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GOP's Hillman backs Democrat Wagner

A long-time Republican philanthropist is endorsing a Beechview Democrat's bid to win election to the state House.

Former GOP national committeewoman Elsie Hillman has sent letters to Republicans in the 22nd Legislative District urging them to write in Chelsa Wagner for the party nomination in Tuesday's primary.

Incumbent Michael Diven, R-Beechview, is running a write-in campaign for the GOP nomination. He was forced earlier this year to withdraw his name from the primary ballot because his nominating petition included the names of deceased voters.

A win by Wagner on the Republican and Democratic tickets would virtually guarantee her victory in November.

Hillman said her endorsement of Wagner is part of the "Run, Baby, Run" campaign, an effort to get more women elected to the state Legislature. Hillman also noted that there is no Republican candidate on the primary ballot.

"'Run, Baby, Run' is trying to get competent women elected to the Legislature," Hillman said Thursday. "(Wagner) is a young, spirited, very bright gal."

Wagner's decision to seek the 22nd District seat continues a political firefight that has raged between Wagner family allies and Diven. A Democrat turned Republican, Diven unsuccessfully sought the state Senate seat previously held by state Auditor General Jack Wagner, Chelsa's uncle. Her father is Pete Wagner, Democratic chairman of the city's 18th Ward.

Diven said he's being targeted because he's against abortion rights and opposed allowing the annual EMS tax to be increased beyond $52 to bail out the City of Pittsburgh.

"Obviously, Elsie Hillman can do and say whatever she likes," Diven, 36, said. "I am the Republican incumbent. It's a little shocking for her to take a public stand (against a Republican) as a Republican committeewoman."

Wagner said she has been running a door-to-door write-in campaign since April 17.

"I certainly don't hide the fact that I'm a Democrat," Wagner, 28, said.

She met Hillman during a seminar at Chatham College last year to encourage women to get involved in politics. Shortly after Wagner shared her plan to seek the GOP nomination as a write-in, Hillman offered to write the letter to Republicans endorsing Wagner.

"I was very honored for her to make the offer," Wagner said

The 22nd Legislative District includes the South Hills suburbs of Whitehall, Baldwin Township, Castle Shannon and the city neighborhoods of Brookline, Overbrook, Beechview and Mt. Washington and parts of Banksville, Esplen, Sheraden and Manchester.

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