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SD-37: More Candidates Emerge in Special Election

37th Senate District

The open contest for the 37th District’s State Senate seat is finally heating up.

Prospective Democratic and Republican candidates are making their cases to their respective parties that they’ll be the best ones to win in November.

As James O’Toole of the Post-Gazette reports, the Democrats are looking at two hopefuls: Mt. Lebanon Party Committee Chair Michelle Zmijanac and Women and Girls Foundation CEO Heather Arnet.

Former Sen. Matt Smith, whose retirement led to all this, seems to be behind Arnet.

On the Republican side, there is much more activity.

As we’ve reported before, attorney and U.S. Navy veteran Natalie Mihalek was quick out of the gate and was the first candidate to officially declare for the race. One GOP source contends that Mihalek is the choice of Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and conservative favorite Scott Wagner.

O’Toole identified four other possible GOP contenders including: 2012 nominee D. Raja, Bethel Park Councilman Paul Dixon, State Rep. John Maher and District Judge Guy Reschenthaler.

It is believed the latter two, along with Mihalek, have the best chance at the nomination.

Judge Reschenthaler, however, is in an awkward position. The PA Judicial Code states that magistrates shall not “engage in partisan political activity”. Nevertheless, PoliticsPA has learned that the Judge has been speaking at political gatherings and reaching out to party leaders.

O’Toole notes that Reschenthaler will step down from the bench if he gets the nomination. Obviously, the Judge only wants to resign if he becomes the nominee.

Charges of improper campaigning have been made against other judges in the past and are not necessarily a political death sentence. Still, in a race that will come to just a few party committee members, anything can make the difference.

The Democrats and Republicans are expected to choose their nominees in the the next few weeks. The general election will occur on November 3rd.

The 37th district includes parts of Allegheny and Washington Counties.

17 Responses

  1. The reason the focus on Guy is that he has the biggest issue to overcome. When speaking to groups, he spends 50% of his time explaining that he can run and nothing about the issues. Question, if Guy has a letter stating he can do this then why can he not attend Republican committee meetings?? He requested that one committee have a non-sanctioned meeting so he could speak. Its all about character!

  2. I think we would all rather have a beat up candidate than a no name Mihalek. We will se what Roddy thinks.

  3. D – I can tell you who isn’t scared of the Judge: the Allegheny/Washington Dems. Guy has hand delivered them an effective attack. If he is nominated they will likely win in November, and have an incumbent running in 2016 instead of a challenger, giving them a much better chance of holding the seat in the long term. Those are the stakes. Luckily those concerns are shared by a good portion of the county committee members, so, hopefully we won’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

  4. Not scared “of him,” but for him–his transgressions are real and he would jeopardize the party if he were to become the nominee and then be kicked off the ticket for unethical behavior. My primary concern is getting the seat back into GOP hands, and I believe the best way to do that is to avoid both Raja and Guy.

  5. I think these posts have solidified my support for Reschenthaler. For the exception of a raja post everyone is concerned about Guy. What that says to me is that the other candidates are scared. I haven’t heard word one about Natalie’s qualifications. Maybe it’s that website that unimpressed me. If there is a letter that has a judicial opinion then bj maybe you should stop practicing law because I don’t know if you can interpret it all that well.

  6. With the exception of John Pippy, this has primarily been a Mt. Lebanon/Upper St. Clair based seat.

  7. Mike – as an attorney, I can assure you that I do fully understand the judicial code. The code is not a rumor, and it, along with precedent, specifically bans many actions that the judge has taken, including speaking before partisan political meetings, making phone calls to ask for support for his candidacy, etc.

    Saying he is not a candidate is ludicrous, considering he is literally asking people to support his candidacy for Senate. He is playing with fire, and it’s the Republican Party that will get burned if he gets the nomination.

  8. John Schnatterly from Bethel Park recently joined the race for the Republican nomination. He spoke Thursday evening at the Moon Republican meeting. Interestingly, the Moon chair announced Reschenthaler as a candidate, but said he could not speak before the committee due to legal constraints on campaigning for a sitting magistrate.

  9. Judge Reschenthaler is only violating the code when he is considered a candidate. This would occur when he receives the nomination. I am sure he will resign upon receiving the nomination, so these concerns seem like a nonfactor. If he does have this letter, my guess is those who need to see it will see it. It may be rather unfair to be spreading these rumors before fully understanding judicial code. I am not sure who I will be voting for in November, however, I can assure you myself along with many others will look past these weak political scare tactics and vote for the best candidate.

  10. Raja’s supporters have been circling the wagons to promote his prospective candidacy, but I agree with BJ. Although I like Raja, I can’t imagine him emerging as the nominee after a conferee process.

    If all of these candidates throw their names into the hat, I would imagine the conferee process would involve multiple balloting until someone breaks the 50% mark?

  11. Well, last night Guy–maybe in response to this article, and another like it in the Post Gazette, started calling back committee members who questioned his ethics (during the meetings he shouldn’t have attended), and is trying to intimidate them with threats. He has been saying he has a written opinion that allows him to campaign, but will NOT proffer it. Lies and intimidation–maybe his is a born politician. But not one I will vote for in the 37th.

  12. Raja? And some guy who shouldn’t even be campaigning? They’ll be more joining the pack over the next few days to be sure, hindering the ability to organize in the little time left. The GOP needs to give their full support to one, qualified candidate, or it’s going to hand the dems another “accidental senator.”

  13. Tom, the only time that a Judge can get involved in “partisin” type politics is in an election year. The Judicial Conduct board states “Upon becoming a candidate for a nonjudicial elective office, a magisterial district judge shall resign from judicial office, unless permitted by law to continue to hold judicial office.”
    Its pretty clear, he cannot do what he is doing in my opinion.

  14. Tom – There is a distinction between a judicial office and a nonjudicial. If we were talking about a race for Common Pleas, Superior Court, etc, there wouldn’t be an issue. Because he is campaigning for a nonjudicial office, his actions are serious violations. The Dems in Allegheny County are waiting to see if he gets the nomination before filing a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Board.

  15. Bj, not sure I agree on the Judge. The provision that ‘magistrates shall not “engage in partisan political activity” may not apply to his own campaign. Obviously these folks run for re-election all the time and it doesn’t violate the code. I believe the code is for any “other” political partisan activity (campaigning for another candidate or promoting a political party). Not sure this is such a huge issue as this story attempts to make it.

  16. Word on Maher is that unless something changes, he will sit this one out.

    If this was a primary, Raja would most likely win, but in a conferee process he doesn’t have much of a chance.

    Judge Reschenthaler is putting a lot of people in an awkward position. He has some support in the district, particularly within his judicial district and among tea party types, but he is clearly violating the judicial code. Dems are hoping he gets the nomination, as they think it will be a potent attack in light of all the recent shenanigans from various judges, especially Orie Melvin.

    Mihalek isn’t well known, but if the Senate leadership is backing her as is rumored, she will be tough to beat at a conferee meeting.

    Dixon has no shot.

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