Readshaw defeats Molchany in state House battle of two incumbents in the South Hills

In a race that pitted two incumbents against each other in a redrawn South Hills district, veteran state Rep. Harry Readshaw prevailed to clinch the Democratic nomination for the 36th district, besting a freshman lawmaker who faced long odds with neither the name recognition nor the longtime constituents on her side.

State Rep. Erin Molchany, whose district will be eliminated, was easily held off in the Democratic primary for the realigned 36th District. The new district was composed largely of Mr. Readshaw's old one, which he has represented for the last two decades.

The new district includes Mount Washington, where Ms. Molchany lives, but extends to Carrick, Mr. Readshaw's base, and reaches outside the city to Brentwood and Baldwin Borough, where the victor held his election party Tuesday night.

Mr. Readshaw, 72, acknowledged his numerical edge over Ms. Molchany.

"You have to look at the map. I had 70 percent of my old district in this new district. So, obviously, I did have an advantage," he said.

But the race was not without challenges, he said.

"However, the disadvantage was Mayor Peduto was against me. County Executive Fitzgerald was against me ... so I had my work cut out for me."

"Obviously I won significantly. I think it's an action in democracy that they voted and supported the person they felt right, not matter what the big shots said," he said.

During the campaign, Ms. Molchany emerged in stark contrast to her opponent: young, progressive and supportive of gay rights, abortion rights and background checks for gun purchasers. In the closely watched race, she got a boost from Planned Parenthood, which funded a campaign criticizing Mr. Readshaw for his support for a measure by Gov. Tom Corbett that would have required ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.

Mr. Readshaw said he withdrew his endorsement of the bill, but the ad nonetheless tied him to both Mr. Corbett and the controversial measure.

Mr. Readshaw opposes abortion rights and restrictions on gun ownership. He calls himself a moderate and once reached across the aisle to back a measure aimed at undocumented immigrants authored by one of the House's most conservative members, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry.

He also opposed a $2.3 billion state transportation bill that was funded, in part, by a hike on wholesale gasoline. His campaign used that as a cudgel against Ms. Molchany, who voted for the bill.

He believes his opposition to the transportation bill is what resonated with his constituents.

"We react to our constituents," he said. "It's my duty to take their wants or needs or their desires or thoughts to Harrisburg."

Standing in the crowded dining room at his election party at Michael's Restaurant in Baldwin Borough, the former Marine and funeral home owner toasted the evening with shots of whiskey.

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published May 20, 2014 9:40 PM

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