Aug. 7 election set to replace Sen. Orie
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HARRISBURG -- North Hills voters will head to the polls Aug. 7 to replace former state Sen. Jane Orie, and a name familiar to many voters there confirmed on Friday that she hopes to be the contest's Republican candidate.
Former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods, who represented the 40th Senatorial District before her three terms in Congress, said local GOP leaders and former constituents have asked her to run.
"The person to send to get the most done in those two years [left in the term] is someone who has been there before," said Ms. Hart, following Friday's announcement of the special election date.
Ms. Orie, 50, of McCandless, resigned from her legislative seat Monday. The Republican awaits sentencing on 14 counts related to misusing her legislative staff for campaign work.
Local officials from both parties will meet next month to pick nominees for the special election.
At least eight Republicans have expressed interest in the seat.
Other possible GOP candidates include: attorney Chris Abernethy; Doug Austin of Austin cleaning products in Mars; Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd; 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 North Hills district currently stretches from the northern Pittsburgh suburbs into Butler County, though it would be relocated to the Poconos in 2014 under pending legislative maps.
Ms. Hart, who has been working in law since losing her congressional seat to Democrat Jason Altmire in 2006, said the district is much different than the 40th she represented for a decade.
It now includes additional areas of Butler County, and with the removal of some Allegheny Valley communities, it is "much more Republican than anything I have ever run in," she said.
The potential of having her newly reacquired seat disappear in two years was not a factor in her decision to run, according to Ms. Hart. As for repairing the relationship with voters there, she said she would aim to ensure people feel they are heard and that they understand what their lawmaker is doing.
"It's a bad time, but it also presents an opportunity to show voters that there are people who will to do things the right way, with transparency," she said.
On the Democratic side, Dan DeMarco of Ross, who lost to Ms. Orie in 2010, is thought to be the main candidate. Aren Platt, executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, said they and Mr. DeMarco both are "evaluating the situation."
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who is tasked with deciding when Senate special elections occur, said he chose the early August date "so that the citizens of that Senate district could have representation as soon as possible."
The General Assembly will be recessing for the summer once the budget is completed next month. Neither chamber has announced fall session days, though lawmakers generally return to Harrisburg in September.
In a statement, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, a Republican, said the August election date will allow the new senator "to cast votes on several important fall issues, including pension reform and infrastructure investment."
First Published May 26, 2012 12:00 am