Orie Resignation Leads to Special Election

May 21, 2012

The criminal conviction and resignation of Republican state Senator Jane Orie leave a political void in the North Hills, with the GOP and Democrats both rushing to fill it.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of State, a special election must be held by mid-August for the 40th Senate District.

Republican Committee of Allegheny County Chairman Jim Roddey said he's confident about his party's chances this summer.

"I think the Republicans have to be favored, because it's a strong Republican district," said Roddey. "We've had Republicans there for a very long time — Melissa Hart, before Jane Orie. So, we've held that seat for a long time. I see no reason why that will change."

He said there are about a dozen Republicans now considering a bid for the Senate seat. Roddey said he expects the field to narrow before GOP committee members from Allegheny and Butler Counties meet to choose a candidate "within the next ten days or two weeks."

Roddey said the Republican Committees have been preparing for the start of the special election process since Orie's conviction on corruption charges earlier this year, and he expects the Allegheny County Democratic Committee has done the same. The ACDC has not yet replied to Essential Public Radio's request for an interview.

An Allegheny County jury decided in March that Orie is guilty of illegally using taxpayer-funded staff on political campaigns. Roddey, a former Allegheny County Executive, said he was let down by the downfall of Jane Orie.

"Well, it's certainly a disappointment," said Roddey. "I don't think it's necessarily a blow to the Republican image. It adds to the disappointment of the entire legislature. We've had people from both political parties, both Democrats and Republicans, that have been convicted."

Two of Orie's siblings are also facing similar criminal charges. State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is fighting corruption allegations, as is Janine Orie, who allegedly helped Melvin's political campaign while working in Senator Jane Orie's office.