Although she has been entrenched the past six months in legal uncertainty, there is no doubt where state Sen. Jane Orie stands with the electorate of the 40th state Senate District. Voters gave the Republican from McCandless a decisive win in Tuesday's balloting.
Despite the efforts of late-coming Democratic challenger Dan DeMarco of Ross, preliminary results from the North Hills and southern Butler County showed across-the-board support for the incumbent.
In Allegheny County, the contest between the two attorneys tracked closely Tuesday evening with Mr. DeMarco taking an early lead only to be nudged aside by Ms. Orie.
On the other side of the Senate district, Butler County voters made it clear from the start that they wanted to return Ms. Orie to office. A big lead continued through the evening and wrapped up with Ms. Orie securing more than 62 percent of the vote, based on preliminary estimates.
After breaking the news of his loss to about 30 supporters at a Ross restaurant, Mr. DeMarco opted to emphasize the positive: "We worked hard. We did a very, very respectable job. ... We came close. But we weren't able to get over the top."
Although the senator pocketed a win in the political arena, the former prosecutor will face battle in the courtroom just weeks after her new term begins. That's when she is scheduled for trial in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on criminal charges that she used her office staff and resources to advance the Pennsylvania Supreme Court campaign of her sister, Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
Her campaign spokesman, Josh Wilson, said the voters' ballots reflect their trust in the senator, calling the victory a "testament" to her reputation and her record.
"Senator Orie put her trust in the voters, and she's humbled by their overwhelming support. She trusted that her reputation as a public servant would carry the day and it's clear that it did," Mr. Wilson said.
Mr. DeMarco's late arrival to the race via a write-in campaign in the spring primary coincided with news that Ms. Orie was targeted in a criminal investigation.
Ms. Orie's general election campaign was one that portrayed her as a victim of an old-boys political network while sounding the familiar chords of valiant fights against legislative pay raises, gambling and no-bid contracts to political insiders. She has denied the criminal allegations against her, contending it amounts to a political vendetta. Legal documents indicate the criminal investigation was based on a tip from an intern in Ms. Orie's office.
Ms. Orie was elected to the state House in 1996. In 2000, she won her current seat in a special election, succeeding Melissa Hart, who had been elected to Congress. She had served as the majority whip in the Senate since 2007 but stepped down after she was indicted.
Karen Kane: email@example.com or at 724-772-9180.