Democrat Austin Davis appeared to have secured a win Tuesday in the special election to replace Marc Gergely in the 35th State House District.
“I think the people are sending a resounding message: that they want a representative that will deliver results,” said Mr. Davis, 28, of McKeesport, who maintained a roughly 3-to-1 lead over Republican Fawn Walker-Montgomery.
He pledged to focus on the same issues he’d campaigned on — improving education, transit and safety, and public safety.
“We’re united here in the Mon Valley. … We’re united and we’re going to move this valley forward and we’re going to deliver results to the people in this district,” Mr. Davis told a crowd of more than 100 supporters at McKeesport’s Palisades ballroom.
Ms.Walker-Montgomery could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but issued a statement later in which she thanked her family and supporters and congratulated Mr. David. “While I’m disappointed with the results, I accept the people’s decision and look forward to working with Austin Davis to help make our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
The 35th District includes McKeesport and other Mon Valley and adjoining communities, among them Clairton, Duquesne, Munhall, White Oak and portions of West Mifflin.
The seat opened up last fall, when Mr. Gergely pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an illegal gambling ring.
Mr. Davis, who served as a top aide to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, maintained a commanding financial advantage over his rival, who was already at a disadvantage in the solidly Democratic district.
Mr. Davis will be only the third African-American representative from the county, and the first outside the urban core of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Davis called that a “significant milestone,” but stressed that he intended to represent the whole district.
“The Mon Valley has been looking a long time for a young, energetic minority person to represent this district,” said Clifton Pitts, an activist who chairs the Mon Valley People’s Action Committee. “We’re looking forward to joining his leadership with that of [Pittsburgh representatives] Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley.”
Those on hand to celebrate Mr. Davis’ win included state Sen. Jim Brewster, Mr. Fitzgerald, and Allegheny County Democratic chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills, as well as numerous municipal officials from the district.
Mr. Fitzgerald hailed Mr. Davis’ win as a sign of racial and economic progress, though he said it would be hard to replace Mr. Davis on his staff. “That’s the problem,” he said.