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In A Surprise Move, State Rep. Hal English Withdraws From Re-Election Bid

State House of Representatives

In a surprise announcement made the afternoon before the Fourth of July holiday, state Rep. Hal English, R-Hampton, said he's withdrawing from the November election. 

Allegheny County Republicans can replace him on the fall ballot, but for now Democrat Betsy Monroe is the only candidate in the race. 

"I'm speechless," Monroe said, after a five-second pause, when notified that her rival was withdrawing. "I'm as surprised as anyone." 

Republicans, who had been counting on English to hold the seat as an incumbent, privately said they were also surprised by the move. "The question everyone is asking is, why is he stepping down?" said one local GOP leader. 

English could not be reached for comment at his home or law office.

His legislative office was closed for the holiday, but a statement from Pennsylvania House Republicans said, "I want to inform you that I am withdrawing from the November ballot to devote time to my family and my elder law practice."

English thanked residents in the 30th district communities of Fox Chapel, Hampton, O'Hara, Richland, and Shaler. He also name-dropped state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, a friend and Shaler Republican who lost a re-election bid to primary challenger Jeremy Shaffer in May.

“During my time in office, I have tried to conduct myself as a statesman, like my predecessor Sen. Randy Vulakovich, while listening, learning, and applying facts, logic and compassion," English's statement said. 

In 2012, English replaced Vulakovich in the House when Vulkaovich was elected to the state Senate. English beat Democrat David Tusock by a 57-to-43 margin. He did not face an opponent in either the primary or general election over the next two election cycles. Campaign finance records show he exited the spring 2018 primary with just under $52,000 in the bank, and owing a $30,000 debt to himself. That's a comparatively modest sum, though it far outweighed Monroe's $2,200. 

Monroe, who expected to face English in November, said her own campaign message would remain the same.

"I got into this race because I think our voters deserve a representative who is bringing their voice and values to Harrisburg," she said. "That hasn't changed."

The political landscape, however, will change.

Members of the Republican county committee who live within the district will gather to vote for a new nominee. A date for that gathering has not been set, said Republican Committee of Allegheny County chair D. Raja.

"I'm thinking there will be quite a few contenders," Raja said. 

Republicans said English's move came as a surprise to them. Raja, for one, said he received word on Tuesday morning and couldn't speak to the reasons for English's decision.

"They may be looking for a candidate more like [Congressman] Keith Rothfus or Shaffer," Monroe speculated. Both are well to the right of English. "I would look forward to that."

Either way, she said, "it's better to run for an open seat than against an incumbent." 

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.
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