One of the most competitive local races in Tuesday's primary is for state Senate in the 38th District, which includes North Hills suburbs, Allegheny River communities and some Pittsburgh East End neighborhoods.
Republican incumbent Randy Vulakovich, of Shaler, is facing a spirited challenge from Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, also a Republican.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic primary, government consultant Stephanie Walsh of Highland Park is squaring off against Lindsey Williams of West View. Williams serves as communications and political director for the Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers' union.
This is the first time Vulakovich, 67, has faced a primary opponent since running for the state House in 2006. A former police officer, he served in the House until winning a special election for the state Senate in 2012.
Shaffer, who co-founded a bridge inspection and maintenance company, has faulted Vulakovich for supporting a landmark transportation bill in 2013. The bill raised the state gas tax and other fees.
“I think people can see it first-hand when they go to the gas pump and they can see we have the highest gasoline tax in the country,” said the 41-year-old Shaffer.
Vulakovich countered that the bill provided desperately needed transportation funding. Cities and rural areas alike depend on mass transit, he said, before adding, "Our roads and bridges need to be fixed – our infrastructure is crumbling."
For Democrat Walsh, 48, fiscal responsibility is a top priority.
“Every year we see the legislature grapple with a quote-unquote ‘budget crisis’ of their own making,” she said.
As a former budget analyst for the Colorado legislature, Walsh said she would bring valuable experience to the annual budgeting process.
Williams, 34, highlighted her track record of standing up for workers’ rights. In fact, she was fired from her first job out of law school for trying to form a union.
“Knowing what that is intellectually and knowing what that feels like I think have made me a much better advocate,” Williams said.
Williams has been endorsed by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and area unions.