Democrat wins special election for state House seat

Written by The Associated Press | Jan 24, 2018 2:29 AM
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Photo by David Wilson/ via Flickr Creative Commons

(Pittsburgh) -- A Democrat won a special election Tuesday to fill the unexpired term of a state House member who stepped down after pleading guilty to charges related to an illegal gambling machine operation.

Austin Davis defeated Republican Fawn Walker-Montgomery in the race to represent a district in the Monongahela Valley, south of Pittsburgh.

The seat became vacant in November, after eight-term Democratic Rep. Marc Gergely stepped down as he was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest for misdemeanor conspiracy and campaign violation counts. Felony charges were withdrawn.

Davis is a native of McKeesport who has served as executive assistant to Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat who is the Allegheny County executive. Davis also has served as vice chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. He has a political science degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Walker-Montgomery lost a race against Gergely in November 2016, 62 percent to 37 percent, even though Gergely already had been charged in the case.

Walker-Montgomery also is a McKeesport native and has a bachelor's degree in political science from Johnson C. Smith University.

Going into Tuesday's special election, there were 120 Republicans in the state House, 80 Democrats and three vacancies.

Gergely and a lawyer were accused of aiding a video gambling operation that had about 335 machines in restaurants, bars and other facilities.

A prosecutor in the case said Gergely and the lawyer gave the appearance that the man who ran the gambling operation had "friends in high places."

Gergely had been the ranking Democrat on the state House Labor and Industry Committee.

His last vote in the House was a "yes" that helped approve a massive gambling expansion bill, 109-72.

Special elections for the other two vacancies in the state House, for districts in Washington and Bucks counties, have been scheduled for the May 15 spring primary.

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