Jane Orie resigns from state Senate

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Facing sentencing on 14 criminal counts, Republican state Sen. Jane Orie resigned Monday from the seat she has held for more than a decade.

Her departure sets up a soon-to-be-scheduled special election in the North Hills district, which is proposed to be relocated across the state in 2014.

Ms. Orie, 50, of McCandless, was found guilty in March of misusing her legislative staff to do campaign work. She has been suspended from practicing law and stands to lose her pension.

Her sentencing initially was scheduled for Monday, but Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning allowed her two additional weeks to repay defense costs paid by the state Senate.

"It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have served in the Senate of Pennsylvania," Ms. Orie wrote in a brief resignation letter dated Friday.

Staffers will continue to respond to constituent requests in her former Harrisburg and district offices.

Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who presides over the Senate, has 10 days to schedule a special election.

While balloting could be held as early as late July -- or delayed to the general election Nov. 6 -- local Republicans are eyeing Aug. 21 as their preferred date. By that time, schools hosting polling places would be open again and the election would not interfere with the national political conventions, which kick off Aug. 27 with the Republican gathering in Tampa, Fla.

Local officials from both parties will pick their nominees for the special election. The Republican nominee will be picked by 55 committee members and party activists from Allegheny County and 29 from Butler County in a meeting tentatively set for early to mid-June in Gibsonia.

About 10 Republicans currently are interested in the seat, said Allegheny County GOP chairman Jim Roddey.

The best known is former congresswoman Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods, who held the 40th District seat for a decade before joining Congress in 2001.

Other possible candidates include: Allison Park attorney Chris Abernethy; Doug Austin of Austin cleaning products in Mars; former North Allegheny school director Scott Cunningham; Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd; McCandless committee chairman Bill Kirk; North Hills school director Jeff Meyer; Butler County committee vice chair Robin Redding; Allegheny County GOP treasurer Karen Shaheen; and lobbyist Rob Vescio of Franklin Park.

The Democratic pick is made by committee members in the district before ratification by the state Democratic Committee. Dan DeMarco of Ross, who lost to Ms. Orie in 2010, is thought to be the main candidate.

The successful candidate will face an uncertain future, given plans to move the 40th Senatorial District to the Poconos due to population losses in Western Pennsylvania.

The revised district boundaries await a final vote.

electionspa - state - neigh_north

Harrisburg Bureau Chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254. Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. First Published May 22, 2012 12:00 AM


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