Democrat Lindsey Williams scored a narrow victory Tuesday over Republican Jeremy Shaffer in a race to represent much of northern Allegheny County in Pennsylvania’s State Senate.
Williams collected 50.1 percent of the votes cast compared with Shaffer’s 49.7 percent with all of the district’s precincts reporting unofficial results, according to the Allegheny County Elections Division. The district includes a large portion of the Alle-Kiski Valley, a small section of Pittsburgh and suburban communities in Allegheny County’s North Hills.
Williams and Shaffer were separated by just 549 votes, the unofficial tallies showed. There were 294 write-ins.
Williams said the victory was overwhelming. She gave her victory speech shortly before 11:50 p.m.
“I’m proud of the campaign I’ve run and the volunteers that have worked so hard to knock on doors and make phone calls and talk to as many voters as possible,” said Williams, 35, of West View.
She said she will fight for working families, increase investment in public schools, establish good jobs that provide livable wages for families and make sure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.
Shaffer conceded to Williams early Wednesday.
Williams serves as communications and political director for the 3,000-member Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. She had never previously run for public office. Shaffer, 41, is a Ross commissioner who works as an executive with the software development company Bentley Systems.
Their race was one of only four across Pennsylvania where an incumbent state senator wasn’t on the November ballot. Shaffer defeated incumbent state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, in the May primary.
A lot of money was poured into the race.
Shaffer’s campaign raised just more than $1 million and spent $884,442 through Oct. 22, and it had nearly $150,000 in the bank, according to state campaign finance records posted online. Williams’ campaign raised $770,163, and spent $410,859 through Oct. 22. Close to $360,000 remained in the bank as of Oct. 22.
In the days leading up to the election, Shaffer’s campaign raised roughly $262,000, of which the Republican candidate contributed more than $100,000 of his own money. Williams’ campaign raised roughly $120,000.
The campaign was marked by attack ads and mailings.
Republicans branded Williams as a radical socialist who wants to raise taxes. Two district residents even tried to have her removed from the ballot, claiming she hadn’t lived in the district for the constitutionally required four years. The lawsuit was thrown out last month.
Williams said she joined the Democratic Socialists of America as she sought their local chapter’s endorsement in the Democratic primary. She didn’t receive it.
Democrats accused Shaffer of breaking campaign finance rules, and one attack mailing claiming Shaffer wants to cut public school funding included a Photoshopped image of him holding a chainsaw.
Shaffer said during the campaign that the Legislature needs to be downsized, he would not accept perks such as a free state car, and he supports term limits for state lawmakers. He also said claims that he would cut education funding are lies and he supports maintaining funding for public education.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected], or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.