Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Anthony DeLuca, a fixture of Allegheny County politics, dies at 85

PA House of Representatives
DeLuca, seen here speaking on the state House floor, served Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs in Pennsylvania's House for nearly four decades and was the House's longest-serving active member.

Anthony DeLuca, who served Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs in Pennsylvania's House for nearly four decades and was the House's longest-serving active member, has died from lymphoma. He was 85.

DeLuca, who long served as the Democratic chair of the House Insurance Committee, was hailed by colleagues for being a consumer advocate on insurance issues, an ardent supporter of labor unions, and a strong voice on mental-health issues.

"His passion was to serve as a patient advocate with insurance companies, to ensure medical professional accountability, and to guarantee patient safety in all areas of medicine including pharmacies," said House Democrats in a Monday-morning statement announcing his deathover the weekend.

WESA Inbox Edition Newsletter

Stay on top of election news from WESA's political reporters — delivered fresh to your inbox every weekday morning.

"I will remember him as a friend, a kind soul, a big joyful personality, and a wearer of incredibly memorable suits," tweeted Pittsburgh House member Dan Frankel.

"He was always thinking about what is best for the working men and women in his beloved Penn Hills," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Republicans too expressed condolences over DeLuca's passing. "Rep. DeLuca was not just our longest serving current member, but one of the most revered and respected by his colleagues and all Pennsylvanians," said House Speaker Bryan Cutler.

DeLuca's death comes just a month before he would have been up for re-election to serve yet another term in the 32nd district — which was redrawn as part of a redistricting process to include Oakmont at the cost of some communities on the opposite bank of the Allegheny River.

DeLuca had battled lymphoma twice before, but, while there had been rumors that he might retire instead of running again, he told WESA in January he was looking forward to the campaign.

The new district lines, he said, presented "an opportunity for me to get out there and work, like I have been working over the years. Even though I'm a Democrat, when I get elected, I drop the label. I work for all the people. I think that's what we need in public service.

"Hopefully I'll be out there selling myself to the people, telling them what I've done and what I intend to do." 

DeLuca noted that he had sponsored more legislation than anyone else in the House: He has over 80 bills to his name in the current legislative session, covering topics that range from a measure to require additional financial disclosure from political candidates to a bill that ensured potentially harmful "reverse mortgages" be printed in a font size large enough for seniors to read. His last bill, introduced in May, was a measure to ban the use of cell phones in school due to their tendency to distract students and the potential for "a toxic impact on the mental health of young people."

DeLuca himself has been a presence in Allegheny County politics for decades -- particularly in Penn Hills, where he lived for almost his entire adult life. Queonia Livingston, who has been running against DeLuca as a Green Party candidate for the 32nd District seat, says she recalled speaking to him for a high-school paper she wrote about government.

"My great-grandmother had the biggest crush on him," she said.

DeLuca was part of a generation of western Pennsylvania Democrats who were strong supporters of working people and unions but tended to skew to the right on social issues. He was endorsed by those opposed to abortion rights, for example, and drew Livingston's challenge in part because of his support for a measure to limit bail funds that help the accused out of jail as they await trial. But Livingston said that while "we can criticize people in politics for what they could have done differently, I hope he lived to his fullest potential."

Ballots for the Nov. 8 election have already been mailed out to voters, and so it is too late to remove DeLuca's name from the race. If he were to garner more votes than Livingston, a special election to replace him would be called.

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.