Updated, 11/7/18 9:00 a.m. with latest vote totals
In a very tight race for the 38th state Senate district, Democrat Lindsey Williams declared victory, as her Republican opponent Jeremy Shaffer conceded on social media.
The district includes the Pittsburgh neighborhoods in the East End, and parts of Allegheny County north of the city including Etna, Fox Chapel and O’Hara Township.
While Williams gave a victory speech and thanked labor groups for supporting her last night, Shaffer's campaign initially said they were waiting for absentee and provisional ballots. That changed when Shaffer's campaign posted a message on Facebook around 2 a.m., noting, "This was a very spirited campaign and I wanted to congratulate Lindsey Williams on her victory. I wish her the best in her service to Pennsylvania."
Unofficial results from Allegheny County elections showed Williams with a 549-vote lead over Shaffer as of Wednesday morning.
Williams, of West View, is a staffer for Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers’ unions. She billed herself as a workers' rights advocate, and she wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She also supports single payer health care, and says she thinks the state should boost education funding with a tax on shale drilling
A software executive, father of five and Ross Township commissioner, Shaffer wants to lower the state’s corporate tax rate, invest in infrastructure and rein in spending. He called for Pennsylvania to adopt zero-based budgeting.
Shaffer’s and Williams’ contest for the 38th District state senate seat had it all: clashes over education funding, healthcare costs, a hike to the minimum wage, government spending, abortion rights, and, most recently, campaign finance concerns and allegations of “dark money.”
Last week, 90.5 WESA reported that a super PAC called the Pennsylvania Fund For Change has invested more than $1.4 million statewide, including in the 38th District, which covers some neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s east end and the North Hills suburbs.
The fund sent mailers to homes in the district that painted Shaffer as an opponent to education funding.
Throughout the campaign, Williams was painted as a socialist by Shaffer. Williams sought the endorsement of Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, though she did not get it.
In October, a group called the North Hills Republican Club paid for lawn signs that branded Williams as a socialist, with a design that looked much like her official campaign signs. State registration documents for the club list Shaffer’s campaign manager, Carlton Fogliani, as treasurer. The group also apparently paid for phone calls meant to reduce support for Williams, again calling her a socialist.
Williams called the signs a ploy for Shaffer to distract voters during the heated race.