In a three-way contest this weekend, Lori Mizgorski narrowly won the Republican nomination to replace Hal English, for whom she has served as chief of staff, in state House District 30.
She will face Democrat Betsy Monroe Nov. 6 in the district, which includes North Hills suburbs like Shaler, Richland, O'Hara and Hampton.
The Republican Committee of Allegheny County announced the result in a Sunday statement that quoted county party chair D. Raja calling Mizgorski "a superbly qualified candidate who will do an incredible job."
In a follow-up statement, English hailed her selection, which was made by Republican committee people gathered in Harmarville over this weekend.
"I hired Lori Mizgorski as my Chief of Staff 5 years ago because I saw she had a passion for our community and a desire to serve it," the statement read. "Not only is Lori my Chief of Staff, she is a hard-working mother of three who has served as a Shaler Commissioner for the past 9 years, and a volunteer for the Shaler Library board. I have full confidence in Lori Mizgorski and that she will be an outstanding choice for all voters on November 6th for State Representative."
English surprised politicos in both parties by announcing his plans to retire at the end of this session, after running for re-election in the May primary. He did not respond to calls from 90.5 WESA for comment at the time, and has not publicly given a reason for the decision. Some Republicans
Mizgorski did not return calls for comment Monday. She is on unpaid leave from English's office, and there was no answer at her home phone. But Monroe, decried the GOP's selection process as opaque with a statement over the weekend.
“I think it’s telling that it’s been a dozen years, including two cycles with incumbents not seeking reelection, since voters have had the chance to choose their Republican nominee for PA House District 30," the statement said. "Every cycle the nomination goes either to the incumbent or someone handpicked by party leaders behind closed doors. Why doesn’t the Republican Committee appreciate competition and trust the democratic process?”
Per party bylaws, Mizgorski was chosen by elected members of the party's county committee who represent voters within the district. But the Republican Committee of Allegheny County did not release the names of potential contenders after a media request last week. Nor were they identified in the RCAC's weekend statement announcing Mizgorski's nomination.
But forty-nine of those committee members gathered in Harmarville on Saturday to make the selection, and those who attended say Mizgorski earned 25 votes, with Denis Meinert, a businessman and former O'Hara Township official, garnering 21 and Richland Township supervisor John Marshall with 3 votes. Two other candidates withdrew prior to Saturday.
Observers said a key factor in that outcome was geography: Mizgorski's homebase of Shaler is the largest community in the district. That, combined with her background working in English's office, gave her an edge going in.
Still, the margin was fairly narrow, and some Republicans said they were anxious to hear more from Mizgorski, who appears to be less well known outside of Shaler.
"This all took everybody by surprise," said Doug Austin, who chairs the Republican committee in Richland Township, of the events following English's retirement.
That's just one sense in which the North Hills are in a state of ferment: Incumbent state Senator Randy Vulakovich lost to primary challenge Jeremy Shaffer, and Congressman Keith Rothfus is facing off against fellow incumbent Conor Lamb.
Austin said he had yet to meet Mizgorski, but said that across the North Hills, Republicans "are excited because we're seeing a turn around the corner" to a new group of leaders.