Republican Tim O’Neal cracked the 4,000-vote threshold in Washington County’s 48th Legislative District, according to unofficial returns from the Washington County elections office, and declared victory.
O’Neal continued to hold his lead with 4,534 votes to Democrat Clark Mitchell Jr.’s 3,743. Libertarian Demo Agoris trailed with 135.
“I’m really happy with he campaign we ran,” he said when addressing supporters at Frankie I’s establishment in North Strabane. “We knocked on nearly 8,000 doors.“
O’Neal, a veteran of the Afghanistan War who earned a “V” for valor and a Bronze Star, advertised this in contrast to that of Mitchell, an attorney, whom he portrayed playing the video game “Call of Duty.”
“I don’t think we ran a negative campaign,” he said. “Part of the responsibility of a campaign is comparing the candidates. I think the ads we ran contrasted the experience between the candidates.”
“We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done, and where we’re going to push forward no matter what happens, win lose or draw, heading into November,” said Mitchell from his campaign gathering at Washington Brewing Co.
Mitchell, with 3,071 votes, was simultaneously leading Joseph Zupancic in the Democratic primary for a two-year term. Zupancic had 1,258.
The Democratic primary results mean there will be rematch between O’Neal and Mitchell in the Nov. 6 general election.
O’Neal had an uphill battle to garner a win in the Washington area that was last represented by Republican Roger Raymond Fischer, who stepped aside at the end of his long tenure in 1988 to become a Lutheran minister.
In the March 13 special congressional election between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone, Lamb dominated the contest, winning the majority of the precincts within the 48th and all in both Washington and Canonsburg.
Asked a month ago how he expected to get a different result from the same pool of voters who overwhelmingly chose a Democrat, he replied, “I’ve knocked on 6,000 doors.” He had apparently added another 2,000 households during the intervening weeks.
Regardless of the outcome Tuesday night, O’Neal was guaranteed a shot at the two-year term on the November ballot because he ran unopposed for the Republican nomination in the primary.
Brandon Neuman succeeded Tim Solobay as a representative in 2010. He ran unopposed for the State House in 2016, raking in 98.2 of the vote. The remainder was scattered among write-ins.
Neuman and State Rep. Pam Snyder, whose 50th Legislative District includes Centerville and East Bethlehem Township were the last remnants of a Washington County that was once predominantly blue. Now there’s only Snyder, who faces a challenge from Betsy Rohanna McClure.
The 48th District includes South Strabane Township, home to both major-party candidates; Canonsburg, North Strabane, Washington, East Washington and North Franklin; and Chartiers and Houston, home of Libertarian Agoris.