2013 special election must be held to fill District 42 House seat

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State Rep. Matt Smith's move to the state Senate sets the stage for one more election to fill his South Hills House seat.

Mr. Smith ran concurrently for re-election to the 42nd District House seat he first won in 2006 and for the state Senate seat formerly held by Republican John Pippy. The veteran Pippy resigned earlier in the year to head the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance. Mr. Smith, a Democrat, was unopposed for re-election to the House and defeated businessman and former Mt. Lebanon Commissioner D. Raja for the 37th District Senate seat.

Dan Miller, another former Mt. Lebanon commissioner, appears to be the early favorite for the Democratic nomination to the seat, although there would be time for other candidates to emerge before a special election sometime next year.

In an interview Friday, the lawyer acknowledged that he plans to run for the post.

The early field is less clear on the Republican side. The seat, while it has a Democratic registration advantage, could be vulnerable to a GOP takeover in a low-turnout special election. A possible deterrent to potential GOP candidates, however, is that the district is slated to become more solidly Democratic in the subsequent election, in 2014, when a redrawn legislative map goes into effect.

The old and new districts are centered on Mt. Lebanon. The current seat extends from Bethel Park through parts of Scott, Green Tree and Thornburg. Its pending configuration will eliminate some of the more Republican communities, and make it a somewhat more compact district with the inclusion of more Democratic-friendly territory in Dormont, and some of Pittsburgh's southern neighborhoods.

Republican names that have drawn speculation include Nate Nevala, a district staff member for Rep. Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair, and Mr. Raja, who previously lost a bid for county executive. Both were cited in a list of potential candidates in the Harrisburg website, PoliticsPa. Neither could immediately be reached for comment.

Several other prominent Republicans in the district said they would not seek the seat.

Disavowing any interest in running for it were GOP county council members Heather Heidelbaugh and Vince Gastgeb. Matt Kluck, a Mt. Lebanon commissioner, said he had considered but decided against suggestions to seek the GOP nomination.

Because it will be a special election, the party's nominees will be chosen by the district's party committee members, rather than in a traditional primary. Once Mr. Smith formally resigns his current seat to move to the other chamber, the Republican House Speaker, Sam Smith, will have 10 days to announce the date of the special election.

electionspa - neigh_south

Politics Editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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