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Pallone upset by newcomer Evankovich

In a stunning upset, Republican challenger Eli Evankovich ousted Democratic state Rep. John Pallone, a five-term incumbent.

Evankovich, 27, becomes the first Republican to hold the seat in decades.

With 100 percent of votes counted in unofficial results, Evankovich won with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

“This was an indictment of the system,” Evankovich said. “Not of the person, but of the system.”

Evankovich won in Upper Burrell and Allegheny Township and won narrowly in Lower Burrell. Pallone won home bases of Arnold and New Kensington, although he lost in New Kensington’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, 411 to 300.

Evankovich won his hometown of Murrysville, 4,049 to 1,331.

Pallone, 50, conceded the race at 9:15 p.m. in front of about 75 supporters at the Sons of Italy club in New Kensington, calling it the shortest speech he’s ever given.

Throughout the campaign, Evankovich painted himself as a government outsider who says representatives need to be held accountable. Pallone touted legislation he’s been a part of and his legislative track record.

“Tomorrow starts a new era,” said Evankovich, a financial analyst for U.S. Steel. “We can no longer allow the excuses of our past to affect our future.”

Evankovich said his top priorities haven’t changed from his time campaigning:

• Spark economic growth and new job creation in the Alle-Kiski Valley and region.

• Support New Kensington and Arnold to prime the area for economic growth and convince people the area is worth investment — including efforts to deal with crime.

• Pick up where Pallone left off with transportation projects, including the proposed Alle-Kiski Connector bridge and proposed commuter rail from Arnold to Pittsburgh.

• Learn the budget in Harrisburg and figure out how to run the state better.

• Make conditions favorable for businesses.

Evankovich was humble in accepting the seat, saying that Pallone has set the bar very high for constituent services.

“It’s not easy to take over for Bear Bryant,” Evankovich said, alluding to the prominent college football coach. “And right now, I’m being asked to take over for Bear Bryant.”

The loss was a surprise for Pallone who has either run unopposed or easily defeated competitors in past elections.

After the speech, some audience members yelled, “You’re still the man, John” while others pulled him in for hugs.

Pallone said Evankovich’s outside money and negative campaigning helped earn him a win.

“So much outside money,” he said, “this is what you get.”

In response, Evankovich said every shred of campaign finances is open, public information, and he encourages people to look at his contributions.

“For him to say that my campaign was funded by special interests was disingenuous and hypocritical,” Evankovich said.

In the big picture, Evankovich said, accepting political contributions will not change him or the way he acts.

Evankovich calls mailers he sent informative, not negative, adding that they cited specific votes or records.

Pallone said he’ll likely go back to practicing law full time.

The 54th District includes Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, Upper Burrell, part of Allegheny Township, part of Murrysville in Westmoreland and Bethel, Cadogan, Gilpin and Parks in Armstrong.

Photo Galleries

Election Day 2010

Election Day 2010

Election day scenes from polling places around the Pittsburgh area, Tuesday, November 2, 2010.


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