The Lead

The fight in a western Pa. special election heats up: Democrat Iovino, Republican Raja trade barbs in new ads

By: - March 5, 2019 12:41 pm

Pam Iovino, top, and D. Raja, below (Capital-Star photo).

Things are getting nasty in the special election battle between Democrat Pam Iovino and Republican D.Raja in the special election fight for western Pennsylvania’s open 37th Senate District seat.

In an ad launched last week, Raja, businessman and chairman of the Allegheny County Republicans, derides Iovino as a “liberal extremist.” It also touts the 500 American jobs that Raja says he’s created as the head of Computer Enterprises, Inc., his Pittsburgh-based IT service management company.

It comes in response to a recent attack ad by Iovino’s campaign (link here) that echoed criticisms leveled against Raja in his previous unsuccessful bids for public office, including Allegheny Country Executive in 2011 and the same Senate seat in 2012.

The Iovino ad references lawsuits against former employees, outsourcing and a federal Department of Labor $133,000 fine levied Raja’s company for failure to pay minimum wage and overtime, Pittsburgh City Paper reported.

“This new ad sets the record straight on Raja’s remarkable career as a businessman, job creator, community leader and philanthropist,” Raja campaign spokesperson Adam Breneman said. “This week, Pam Iovino launched a false, personal and, quite frankly, dirty attack on a proven job creator, while Iovino has never created a job in her entire life.”

READ MORE: More campaign ads from Iovino and Raja

Abigail Gardner, Iovino campaign spokesperson, retorted that “we understand [Raja] wants to change the narrative of the campaign away from lawsuits against employees, labor violations, and outsourcing jobs, but that is the track record.”

READ MORE: A rundown of special elections, including the 37th, in Pennsylvania this spring.

The historically Republican district is a top target for Democrats as they look to expand their ranks in the majority-Republican Senate. Former GOP Congressman Tim Murphy represented the seat at one point. Voters have only elected one Democrat since 1980.

It is open with the resignation of now-U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler earlier this year. The special election is April 2.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.