The most talked about State Legislative race this Spring in Allegheny County is the two incumbent showdown of Rep. Erin Molchany vs. Rep. Harry Readshaw. As someone that usually likes incumbent Democrats that are generally doing a good job, no one wins when two incumbents face each other. Actually the Republicans win in this case.
Why the Republicans win:
Lots of politicians have lined up behind Rep. Erin Molchany and are spending their money on this race. Lots of Democratic fundraisers are putting their money into both sides. I have heard estimates that this race will end up costing each side around $200,000 to win the Primary. This is how the Republicans win. They force Democrats to fight each other in Primaries. So instead of finding good Democrats to run against Rep. Hal English and Senator Vulakovich (who are both running for their first full term), elected officials like County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and State Senator Wayne Fontana (I'm giving politicans that just serve the City of Pittsburgh a pass since this is a city vs city race.) are getting too involved with a race that puts an old friend vs. a new friend. Take the high road, and find a way to make sure we keep the Republicans in our county on their toes so they have less money for the Governor's race and the 2015 County Executive race.
How this happened:
This is a two fold answer:
1. The redistricting process. Allegheny County was due to lose a seat. When Rep. Chelsa Wagner ran for County Controller, the redistricting committee decided get rid of her seat (22nd District). The Republican drawn maps moved the 22nd District to the other side of the state, thus forcing a Dem vs. Dem showdown after a Special Election was held in 2012 to replace Rep. Wagner.
2. The Transportation Bill. I'm mentioned on Twitter and Facebook that this was a bad vote for Democrats. I'm not saying it isn't the right thing to do on the surface. As the minority party, the Democrats never should have given the Republicans any votes for the bill. The Democrats should have forced the Republicans to make the tax increase vote and tried to used it against Republicans who voted for the tax increase. Secondly, they Republicans knew they had the Democrats by their throats because so many of them had publicly said they will vote for transportation funding. So Mike Turzai did what he does best and politicized the hell out of the bill. He added an increase in the prevailing wage limit on public projects. This has forced labor to fight with each other and caused a lot of in-fighting with the Democrats in the legislature. This is what Rep. Turzai wants. The more the Democrats and labor fight with each other, the better chance he has to make sure there is a Republican majority in the legislature.
Why Erin Molchany could lose (even if I am more in line with her issues - Sorry!):
The district is overwhelmingly Rep. Readshaw's old district.
The district isn't as Pro-Choice as you would expect. One political consultant told me that the 19th ward can be racist, pro-life, and pro-gun even if they often vote for Democrats.
As much as I would defend a reasonable gas tax as public policy any day, it is a hard sell to your average voter.
In the end, the Democrats end up in a bad situation. Everyone would have been better off if the power brokers in the Democratic Party could have worked out a deal that both sides could have agreed too, or at least pledged to stay out of it.