Ortitay leads White in bid for state House seat
Political newcomer Jason Ortitay appeared to win in an upset Tuesday by defeating an often-controversial incumbent for the 46th Legislative District seat in Allegheny and Washington counties.
Ortitay, 30, a Republican small-business owner from South Fayette, led Democratic state Rep. Jesse White, by 56 percent to 44 percent, with 75 percent of the districts reporting.
“I’m really excited to be working for the people of the 46th District to make this a better place to live,” Ortitay told the Tribune-Review. “I want to help small businesses to grow and help small businesses to start — to help the economic landscape here.”
Ortitay, who worked for PNC Bank until founding Jason’s Cheesecake Company in 2012, said he wants to focus on education and the economy. He plans to keep his company going and said he would be back to baking by Wednesday morning.
White, 35, a four-term incumbent from Cecil, generated publicity with his outspoken — and often eccentric — opposition to natural gas drilling. He admitted last year that he had developed aliases online to criticize political opponents.
Statewide, Republican wins appeared to position Rep. Mike Turzai, 55, of Marshall to become speaker of the House next year when members choose their leadership.
The GOP went into the election holding 111 of the body’s 203 seats. Turzai is House Majority Leader and Speaker Sam Smith, who announced his retirement in February, did not run for re-election.
Republicans will nominate a candidate for speaker on Nov. 12 ,and the entire House chamber will vote on a speaker Jan. 6.
“There’s a lot of work to do … should I be blessed to be speaker,” Turzai said. “In any position of leadership, we have to focus on being fiscally responsible. We have to be stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, work to improve the business climate of the state so we have family-sustaining jobs and a robust economy, and continue to bring integrity back to Harrisburg.”
Locally, Democrats failed in an attempt to oust Republican Rep. Rick Saccone, 56, of Elizabeth in the 39th District. He appeared to retain the seat by leading challenger Lisa Stout-Bashioum, 60 percent to 40 percent, with 70 percent of the votes counted.
Saccone defeated former Rep. David Levdansky — a Democrat from Forward who served the 39th for a quarter-century — in 2010 and held off Levdansky’s comeback attempt in 2012.
In the open race for the 52nd District, Republican Ryan Warner, 31, of Perryopolis appeared to defeat Democrat A.J. Boni, 54 percent to 46 percent, with 70 percent of the votes counted.
Warner, a graduate of Frazier High School and Penn State University, said he managed a $200 million budget in the job he held before getting laid off in 2012. He said he is most concerned about the state’s economy and lack of good-paying jobs.
“One day I found out that I had lost my job just like so many other people in Pennsylvania,” Warner said during the campaign. “I want to work in state government to make sure that we get that situation turned around so other families don’t have to face the economic hardship that my family had to face.”
In other notable races, Democratic Rep. Frank Dermody, 63, of Oakmont held his seat against Republican challenger Sean Watson, 53 percent to 47 percent, with 70 percent of the votes counted. Dermody, the highest-ranking Democrat in the House, has won the seat 13 times over the past quarter-century.
Incumbent winners appeared to include: Reps. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry; Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District; Adam Ravenstahl, D-North Side; Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville; and Tim Krieger, R-Delmont.
More than half of the House races were drama-free: 105 candidates ran unopposed — a 10-year high.
House members serve two-year terms and receive an annual salary of $84,012. The speaker receives $131,149 a year and the minority leader, $121,723.
Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or [email protected].