Bartolotta poised to upset Solobay in state Senate race; Stefano leads Kula |

Bartolotta poised to upset Solobay in state Senate race; Stefano leads Kula

Deberah Kula
Sen. Patrick Stefano
State Rep. Randy Vulakovich

A pair of newcomers led a Republican charge that appeared to capture a pair of Democratic Senate districts in Southwestern Pennsylvania, knocking off an incumbent and snagging the seat held by a retiring lawmaker.

First-time candidate Camera Bartolotta, owner of an oil-change business, led state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, 54 percent to 46 percent, with 74 percent of precincts reporting in the 46th District.

In the other race, Pat Stefano of Bullskin led Deberah Kula of North Union 55 percent to 45 percent, with 74 percent of the precincts reporting in the 32nd District. Sen. Richard A. Kasunic declined to seek a sixth term to represent the district, which includes Greene and Washington counties, and part of Beaver County.

“Everybody’s so frustrated and ready for change, and that’s what makes this race so exciting,” Stefano, 48, of Bullskin said.

Stefano, who runs his family’s printing business in Connellsville, cast himself as a Harrisburg outsider, promising to slash treasured perks for lawmakers, such as unvouchered per diem payments. Kula, 65, D-North Union, touted her experience as a House member since 2007.

Kasunic, 67, of Dunbar, announced his retirement in February, capping a 32-year career in Harrisburg that began in the House in 1982 and moved to the Senate in 1994. The announcement precipitated a fierce fight for the seat as the GOP tried to pick up a swing district and Democrats tried to keep their Senate minority from shrinking.

Bartolotta’s win ended Solobay’s Senate tenure after one term. Solobay, 58, had served in the state House, beginning in 1999. Bartolotta, 50, of Carroll attacked Solobay for collecting per diems without submitting proof of how he spent the money. She pledged to support changes to the system.

“That’s a slap in the face to taxpayers. If they actually have a legitimate expense, they can be reimbursed. But if it’s a slush fund that they can do with what they will? There’s people who can’t afford to feed their kids,” Bartolotta said.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, won 55,162 of the votes counted, in his unopposed bid to represent the 38th District, which had been held by retiring Sen. Jim Ferlo. Ferlo, D-Highland Park, decided to retire after the Legislative Reapportionment Committee redrew his district’s boundaries to include more Republicans.

The redrawn 38th District includes a portion of what was the 40th District Vulakovich had represented since 2012 after more than four years in the state House. The new 40th District covers most of Monroe and Northampton counties in eastern Pennsylvania.

Andrew Conte and Mike Wereschagin are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Conte can be reached at 412-320-7835 or [email protected]. Wereschagin can be reached at 412-320-7900 or [email protected].

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