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Allegheny County Democrats make primary picks

| Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, 10:48 p.m.

Several incumbents seeking to retain their seats in the U.S. and state House won the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

Committee members cast votes Sunday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers building in the South Side to select which candidates the party should endorse in the April primary.

“Most of our energy this year has been devoted to not have Democrats vote against each other but instead concentrate on defeating Republicans,” said DJ Ryan, the committee's executive director.

The committee made endorsements in 30 races, only four of which were contested.

In the closest race of the meeting, committee members voted 102-92 to endorse Steve Larchuk, a Franklin Park attorney and businessman, over Erin McClelland, a Natrona Heights health care professional and businesswoman, for the U.S. House seat in the multi-county 12th Congressional District.

“They were both very popular,” committee chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said. “They both did what they were supposed to do. We expected it to be very close, and it was close.”

Larchuk won over the committee by running a grassroots campaign, his spokesman, Marty Marks, said.

“He did it without the endorsement of any elected official or labor union,” Marks said.

McClelland's spokeswoman could not be reached to discuss the vote.

The winner of that primary race will challenge Republican incumbent Keith Rothfus in November's general election.

In the other U.S. House race, committee members voted 772-57 to endorse incumbent Mike Doyle of Forest Hills over Janis Brooks, a North Versailles pastor and community activist, in the 14th District.

Patton Mills said Doyle's experience and strong relationship with committee members helped him win the endorsement by such a considerable margin.

“He's just very popular,” she said. “Everyone in Allegheny County supports him.”

Other endorsements included state Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District in the 19th District, and state Rep. Ed Gainey of Lincoln-Leminton in the 24th District.

The committee votes to endorse candidates running for seats in the state House and Senate, and U.S. Representative. The state committee votes to endorse for state races like attorney general, treasurer, auditor general and U.S. Senate, Ryan said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Behrman contributed. Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7827 or

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