Democrat Pam Iovino wins special election to represent Pittsburgh suburbs in Pa. Senate

By: - April 2, 2019 9:41 pm

State Senate candidates Pam Iovino and D. Raja. (Photos via campaign websites)

Democrat Pam Iovino won a highly contested race to represent the 37th Senate District in the Pittsburgh suburbs Tuesday, flipping a Republican-held seat and moving her party closer to control of the chamber.

Iovino, a Navy veteran and former Veterans Affairs aide to President George W. Bush, defeated businessman D. Raja, a Republican who was making his second run at the seat.

With 198 out of 226 precincts reporting, Iovino had 54 percent of the vote as of 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, according to unofficial results. Raja conceded around that time, according to local reporters. 

Iovino will succeed Republican former Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, who resigned the seat in January to serve in Congress.

The closely watched race in Pittsburgh’s South Hills suburbs was marked by highly charged campaign ads, including one that targeted Iovino for her support of abortion rights. The Democrat ran with strong union support and the backing of Gov. Tom Wolf. 

Iovino and her supporters campaigned partly on the fact that her victory would put Democrats within three seats of turning the state Senate blue in 2020. Republicans lost five seats in that chamber in the November 2018 midterm elections, the worst showing for any party in Pennsylvania’s Senate since 1950.

In his second attempt for the seat, Raja touted his success as a business owner and community leader. He also tried to appeal to working-class voters and immigrants by highlighting his own story. In a campaign ad, his wife said Raja came to America “the right way” by enrolling in college and starting a business.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.