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GOP County Chair Raja Shows Interest In State Senate Seat

Keith Srakocic
D. Raja appears in a debate against Rich Fitzgerald, while running for Allegheny County Executive in 2011.

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler won't know until November whether he will be a Congressman, but already a top Republican has expressed interest in replacing him in Harrisburg.

D. Raja, who chairs the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, plans to seek Reschenthaler's 37th District state Senate seat if Reschenthaler beats Bibiana Boerio in the newly drawn 14th Congressional District.

“As Guy prepares his campaign to win in November, I believe it is also important to lay the groundwork in anticipation of Guy winning in November," Raja said in a statement isssued in the early evening Wednesday. "The residents of Senate District 37 need a strong voice with proven experience representing them in Harrisburg.”

Raja co-founded a technology firm headquartered in Robinson, and serves on the board of the county's Port Authority, among other attainments.

This would be his second bid for the 37th Senate District seat, which includes airport-area suburbs and portions of the South Hills along with Peters Township. In 2012, the Mt. Lebanon resident beat Mark Mustio for the party's nomination in a brusing primary fight, but then lost to Democrat Matt Smith in November. Smith later stepped down, allowing Reschenthaler to win the seat in a 2015 special election.

Raja also lost a 2011 bid to challenge Rich Fitzgerald for county executive in heavily Democratic Allegheny County.

But he appears to be in a strong position should this seat become available. His statement was accompanied by endorsements from a number of prominent Repubicans, including Speaker of the state House Mike Turzai, state Senate leaders Jake Corman and Joseph Scarnati and gubernatorial nominee Scott Wagner.

If Reschenthaler wins, that would trigger a special election in which the Republican chairs of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties would choose conferees to select the GOP nominee. Raja, as the Allegheny County chair, pledged in his statement that he would "delegate the conferee selection responsibility."
But for now, the statement said, Raja "will be focused on electing experienced and qualified candidates to statewide and local office here in Allegheny County. "

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.