Two first-time Republican political candidates who won state House seats based in the South Hills struck a bipartisan tone, saying they are looking forward to working with Democrats.
Natalie Mihalek was victorious in the 40th state House District during the Nov. 6 midterm election while Mike Puskaric took the 39th state House seat most recently held by Rick Saccone, who decided against running for re-election after two failed Congressional campaigns.
Mihalek, 39, of Upper St. Clair, is the first woman to represent the district since Alice Langtry did so from 1985 to 1992. Mihalek said she is looking forward to maintaining the “great schools and thriving economy” in the district, which includes Upper St. Clair, Peters Township and six wards of Bethel Park.
“I’m very excited that the residents of the 40th district put their trust in me to maintain what we have going on right now,” she said.
She beat Sharon Guidi of Peters Township 18,236 votes to Guidi’s 12,233. The seat had been held for more than two decades by Republican John Maher. While Republicans kept a majority in state House, Mihalek said she was eager to work with the other party and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
“This is community over party and that’s the message I’ll take to Harrisburg,” she said. “This is not about party politics, it’s about what’s best for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Puskaric, 29, of Elizabeth, said he was prepared to work on finishing projects, such as completing the Mon-Fayette Expressway to Pittsburgh. He beat Democrat Rob Rhoderick of Elizabeth by a total of 14,390 votes to 11,358 in the 39th state House District, which includes portions of Bethel Park and the Mon Valley.
“I’m looking forward to making things a priority that have been neglected over a number of years,” Puskaric said. “The reality of it is you have to find common ground. Infrastructure shouldn’t be partisan. Taxes shouldn’t be partisan. I hope we can find common ground and improve the 39th district.”
In the race for the 46th House District, Jason Ortitay, 34, a two-term Republican lawmaker from Cecil Township, beat Democrat Byran Timmons. The district includes South Fayette, Collier, Bridgeville, Oakdale, Cecil and parts of northern Washington County. With 24 of 26 precincts reporting in Allegheny County, Ortitay had nearly 52 percent of the votes. In Washington County, he led Timmons by nearly 2,300 votes.
Democratic state Rep. Dan Miller of Mt. Lebanon ran unopposed in his 42nd House District, garnering nearly 24,000 votes.
Meanwhile, for the third time in six years, the state senator in the South Hills will not finish his term.
Republican Guy Reschenthaler, who has represented the 37th state Senate seat since 2015, won election to Congress in the 14th District, which includes all of Washington, Greene and Fayette counties, along with parts of Westmoreland County.
“The votes are all in, the people have spoken and we’re heading in a new direction in Southwestern Pennsylvania,” Reschenthaler told his supporters after being declared the winner. “We believe in low taxes and strong national defense. But we are also pushing in a new direction, criminal justice reform, we are for improvement in mental health care.”
Reschenthaler’s departure will likely force a special election to fill the remainder of his term, which ends in 2020. His two predecessors, Republican John Pippy and Democrat Matt Smith, both left the seat for jobs in the private sector.
In the neighboring 17th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb, 34, of Mt. Lebanon easily defeated Republican incumbent Congressman Keith Rothfus by a 56-to-44 percent margin. Lamb, who won the March 13 special election in the former 18th Congressional District, earned a full two-year term to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“What I have found everywhere is a faith in America and in our institutions, and there is a fierce determination that these institutions work again for the common good,” Lamb told supporters. “I found that people still want their government to walk on their side of the street … and I found that people still believe in this government. They just want us to listen to them.”
The redrawn district includes northwestern Allegheny County, all of Beaver County and Cranberry in Butler County.
Observer-Reporter staff writers Barbara S. Miller and Scott Beveridge contributed to this story.