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Politics & Government

Smith Defeats Raja in PA Senate Race

Matt Smith is elected as state senator in the 37th district, which includes parts of southwestern Allegheny County and Peters Township in Washington County. He defeated Republican nominee D. Raja and claimed one of three new desks for state Democrats in the Senate.

The campaign was challenging at times, Smith said, as it was outspent by Raja’s three to one. “We made up for it by having a message that worked for the people of Western Pennsylvania, investing in education, investing in infrastructure, building our future here, creating good, high-paying jobs here in Western Pennsylvania.” Smith also holds the House seat in the 42nd district, which will host a special election once he resigns.

Smith’s Senate campaign began in July, after local activist Greg Parks, who won the democratic nomination through a write-in campaign, withdrew. Soon after, Smith embarked on grassroots campaign that involved knocking on thousands of doors throughout the district. The 37th district seat was previously held by Republican John Pippy, but has been vacant since July, when Pippy resigned to enter the private sector.

For local voter and Democrat Tim Clougherty increased party presence in the Senate is one step toward a more functional legislature. On Tuesday night, he knew Republicans would likely retain control of both chambers, but felt strongly that a closer party balance in the senate could create a new pressure on republicans in the far right.

“It prevents the far-right wing of the Republican Party from being able to push their things through, so that if you want to pass things you need some bipartisan votes,” he said. “That’s where you have a chance to make some of these proposals be more moderate.”

Some of the biggest issues for voters in the district, according to Smith’s campaign manager, Jake Pawlak, are Marcellus Shale drilling, education, and jobs. Pawlak said Smith’s support of drilling regulation at the local level garnered him great support among constituents.

“Matt had opposed Act 13, especially because of the lack of local control in that piece of legislation, as well as a lack of a severance tax that will properly allow us to account for the public health, environmental, and infrastructure costs of the development,” he said. Act 13 went into effect in February 2012, setting drilling fees for wells and restricting local governments from creating special requirements in their areas.

To create jobs, Smith calls for strategic investments in 21-century industries. “We’re working to create high-quality jobs in energy and green building and all the areas we know will serve us well,” he said.