Republican Reschenthaler cruises to state Senate win
Republicans won back a state Senate seat Tuesday as Guy Reschenthaler defeated Democrat Heather Arnet to represent a wide swath of Pittsburgh's affluent western and southern suburbs.
Reschenthaler will be sworn in soon after the results are certified and will serve one year in Harrisburg, the remainder of former Democratic Sen. Matt Smith's term.
“I'm humbled,” Reschenthaler said. “The voters understand that the issues that we face transcend party labels, and they understand that we need common sense to solve them.”
Reschenthaler won 54 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting in Allegheny County. Arnet had 46 percent of the vote.
The seat will be up for election again in 2016, when Republicans hope to build a 34-seat majority in the 50-seat Senate to make it easier to override vetoes by Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf. Republicans will hold a 31-19 edge in the Senate once Reschenthaler is sworn in, the largest majority in the Senate since 1954, according to the Pennsylvania Manual.
“He's a good guy. He's a good kid, from a great family, and I think he's going to do well,” said Joanne DiMattia, 66, of Jefferson Hills, a school nurse who taught Reschenthaler in elementary school. “I hope he doesn't disappoint me.”
Arnet, 41, of Mt. Lebanon stepped down as CEO of the Women and Girls Foundation to run. She did not return calls seeking comment.
Reschenthaler, 32, of Jefferson Hills resigned the district judge seat he won in 2013 to run. His campaign highlighted his military service as a naval prosecutor in Iraq and programs he ran as a district judge.
The seat became open in June when Smith resigned to head the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Smith defeated Republican D. Raja in 2012 to take the seat from GOP control. The 37th Senate District runs from Sewickley northwest of Pittsburgh south to Upper St. Clair and Peters in Washington County.
The abbreviated campaign — parties selected candidates this summer— quickly turned nasty. Attack ads dubbed Reschenthaler a “Tea Party extremist” and Arnet an “extreme liberal activist.”
Arnet's ads suggested Reschenthaler would cut entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security even though, as a state senator, he would have no authority over the federal programs. She said Reschenthaler's campaign was supported by Harrisburg insiders and billionaires responsible for high property taxes, underfunded schools and low wages.
Reschenthaler ads suggested Arnet was in favor of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's tax plan, including tax increases on child care, diapers, nursing homes and funeral services. She didn't fully endorse Wolf's plan during the campaign but accepted a $40,000 donation from Wolf's political committee, Rebuild Pa, and criticized Republican tax proposals.
Debbie Brown, 63, of Jefferson Hills tried to tune them out, she said. She voted for Reschenthaler after meeting with him and talking to him.
Gerald and Karen Skrainy, 65 and 64, both of South Park, said they worry Reschenthaler is a career politician because he resigned from one elected position to run for another. They voted for Arnet. “I felt that she was honest,” Karen Skrainy said.
Reschenthaler raised twice as much money as Arnet. The Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee donated $906,000 of the $1.1 million Reschenthaler raised as of Oct. 31. Arnet raised $541,681 as of Oct. 31 with $165,000 coming from the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or email@example.com.