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Candidates sweat it out across region

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 11:35 p.m.

Bob Regola was hoping it would be his night.

The Republican Hempfield Township supervisor stood in the crowded banquet room at Giannilli's II on Route 30 Tuesday, surrounded by red-shirted supporters, as he took and held a more than 3,000-vote lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Allen Kukovich, of Manor, in the hotly contested race for the 39th Senate District.

Periodically, fellow Supervisor Doug Weimer, a Democrat, announced updated returns in favor of Regola, a Democrat-turned-Republican, who hoped to pull off a major political upset over Kukovich, a longtime member of the House and Senate.

"This room is still full of excitement," Regola told supporters. "We're still up. I hope it continues that way. I can't wait to be your next senator and represent this area."

At Greensburg Hose Co. No. 2, supporters of incumbent Democratic state Rep. Tom Tangretti stood before a tally board charting returns precinct by precinct. Tangretti walked through the crowd thanking people for their support.

Tangretti was forced to mount an aggressive campaign after P. Scott Conner announced he would challenge Tangretti, with state GOP support. But the money and organizational effort that Tangretti expected from Conner didn't seem to be as substantial as he thought.

"The threat of hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Harrisburg didn't materialize, at least as far as I saw," Tangretti said.

He said two House colleagues, Tom Scrimenti, of Erie, and Tom Tigue, of Hughestown, faced a last-minute onslaught of TV ads in their re-election races as the GOP began running ads on network affiliates instead of cable television.

"Up until last week, we were under the assumption we faced another week of TV ads. We had to run full steam as if we were going to have those kinds of dollars against us," Tangretti said.

An hour before the polls closed, Sandy Tangretti and volunteers continued to work the phones at her husband's Maple Avenue campaign headquarters in an effort to turn out more voters.

A few blocks away, Conner was at the Baggy Knee restaurant surrounded by his children, mother, in-laws and friends waiting for the election results.

In 2002, Conner decided not to seek re-election for a second term as Westmoreland County commissioner and began planning his campaign to challenge Tangretti with the help of the state GOP organization.

"Tom Tangretti is truly a nice man," Conner said. "After years in office, he hasn't done anything. This race mainly was about issues, not yelling at each other.

"It's been a great time, a great year. I got to meet a lot of people knocking on doors and going to events."

Despite the heavy turnout in Tuesday's election, not everybody got a chance to vote.

One woman arrived at the First Christian Church on Route 66 in Hempfield Township but her way was blocked by an election worker who started to lock the door.

"It's 8:03 p.m. The door must be locked," the poll worker said.

The woman, who wouldn't give her name, said that was her third attempt to vote. The first two times, she waited for a long while, but had to leave to return to work.

"I kept leaving work but I had to go back," she said. "I couldn't get in."

Richard and Roz Douds, of Hempfield Township, were luckier. They were able to get inside the church before the polls closed so they were allowed to vote.

They finally cast their ballots at about 10:30 p.m.

"It's amazing," said Roz Douds.

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