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Smith gets message out to win state Senate seat

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
Mike Smith, at a town hall meeting in Green Tree in 2008, has been a state legislator since 2006 and last week won the District 37 state senatorial race despite jumping late into the fray against D. Raja. File photo

He had less than four months to spread his message and was outspent by far — neither indicators for a successful campaign.

But as state Rep. Matt Smith took the microphone late on election night last week — surrounded by family and a thick crowd of supporters at Walnut Grill in Mt. Lebanon — it was the vindication of a lean-yet-efficient campaign that lifted the Democrat to the state Senate.

“It was our day-to-day effort, our door-knocking and doing the things we needed to do to get our message out,” said Smith, moments after defeating Republican challenger D. Raja in a close race in the 37th District.

Smith's victory came despite entering the race short notice on July 18, after his party's previous nominee dropped from the ballot.

At the same time, he had to gird himself for a tight campaign — one in which Smith had to explain to his young children that not every one of the TV ads featuring his face were positives one.

“We were able to break through a lot of the clutter, negative ads and negative mail – things that were not really resonating with people,” he said. “The message we had really resonated — investing in education, infrastructure, making sure we're creating high-quality jobs in Western Pennsylvania.”

With his four-year Senate term beginning next month, Smith will leave vacant the 42nd state House seat. The speaker of the house will decide whether that seat is filled via a special election or on the day of the 2013 primary, Smith said.

“I loved representing every inch of the district,” he added. “It prepares you to take on a great role, greater responsibility.”

The 37th District overlaps with many of the communities he represented in the House, but it includes a larger share of Pittsburgh's southern suburbs, as well as areas to the north and west.

“The Senate will give me a greater platform to effectuate change,” Smith said. “The district is a great district. It has the airport, the airport corridor. It has significant economic development going on.”

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dstefano@tribweb.com or 412-388-5816.

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