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Simmons wins 131st House seat

GOP candidate with tea party support beats Democrat Mike Horton.

By Patrick Lester, OF THE MORNING CALL

November 3, 2010

Republican Justin Simmons will replace state Rep. Karen Beyer in the 131st Legislative District after pulling off a win over Democrat Mike Horton on Tuesday.

Simmons, 24, ensured a Republican will hold onto the House seat when he earned 57 percent of the vote to Horton’s 43 percent with all 29 voting districts reporting, unofficial results showed.

Simmons’ victory came five months after he stunned Beyer in the May primary with a fiscally conservative message and support from some members of the local tea party movement.

“This race was won on the ground,” Simmons said. “I knocked on over 18,000 doors. I created connections with my future constituents. That’s where this race was won.”

Horton said shortly before 10 p.m. that he was preparing to concede to Simmons following a closely watched, contentious campaign.

“I’m disappointed,” Horton, a 47-year-old state constable, said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of Democrats come out [to vote].”

Simmons, who lives in Upper Saucon Township, quit his job as an aide to GOP state Sen. Bob Mensch to campaign full time. He describes himself as an advocate for less spending who would focus on education, job creation and tax relief. He said he wouldn’t accept a taxpayer-funded car or pension.

The closing days of the campaign centered heavily on claims about Horton’s tax-paying record.

Simmons sent mailers to voters that took Horton to task for being late on tax payments in three states, claims that Horton called “outrageous.”

Simmons, meanwhile, defended himself against criticism over support he received from two organizations that are under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of State for alleged campaign finance violations, based on a complaint filed by Beyer.

Horton called for a number of reforms in Harrisburg, including the elimination of the legislative slush fund, taking away lawmakers’ ability to raise their pay and eliminating legislative perks. He has been touting his business experience and what he called Simmons’ lack of experience.

The 131st Legislative District includes most of southern Lehigh County and Allentown and parts of Lower Saucon Township in Northampton County.

patrick.lester@mcall.com

610-820-6764

Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call

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