Though Austin Davis announced his candidacy for the Pennsylvania state House 35th District special election in September, he still wasn’t the official Democratic candidate.
Now he is.
Davis, who is also the Allegheny County Democratic vice-chair, unanimously won the official party endorsement, Nov. 18, for the race to serve out the remainder of former state Rep. Marc Gergely’s term.
Gergely resigned Nov. 3 after pleading guilty to illegal gambling-related corruption charges. His last vote, ironically, was for legislation to approve expanded gambling—which the governor signed.
The endorsement vote, Davis said, was a relief.
“It was unanimous, so that was very satisfying. I think it was validation for the work I’ve been doing as vice chair for the past few years,” he said. “The grassroots people in the district see me as their best chance to win and that’s very gratifying. No one else filed. I think that’s the result of my being active in my community my entire life and as an effective vice chair. The committee was comfortable with me as a leader.”
Now, Davis can turn his full attention to campaigning for the Jan. 23 special election.
“So, our focus now is taking our message—jobs, education, transportation and public safety—to the district,” he told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “I will still be working every day (as executive assistant to county executive Rich Fitzgerald). I’ve hired the Kerry Group to run my campaign—they’ll be creating a website, coordinated outreach, everything.”
His message, as he said, is four-fold.
“We’re not going to see a reduction in crime without families sustaining jobs. We need to support and foster Marcellus Shale development and related jobs,” he said. “At the same time, we need a robust transportation system that not only facilitates these industries, but also allows people to get to work—especially to the tech and med job center in Oakland and Pittsburgh’s East End. Local law enforcement needs more resources to reduce crime, and with a lot of it stemming from a drug component, we’re going to increase treatment options.”
As for the election itself, Davis’ opponent has yet to be determined. Though fellow McKeesport native Fawn Walker-Montgomery said she planned to run as a Republican again—she lost to Gergely last year—the Republicans have not yet held an endorsement vote.
“Yeah. At this point I can’t really call her an opponent because she hasn’t been nominated. In fact, the Republicans haven’t even announced a process to do so,” said Davis. “If they nominate someone, great—that’ll be my opponent.”
The deadline for filing that paperwork with the Pennsylvania Department of State, Davis said, is Dec. 4.