A longtime community volunteer and current Democratic Party official has declared his candidacy for the 35th Legislative District seat currently held by state Rep. Marc Gergely.
Austin Davis, executive assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald since 2012 and vice-chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, announced his campaign Tuesday. His is the first declared candidacy for what is expected to be a hotly contested race in 2018.
Davis, of McKeesport, has been a familiar face to Mon-Yough residents since high school, when he served as a member of a Youth Advisory Council created by Jim Brewster, then mayor of McKeesport and now a state senator.
On his website, Davis cites his four focus areas as jobs, public safety, education and transportation.
He says he supports the expansion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway as well as transit; wants to see charter school laws reformed and pre-kindergarten programs expanded; wants to see pharmaceutical companies held accountable for the current opioid crisis and provide law enforcement with better tools for fighting crime; and wants to make it easier for workers to organize and support the Marcellus shale industry, as well as manufacturing.
The 35th District includes Clairton, Duquesne, Lincoln, McKeesport, Munhall, South Versailles Twp., Versailles, Whitaker, White Oak and part of West Mifflin. Gergely, 47, has represented the district since 2002. He was re-elected in 2016, defeating McKeesport City Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery, who was running as a Republican.
But Gergely is expected to resign his seat before his term ends in January 2019.
On Aug. 15, he pleaded guilty in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to charges of criminal conspiracy and violating state election laws in connection with an illegal gambling ring. Gergely is to be sentenced by Allegheny County Judge Ed Borkowski on Nov. 6.
The charges are first-degree misdemeanors carrying penalties of not more than $10,000 in fines or five years' prison or probation. Pennsylvania's constitution forbids people convicted of an "infamous crime" from holding elected office in the state.
A graduate of McKeesport Area High School and the University of Pittsburgh, Davis began his professional political career as a legislative intern in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
As Fitzgerald's executive assistant, Davis helped spearhead the county executive's "Vision/Transition" teams. He currently represents the county executive's office on the Allegheny County Jail Oversight Board, the Kane Foundation, the Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Advisory Board and the Shuman Detention Center Advisory Board.
Davis is a member of the board of directors of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, the Consortium for Public Education, Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Auberle, and is vice-chair of the Allegheny County Housing Authority board of commissioners.
Among other honors, Davis has been recognized by Pittsburgh Magazine's "40 Under 40" award, the New Pittsburgh Courier's "FAB 40" award, the CEA's "Community Builder" award and the Pittsburgh Service Summit's "Get Involved" award, as well as the McKeesport NAACP's "Character Leadership Award."
He and his wife, Blayre Holmes, were married earlier this month.
Originally published September 12, 2017.