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Davis Wins Special Election for 35th District Seat

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
January 24, 2018
Posted in: Duquesne News, McKeesport and Region News, Politics & Elections, White Oak News

Austin Davis won't get a break --- either from working or campaigning.

The 28-year-old McKeesport resident will be the next state representative for the 35th Legislative District after defeating 37-year-old Fawn Walker-Montgomery of McKeesport on Tuesday in a special election.

Davis expects to wrap up his current job as executive assistant to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald next week, and be sworn in as a state legislator a few days later.

Then, Davis, a Democrat, will be running in the May 15 primary for a chance at a full term in office.

"I do like to keep a robust schedule, but no, there's not much downtime," Davis said Wednesday.

According to complete but unofficial returns from the Allegheny County Division of Elections, Davis, running as a Democrat, defeated Walker-Montgomery, a Republican, by 3,200 to 1,129 votes, with 17 write-ins.

There are more registered Democrats in the district than Republicans --- about 7,828 to 4,257, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State --- but in some places, such as White Oak, the parties are more evenly matched.

In 2016, for instance, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in White Oak by 57 to 42 percent.

On Tuesday, Davis won every single municipality in the district, including White Oak, which he carried by 479 to 283 votes, according to the county elections division.

If there's anything negative in the victory, Davis said, it's the disappointing turnout. There are 40,813 registered voters in the district. Only 4,374 --- fewer than 11 percent --- cast ballots on Tuesday.

"I would have absolutely liked to have seen a higher turnout," Davis said. "Democracy is best served when more people participate."

In traveling around the district, which includes McKeesport, Clairton, Duquesne, Lincoln, Munhall, Versailles, South Versailles Twp., White Oak and part of West Mifflin, Davis said he kept hearing the same concerns from voters.

"They want more growth, they want more job creation, they want to improve public education, they want more robust mass transit," Davis said. "They want more programming for senior citizens."

And they want the state to address the heroin and opioid epidemic, he said. "It's not unique to the 35th District," he said, "it's all across the Commonwealth, and it is tearing a lot of families apart."

Davis is the first African-American in Allegheny County --- outside of the city of Pittsburgh -- to be elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

"I really want to be a good state representative for everyone --- black and white, male and female," Davis said. However, he said, being the first person of color elected to the legislature from the Pittsburgh suburbs does send a kind of signal.

"It makes me feel that our region and the county in general is trying to be more inclusive and representative of different people's points of view," Davis said. "Change takes a long time, but it's worth it in the end."

Because of his previous role working for Fitzgerald, Davis said he already knows the members of Allegheny County's legislative delegation, and is looking forward to working with them.

Several legislators, including state Reps. Bill Kortz of Dravosburg and Paul Costa of Wilkins Twp., have already called Davis to congratulate him.

"I am looking forward to serving the residents of the 35th District and being an advocate for their interests," Davis said.

Davis' predecessor, Marc Gergely, had district offices at the Clairton Municipal Building, on Lincoln Way in White Oak, and on Main Street in Munhall.

Davis said he is likely to keep those offices in place, at least for the time being.

"If we do make any changes, it will be a slow process," he said. "We want people to be informed."

Originally published January 24, 2018.

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