In a Primary Election that saw low voter turnout generally, two putative underdogs managed to get their troops to the polls and score solid victories. The most impressive of these was Pittsburgh Democratic Party Chair Ed Gainey’s trouncing of his one-time boss state Rep. Joseph Preston Jr., D-East Liberty.
Overcoming Preston’s message of the need for seniority and experience with calls for change and promises of energetic and responsive representation, Gainey bested the 15-term veteran legislator by a nearly 2-1 margin, collecting 4,672 of the 7,089 votes cast to Preston’s 2,433. Gainey said he was surprised by his margin of victory, having expected a tight race.
“I was humbled by that, by the level of support,” he said. “I want to thank God, my supporters and the voters who came out and gave us this victory. But I also want to thank Joe Preston for his years of service and dedication to the district. It’s time to come together now.”
Gainey, who won the Democratic Party endorsement, nearly knocked Preston off the ballot when his petition challenge discovered almost 500 ineligible signatures. Calling such conduct from a veteran legislator “an outrage,” became an effective tactic during the campaign.
With no Republican on the ballot for November, Gainey is all but guaranteed to be sworn in as the 24th district representative, serving much of Pittsburgh’s East End communities and Wilkinsburg, in January.
Until then, he said he would work to help voters address the changes brought on by the passage of the Voter ID Bill.
Two-term US Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, doesn’t know what he will be doing in January, but it won’t be voting in Washington, as he was upset by fellow US Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, in a redistricting-forced, Bluedog showdown that, demographically, favored Altmire.
The combined district they battled to represent contains two-thirds of Altmire’s old Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland County territory. And Altmire carried his old 4th district areas with nearly 70 percent of the vote. But Critz, who won a 2010 special election for the 12th district seat of his former boss, the late John Murtha, mustered more than 90 percent support in Cambria and Somerset Counties, and that was the difference.
“If you had told me before the race of the numbers in my own territory I would have been happy with the results,” said Altmire.
Critz credited his union supporters for introducing him to voters who didn’t know him, but he was still shocked by the turnout.
“I worked hard, but to get in the 90th percentile is really overwhelming,” he said.
Critz now must replenish his depleted war chest for the General Election contest against Edgeworth attorney Keith Rothfus, who was unopposed on the Republican side.
One other race of interest involved North Versailles non-profit director Janice Brooks’ run against US Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pittsburgh. No, she didn’t win, but she did garner nearly 20 percent of the vote against the four-term incumbent. In thanking her supporters, she said imagine what might have happened if she had some money, a staff and name recognition.
“This was a voter mandate on the 18 year incumbent, the voters have expressed their displeasure,” she said. “Anything over 5 percent for a first time candidate is considered a victory. I will continue to pursue representation for voiceless people.”
In the Democratic Primary race for state attorney general, former Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kane handily defeated former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Bucks County. She benefited from the visible support of former US President Bill Clinton. Kane had worked for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. She took 54 percent, setting up a November battle with Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, who was unopposed on the Republican side.
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