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An initiative to provide nonpartisan, independent elections journalism for southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania State House 72nd District: A guide to the 2022 general election and candidates

90.5 WESA

What’s at stake: Democratic incumbent state Rep. Frank Burns is seeking what would be his eighth term against Republican challenger Renae Billow. After state lawmakers redrew Pennsylvania’s legislative boundaries, Republicans went from 58% to 45% of registered voters (though Democrats still are fewer at 44%); however, analysts say the district still favors the GOP.

Frank Burns

Burns is a conservative Democrat, identifying as pro-police and an opponent of abortion rights. He captured the endorsement of the National Rifle Association over Republican challenger Billow, although Firearm Owners Against Crime-PA backs both candidates. Burns got his start in politics as an East Taylor Township supervisor — a brief stint, as he launched his statehouse campaign during his first year in the local office. Recently, his spin on plans for refugee resettlement in the district garnered criticism from the host organization for “manufacturing controversy that creates a perception that Cambria County is an unwelcoming and racist place."

Party: Democratic 
Experience: Pennsylvania House of Representatives – 72nd District (2009 – present)
East Taylor Township Supervisor (2008)
Education: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (B.A.)
Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Survey: League of Women Voters
Major endorsements: NRA; Democrats for Life America; Firearm Owners Against Crime
Total contributions (2021-2022): $101,998.65
Total expenditures (2021-2022): $42,700.24
Worth reading: "Incumbent Burns faces primary challenge in bid for eighth Pa. House term" (David Sutor, The Tribune-Democrat)

Renae Billow 

While this is her first run for office, Billow has traced her interest in politics back to her childhood, when she helped her grandfather — state Rep. Andrew Billow Jr., a Democrat — with his campaigns and visited him at the Capitol in Harrisburg. She says she opposes abortion rights, citing her Catholic faith, and would also prioritize gun rights if elected. Billow, a Trump supporter, also said she’d push for more law enforcement funding to address the crime and drug problems flagged as top concerns by voters.

Party: Republican 
Marketing specialist for seniors’ health care organization Community LIFE
Links: Website | Facebook
Survey: League of Women Voters
Major endorsements: Firearm Owners Against Crime
Total contributions (2021-2022): $4,839.60
Total expenditures (2021-2022): $3,091.98
Worth reading: “GOP's Billow unopposed for nomination in 72nd District” (Dave Sutor, The Tribune-Democrat)

Emily Previti is a podcast producer and data journalist for Kouvenda Media.