Republican state Rep. Randy Vulakovich easily defeated Democrat Sharon Brown in a special election for the North Hills state Senate seat once held by Jane Orie. He will serve out the two years remaining on the term.
Vulakovich grabbed 12,065 votes to Brown's 4,704 with 169 write-in votes being cast. Independent Don Bindas was running a write-in campaign.
Orie's 40th District seat went up for grabs after the Republican resigned in May shortly before she was sentenced for using her state-funded Senate staff to do political campaign work for herself and her sister Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
Vulakovich, 62 is no stranger to special elections. He won a special election to replace state Rep. Jeff Habay in 2006 and then went on to win that year's Republican primary and general election to retain the seat where he's served ever since. Habay was also found guilty of illegal campaigning by his state-funded staff.
Brown, 59, most recently ran against state Rep. Mike Turzai and lost in in the 2010 general election. The Democrats asked Brown to run for Orie's seat after Ross Township commissioner Dan DeMarco declined. DeMarco lost the 2010 general election to Orie, 58 percent to 42 percent, even though she had been charged with campaign corruption months before.
The current 40th District contains most of the North Hills suburbs and the southern part of Butler County. Registration in the district leans Republican. However, Vulakovich might not have a long tenure in the seat.
Under a plan approved by the five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the 40th District will move east, across the state, to the fast-growing Poconos region in Monroe County. That means Vulakovich, having won Orie's remaining term through 2014, would have to run for re-election in the newly-drawn 38th District, a seat now held by Democrat Jim Ferlo of Pittsburgh.
The reapportionment plan is subject to several legal challenges filed with the state Supreme Court, which could still accept or reject the new legislative boundaries.
Under the current plan, Ferlo's district would shift to absorb the North Hills suburbs where the strong Republican support could neutralize the advantage Ferlo now enjoys in a district that has a majority of registered Democrats.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.