Bridgeville businessman and veteran Devlin Robinson hopes to challenge state Senator Pam Iovino in the 37th state Senate District next year, a match-up that would represent a kind of alternate-universe version of the election fight many Republicans hoped to have this past spring.
“From the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, to the arena of politics, I understand that not only do you have to fight, you have to understand what it is you’re fighting for," Robinson said in a statement announcing his bid. "That is why I am running to represent the people of the 37th District—to serve, and to fight for their values.”
The district sprawls across South Hills communities and airport-area suburbs. It is seen as a crucial battleground, one that might well determine control of the state Senate in 2021. Iovino won it in an April special election, to fill in after the previous incumbent, Republican Guy Reschenthaler, won a seat in Congress last year.
Republicans currently hold a 28-to-22 edge in the legislature’s upper chamber. Democrats must hold onto this seat and flip three others to gain control of the chamber (with help from tie-breaking votes cast by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.)
Robinson alluded to those stakes in the press statement announcing his candidacy.
“Regaining Republican control in the 37th District next year is essential to protecting values that are critically important to western Pennsylvanians,” it said.
The announcement was light on policy details, though Robinson said he would fight tax hikes and back his “lifelong conservative values.”
Today’s announcement has long been anticipated. Robinson was among those who sought to challenge Iovino when she won a special election this past spring. But the party’s nominee was selected by party insiders, who picked one of their own: Republican Committee of Allegheny County Chair D. Raja. That choice bitterly disappointed some activists, who had backed Robinson, in part because Raja had lost the same seat to Democrat Matt Smith in 2012.
Raja lost again this spring, and the outcome helped lead to his ouster from party leadership. Robinson, meanwhile, made no secret of his interest in running again.
He’ll do so as a businessman – he owns a medical-supply company – and a Marine Corps veteran with combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iovino is a Navy veteran, which arguably gave her an advantage over Raja. In recent years, Democrats have been able to parlay a military background into electoral success. In a Congressional race that overlays the 37th District last year, Conor Lamb defeated Keith Rothfus, who has not served in the military. Lamb now faces two fellow veterans: Sean Parnell and Scott Timko.
Both Parnell and Robinson can boast combat experience that their Democratic rivals lack. And both have been active as volunteers for veterans causes.
“The military taught me resolve — the kind of resolve it takes to win on the field of battle,” Robinson said in his statement. “I learned that these skills transfer: making a plan, executing it, and constantly adapting to changes on the ground.”
Another candidate who sought to be the Republican nominee last spring, Sewickley Borough Council President Jeff Neff, quietly announced his own bid for the seat earlier this fall.