22nd District residents hope to dodge redistricting

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Supporters of a state House seat in the south of Pittsburgh begged a legislative panel to spare it from the redistricting axe, saying it would hinder neighborhood growth and chop the state's already low number of female representatives.

Due to population losses in the last decade, the greater Pittsburgh area is almost sure to lose one or more state House and Senate seats when the Legislative Reapportionment Commission redraws them this fall. Since state Rep. Chelsa Wagner, D-Brookline, may give up her seat if elected Allegheny County Controller in November, she and others in the community worry it will be sacrificed.

The district is dominated by the Pittsburgh's 19th ward, the second-largest ward in the city.

"When I look at the prospect of that ward being possibly cut up, I think it would be really, really harmful to the residents there," Ms. Wagner said at a public hearing the commission held at Duquesne University School of Law Wednesday.

Of the state's 253 legislators, 44 are women, and the state ranks 42nd nationwide in its percentage of women officeholders. Many at the hearing argued the panel should take that into consideration when weighing the district, though gender is not normally considered a guiding factor when redrawing lines.

"It would send the wrong message not just to south Pittsburgh but to women across the commonwealth to relocate one of the few seats in the General Assembly held by a woman," said Erin Molchany, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet project, who may run for the 22nd District seat.

Ed Gainey, the chair of the city's Democratic committee and an aide to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, also urged the board to avoid cutting any Pittsburgh seats, saying it would dampen the clout of the city of Pittsburgh and its minority community.

"We're the second-largest city in the commonwealth, but we continue to take instead of get," Mr. Gainey said.

Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.


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