Allegheny County’s two major political committees held meetings Saturday to pick their candidates for three upcoming special elections for state House.
The special elections, set for Feb. 7 and located in heavily Democratic areas of the Pittsburgh suburbs, will decide which party controls the 203-seat state House. Under state law, local political party leaders select their nominees for special elections.
It’s unclear whether the elections actually will take place on Feb. 7, due to a pending lawsuit filed by the state House Republican leader. State Rep. Bryan Cutler sued state Rep. Joanna McClinton, the top Democrat, arguing she didn’t have the authority to schedule the elections. He then issued his own timetable, moving the elections to May, which would give Republicans control over the chamber for an extended amount of time. McClinton responded by noting her party won more seats on Election Day than Republicans and that more Democratic wins have been certified than Republican.
One open seat is the 32nd District — composed of Penn Hills, Oakmont, Verona and parts of Plum — that Democratic Rep. Anthony DeLuca had represented for nearly 40 years. His death in October, following a brief battle with lymphoma, meant it was too late to remove him from the Nov. 8 ballot, and DeLuca posthumously won re-election.
Republicans picked Clayton Walker, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Verona and serves as pastor of The Mustard Seed Church, as their nominee. Democrats met earlier this month to select Joe McAndrew, who chairs the Penn Hills Democratic Committee.
Some Republicans had tried to persuade Carrie Lewis DelRosso, a former state representative and Oakmont resident who lost last month’s election for lieutenant governor, to enter the race. She announced last week that she would not seek the seat, saying “it’s not the right time for me to run.”
The two other seats are located in the Mon Valley and are currently vacant due to their previous officeholders getting elected to another position.
The 34th District, centered on Braddock and other towns just east of Pittsburgh, was formerly represented by U.S. Rep.-elect Summer Lee. Democrats selected Abigail Salisbury, a lawyer who sits on Swissvale Borough Council, as their nominee. Republicans picked Robert Pagane, a Wilkins resident and former law enforcement officer.
Salisbury had run against Lee in May’s primary and lost 66%-34%.
The 35th District — based in McKeesport, White Oak and Clairton — was last held by Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis. Democrats nominated Matt Gergely, who has served in top positions with the city of McKeesport and McKeesport Area School District. Republicans selected Don Nevills, a U.S. Navy veteran and small business owner who lives in Clairton.
Both candidates have history with the district. Gergely’s brother Marc was the last person to represent it before Davis, serving in office 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 66%-34%.