So-called “special elections” seem so common in this area that they’re becoming, well, routine.
State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, who recently moved to Peters Township, is now a congressman-elect, so he’ll have to resign his state office before taking the oath in early January as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Once Reschenthaler resigns, the presiding officer of the state Senate has 10 days to choose a date for a special election to fill the remainder of the unexpired term in the 37th District, which includes Pittsburgh’s South Hills, airport-area suburbs and, in Washington County, Peters Township.
That begs the question of who, while ballots are still being counted for certified returns, might be contemplating a run?
Via text message, Ben Bright, Washington County Democratic Party chairman, weighed in.
“I’ve heard a couple of names, nothing concrete, but I’m sure someone will emerge soon,” he wrote.
Larry Spahr, Washington County director of elections, said he hopes the date of the special election coincides with an already-established date, such as the May primary, citing the cost of the March 2018 special election which encompassed about three-quarters of the county with costs that reached six figures.
Dave Ball, Washington County Republican Party vice chairman, said the state GOP Committee will run a meeting of conferees to choose a candidate for the special election because the office includes two counties. He speculated that such a gathering could take place in early February.
“D. Raja is interested,” Ball said of the Allegheny County Republican Party chairman.
“Nobody had to this point come to the party officially and said, ‘I’m a candidate.’ Other than there are a few that have been rumored.”
The advent of 2019 brings what’s called an “off-year” election because, typically, only local offices such as council, supervisor and school board, and countywide positions including commissioner, row office and, this year in Washington County, Common Pleas Court judge, will be on the ballot.
Here’s the rundown on recent special elections in the 37th:
- Former state Sen. John Pippy resigned from his 37th District seat effective June 30, 2012, taking the helm of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Coal Association, which became the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance.
- Democrat Matt Smith, then a state legislator representing Mt. Lebanon and Scott Township, among other communities, ran for the open seat and won in 2012, defeating D. Raja.
- Smith resigned in 2015 to become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, paving the way for a special election in which then-Pleasant Hills Magistrate Guy Reschenthaler became a candidate.
- Reschenthaler was in the middle of serving what would have been his first full term as a Republican state senator when he threw his hat into the ring for his congressional bid earlier this year. Only state senators in even-numbered districts in Pennsylvania ran in 2018, so U.S. representative was his sole ballot position on Tuesday.
The election of a senator for a full term in the 37th District will take place in 2020.
Special elections this year alone in Washington County have included the closely watched 18th Congressional District race in which Democrat Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in March, and the 48th Legislative District race in May, in which Republican Tim O’Neal bested Democrat Clark Mitchell Jr.