing the numbers would be high all afternoon. 

Voters showed enthusiasm elsewhere in the district, too. 

“I’ve never talked to people before about voting,” said Beth Caldwell, who voted in Highland Park. “This time I was like, ‘You have to vote for Fetterman.’”

Caldwell was drawn to the polls over fears that reproductive rights could be stripped away under a Republican governor. “It’s becoming more dangerous to be a woman in Pennsylvania,” she said. “[Doug] Mastriano scares the crap out of me.”

Promotional material is seen at the election night watch party on Tuesday, Nov. 8, for state Sen. Lindsey Williams at Operating Engineers Local 66 in Blawnox.

Caldwell voted all Democratic this year — even though she’d often voted for Republicans before. 

“I always vote on what’s important to me, more than the party,” she said. “There are some Republicans that are kind of cool.” But Caldwell drew the line at Donald Trump, and she continues to disapprove of politicians with similar platforms. 

Kochanowski is a swing voter himself — or perhaps that should be swing organizer — though he swung in the other direction. In 2019, he was the interim executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. This year, he stood outside the polls on behalf of the Aspinwall Republican Committee. 

“I just feel the Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party I grew up with,” he said. “I feel their policies hurt places like this.” Kochanowski grew up in Potter, Beaver County, the site of the new Shell cracker plant, and felt Democrats weren’t doing enough to keep heavy-industry jobs in Western Pennsylvania. 

Split tickets are common in this part of Allegheny County. In 2018, when Kochanowski was still a Democrat, he was thrilled to see so much support for Gov. Tom Wolf. But when he looked more closely, he noticed a phenomenon he now calls “down-ballot slaughter” — blue at the top of the ticket, and red for everything below. 

It’s not all swing voters, though. The southern edges of the district border include blue parts of Pittsburgh. 

Aspinwall voter Olivia Beales said she’s always voted Democratic, in line with the issues she’s most concerned about: voter rights, the environment, and getting people out of jail who are serving time for marijuana-related crimes. She mentioned she was a fan of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senatee, who she’d even met a few times. 

And Christine Haas, who said she’s “always voted blue down the line,” said this year was no exception. When asked what her biggest concerns were, she mentioned reproductive rights, health care, education and raising the minimum wage — or, as she summarized it, “just about everything.” 

Haas was handing out pamphlets for Democratic candidates. Several voters noted the deluge of campaign info this year, a sign of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role in state and national politics.

It’s that same intensive campaigning for which Williams thanked her team as she took the stage. 

“Every single one of you put your heart and soul into the work we do," she said, "and making sure that we got to do this at, like, 9:30 at night instead of, like, 1 a.m."

Noelle is a business reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.

Noelle Mateer

Noelle is a business reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she's currently on strike.