‘Vulnerable’ Deluzio gets a new GOP challenger for reelection bid

State Rep. Rob Mercuri, R-Allegheny, joins the Republican primary for the 17th District

By: - August 16, 2023 5:18 pm

(Photo via Rob Mercuri campaign)

Republican state Rep. Rob Mercuri, of Allegheny County, has joined the race to challenge U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-17th District, for his seat in western Pennsylvania.

Mercuri, of Wexford, a suburb of Pittsburgh, is in his second term in the state House, where he has served as a member of the education, finance and government oversight committees. He joins Jim Nelson, a retired sheriff’s deputy and pastor, in the race for the Republican nomination to challenge Deluzio next year.

“I’m running to protect our communities, grow our economy, and fight for our future. As a veteran, I know that America is worth fighting for. As a father, I care deeply about our future. As a small business owner, I know that anything is possible here with hard work,” Mercuri said in a statement on his Facebook page. “I’m running for Congress to help restore the promise of prosperity to our region and to revive the American dream.”

Critical of his handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021, Mercuri said President Joe Biden’s leadership has weakened the country and “sown doubts with our allies.”

“As a West Point trained leader, I know that leadership is about who we are, and where we are going. It’s about taking care of people and making progress for our community. In Congress, I’ll be a representative that remembers this and leads us forward,” Mercuri said in a news release.

Deluzio spokesperson Zoe Bluffstone said Deluzio would remain focused on delivering results for his constituents.

“He will continue fighting to lower costs for working families, create good-paying union jobs, protect women’s reproductive rights, push back against massive corporations that have hurt folks in Western Pennsylvania, and pass legislation to keep our communities here safe,” Bluffstone said. “He looks forward to contrasting this record with whichever anti-abortion, corporate bootlicking extremist emerges from this ugly Republican primary.”

Deluzio defeated Republican Jeremy Shaffer in the 2022 race for the 17th District seat in one of the state’s more expensive races in the 2022 midterms and has been identified by his own party as one of several Democratic members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation vulnerable to  challenges. 

At ceremonial swearing-in, Pa. Rep. Deluzio says he’ll be ‘a fighter for western Pa.’

The freshman Congressman appears to have gotten off to a slow start with fundraising; according to financial disclosure records filed with the Federal Election Commission in July, Deluzio had about $368,000 cash on hand at the end of June.

The 17th District, which includes part of Allegheny County northwest of Pittsburgh and all of Beaver County, is a swing district where Republicans have a chance to pick up a seat in 2024. 

Mercuri, like Deluzio and Nelson, is a veteran. He served in the U.S. Army with two tours in Iraq and achieved the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. 

In addition to his education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Mercuri earned a master’s degree in Business Administration and worked for PNC Bank. He is now a small business owner. 

As a state lawmaker, Mercuri has introduced bills regarding education, finance, data privacy and artificial intelligence.

Deluzio is a U.S. Navy veteran and a lawyer. Before his election, Deluzio worked on election security at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security and for the Brennan Center for Justice.

He’s been a reliably progressive voice on issues including reproductive rights and labor, and sponsored legislation seeking to tighten safety standards after the Norfolk Southern derailment in Palestine, Ohio earlier this year. The 17th District is right over the border in Pennsylvania, and residents in Beaver County were affected by the aftermath of the crash. 

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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.