Who’s on Deck for Matt Smith’s Seat?

The green outline is the current boundary of HD-42; the pink outline is the proposed new district

With Matt Smith ascending to the state Senate, a potentially competitive race is brewing to replace him in the state House. Here are some of the names we’re hearing.


Dan Miller. He’s Matt Smith’s pick. An attorney and longtime Smith campaigner, Miller recently served on the Mt. Lebanon Board of Commissioners. He’s popular with labor (and his wife works for the steelworkers) and is a front runner for the seat. He lives in the old and new 42nd.

Mark Flaherty. The former Allegheny County Controller and 2011 candidate for County Exec lives in Mt. Lebanon. His family roots run deep in Pittsburgh; his father uncle was mayor. He lives in the old and new 42nd.


Heather Heidelbaugh. She’s an attorney and a freshman on Allegheny County Council, and she’s well-regarded by both the establishment and the activist base. She will reside in the new configuration of the 42nd.

Vince Gastgeb. This businessman is perennially on the list of Allegheny Republicans to watch. He’s been on County Council since was first created in 1999, and briefly flirted with a state Senate run in 2012. However, while he lives in the current configuration of the 42nd district, the proposed new map would put him in Rep. John Maher’s district.

Raja. Will the third time be the charm for this businessman and two-time candidate? He ran for Allegheny Exec in 2011 and is just coming off of a 5 point state Senate campaign loss to Smith. His previous races have been funded by personal wealth, but resulted in high negatives over charges that his business outsources jobs. It looks unlikely that he’ll run, but you never know.

Dale Cowher. The businessman and brother of former Steelers coach Bill Cowher lives in the old and new 42nd and might throw his hat in the ring.

Nate Nevala. He’s the youngest person on the list at 29, but the district director for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy is a Mount Lebanon resident and may also make a bid for the seat.

Sue Means. Sue Means business. That’s been the slogan of this GOP activist in recent political campaigns, including her 2nd-place primary bid for state Senate this year. She’s primarily known as a homeschooling advocate and has decent name ID – but does not necessarily gel with the party leaders who would be choosing the nominee. However, like Gastgeb, she’d be in HD-40 under the new map.

Mark Harris, the candidate-turned-consultant who lost to Smith in 2006 and ran Sen. Pat Toomey’s campaign in 2010, says he’s not interested in the seat. He just bought a house in Mt. Lebanon and is expecting his first child next month.

What’s next

Speaker Sam Smith will have 10 days to call for a special after Smith officially vacates his seat in January, giving counties a minimum of 60 days to prepare. Sources indicate that a special election is likely to be called for March, and would not coincide with the April primary.

The current configuration of the district comprises Mt. Lebanon and parts of Bethel Park, as well as Green Tree, Rosslyn Farms and Thornburg all in Allegheny County. Democrats lead Republicans in voter registration 50 percent to 39. However, turnout is likely to be anemic in an off-year special election, meaning that the GOP could make a legitimate run at the seat.

The proposed new map would make the district more Democratic; shedding Bethel Park and Thornburg and consolidate around Mt. Lebanon.

GOP and Dem County committee members who live within the 42nd district will interview interested candidates and choose one to be their party’s nominee.

Another seat, that of Rep. Eugene DePasquale in the city of York, will also go to a special. Stay tuned for details on that.

9 Responses

  1. John Schnatterly, a businessman from Bethel Park is considering running. He previously ran very good campaigns for the General Assembly in the 90’s and has remained active as a Republican Committeeman.

  2. Going to have to jump on the Nate bandwagon. Out of that list, his name shoots to the top.

  3. Nate would be an excellent voice for the people of SWPA. He’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met.

  4. Mark Flaherty’s uncle was the Mayor of Pittsburgh. His father was a County Commissioner and then an appellate judge.

  5. Nate has a bright future whether or not he runs. He may become Tim Murphy’s Mark Critz. GO NATE!

  6. First, the 2013 Primary will be in May, not in April (by law, it is in April only in presidential election years). Second, I would have to check, but I think the 10-day period may be triggered in December rather than January. Matt Smith will be a Senator on December 1 (the term technically begins December 1, 2012 and ends November 30, 2016), will be collecting pay and office expenses from the Pennsylvania Senate (not the Pennsylvania House) beginning December 1. The event on the first Tuesday in January (January 1 this year) is formal swearing-in, even though the term really begins a month earlier.

  7. Without a question, Nevala is right for republicans. He’s sharp, understands the needs of the district, and has the political savvy to win. Hands down, run with Nate!

  8. Navella only viable. Don’t count out Tom Stevenson. A female would be only chance for republicans.

  9. I think Nate Nevala would be a great pick. A Republican that has great appeal in the current district and could keep the seat in the new district. He’s well known as Tim Murphy’s Field Director as well as through his own work in the area.

    A young, energetic person like Nevala would be a good pick to take back Stevenson’s old seat.

    Republicans in the area would be smart to make him their candidate and everyone would be smart to elect him.

Comments are closed.

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