Special Election Preview: State House 34th District

HD-34 candidates Abigail Salisbury and Robert Pagane

How does one replace progressive Democrat Summer Lee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives?

Voters in Allegheny County will have the chance to select someone to do so on February 7 in a special election in the 34th District.

Part of “Super Tuesday” in Allegheny County, the race is one of three special Pennsylvania House elections that will determine the majority party in the chamber for the 2023-24 session.

Back in November, Democrats won 102 of the 203 House races, only to lose two seats to resignation for higher office for Lee and Austin Davis, along with the October passing of long-time state Rep. Tony DeLuca who was re-elected posthumously.

With the election of Republican Lynda Culver to the state Senate in this week’s 27th District special election, there is now a vacancy in the 108th House District, leaving the seating chart in Harrisburg at 100-99 in favor of the GOP.

That explains why the three Allegheny County special elections in the 32nd, 34th and 35th Districts are so vital to Harrisburg politicians.

In the 34th District, Democrat Abigail Salisbury will face off against Republican Robert Pagane in a contest to replace Lee, who resigned her seat to go to Washington to represent the 12th Congressional District.

Salisbury, currently serving her fifth year on Swissvale Borough Council including the past two years as President, is a small business owner, working as a practicing solo attorney from her office in Swissvale. She lost a primary contest against Lee last May.

She decided to get involved in politics after Donald Trump was elected President in 2016. She saw Borough Council members that did not look like her nor listen to concerns of community members. “Think global, act local,” she thought.

Salisbury says she wants to ensure that “residents of Pennsylvania have adequate access to healthcare (including access to safe abortions), that our much-needed infrastructure improvements are adequately funded, that our schools are adequately funded, and that PA finally joins the other 49 states that fund indigent defense.”

She supports “responsible gun ownership, which means knowledge and training on safety as well as keeping guns out of the hands of curious minors so that preventable tragedies do not occur. Gun violence is preventable and it is up to us to pass legislation that prevents it as much as possible.”

Education: Case Western Reserve, B.A.; University of Pittsburgh, M.P.P., J.D.
LinksWebsite | Facebook | Twitter
Major endorsements: CeaseFirePA, EMILY’s List, LGBTQ Victory Fund, PASNAP, Planned Parenthood PA PAC, SEIU.

Pagane, who grew up in Penn Hills, left college to join the police academy and served for more than 30 years, including five for the Pittsburgh Housing Authority and 21 for Baldwin Borough. He is a security guard for UPMC, a martial arts practitioner and a frontman for a local band.

He says his “mission to reduce taxes, especially on our elderly, (and to) build back communication bridges between our residents and the police.” He aims to “address and fight the drug problems, reduce crime and encourage businesses and home seekers to return to our area. Our kids need safe school environments to learn in and after-school programs to participate in.”

When it comes to firearms, the endorsed candidate by the Gun Owners of America says, “We have laws already whereas persons who wish to carry a concealed firearm are subject to background checks. As a law enforcement officer of three decades I am certain in stating that most persons who commit acts with firearms did not gain possession of their guns legally. Hence background checks are futile in that regard. I am strongly in favor of holding gun owners accountable for their weapons to include: keeping them secure, locked up, out of the hands or reach of children, having them stolen from unlocked vehicles etc etc. They need to be accountable.”

Education: Penn Hills High School; Allegheny County Police Academy
LinksWebsite | Facebook
Major endorsements: Gun Owners of America

Voter Registration
35,839 | Republicans: 6,213 | Libertarian: 208
Green: 84 | No Affiliation: 4,361 | Others: 1,910 | TOTAL: 48,632

34th House District

Total population: 61,582

Part of ALLEGHENY County consisting of the CITY of Pittsburgh (PART, Wards 13 [PART, Divisions 01, 08, 10, 13 and 14] and 14 [PART, Divisions 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18]) and the TOWNSHIP of Wilkins and the BOROUGHS of Braddock, Braddock Hills, Chalfant, Churchill, East Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Forest Hills, North Braddock, Rankin, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg.


  • Who Will Be Speaker of the PA House on February 28?

    • Joanna McClinton (68%)
    • Mark Rozzi (27%)
    • A Republican TBD (5%)

    Total Voters: 315

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