A former Shaler policeman will replace convicted state Sen. Jane Orie in the General Assembly.
State Rep. Randy Vulakovich, a Republican, easily defeated Democratic health care consultant Sharon Brown of McCandless in a low-turnout special election Tuesday to replace Ms. Orie, who was convicted of public corruption in March. Mr. Vulakovich, 62, will serve the two years left in her 40th District term, representing communities north of Pittsburgh in Allegheny and Butler counties.
"I'm looking forward to getting started and putting the 40th together again," he said at his election party in Allison Park Tuesday night.
Rising to the upper chamber will leave a void in the 30th House district Mr. Vulakovich has represented for three terms. Republican party officials will have to meet to propose a new candidate to face Democratic advertising executive David Tusick of Fox Chapel in November.
Mr. Vulakovich got his start in state politics replacing another Republican legislator put away for corruption, Jeff Habay, in 2006. That was on the minds of GOP party officials who chose the former Shaler police sergeant over former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart and other hopefuls at a party vote in June, as was the crucial support of House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, a close Vulakovich ally.
Mr. Vulakovich made much in the campaign of his government reform credentials -- reflected in his refusal to take per-diems or a state car -- while Democrats noted he took both of those perks during his first term.
Ms. Brown, 59, lost her first run for public office to Mr. Turzai in 2010 and was the Democratic party's default pick for the special election after Ms. Orie's 2010 opponent, Ross Township commissioner Dan DeMarco, declined the special election run. Mr. Vulakovich ran hard for the open seat -- issuing TV advertisements and mail pieces to advance his candidacy -- and Democrats could not catch up.
Democrats look to be pinning their hopes instead on another open Senate seat south of Pittsburgh, the 37th District seat formerly held by John Pippy of Upper St. Clair. When Mr. Pippy announced he would not run for reelection, in advance of resigning this summer, Republican businessman D. Raja of Mt. Lebanon won the GOP primary for the seat, and Democrats appointed state Rep. Matt Smith of Mt. Lebanon to run after their initial candidate dropped out.
The state's much-discussed new voter identification law -- championed by Turzai, Vulakovich and fellow Republicans including Shaler's own Gov. Tom Corbett -- was not tested in the special election, as the requirements do not become official until Sept. 18.
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