The votes are in and Republicans have chosen state Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, to take on Democratic nominee Sharon Brown in the Aug. 7 special election to replace former Sen. Jane Orie in the 40th District.
Vulakovich, a former police sergeant with the Shaler department, beat out former Congresswoman Melissa Hart, of Bradford Woods, during a three-hour conference held Saturday morning at the
Republican committee members from Butler and Allegheny counties chose Vulakovich over Hart in a 48-33 vote.
While at least eight other candidates also expressed interest in becoming the GOP nominee, Jeff Smith, chairman of the Butler County Republican Committee, said the votes came down to a two-way contest between Vulakovich and Hart, who formerly represented the 40th District before joining the U.S. Congress.
“Either one would have been a good choice,” he said. “I think Randy will do a good job and I think he’ll do a good job for Butler County.”
Nate Locklin, chairman of the Ross Township Republican committee, echoed Smith's sentiments.
"All of the candidates today were excellent, but I am confident that we picked the right candidate," he said. "Randy Vulakovich has a long and distinguished record as a public servant. He restored the integrity in the office of state representative for the 30th District when he was elected, and I know that he will do the same as our state senator."
Hart lost her congressional seat to Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, in 2006. Vulakovich was elected first to represent the 30th District in 2007. He replaced former Rep. Jeff Habay, who, like Orie, was convicted of using his staff to do campaign work on state time.
In speaking to conferees, Smith said Vulakovich emphasized his commitment to Butler County.
In May, Orie, 50, was sentenced to serve 2 1/2 to 10 years in prison after her March conviction of using her legislative staff to perform political work.
No matter who wins the race to replace her, they may not get the chance to run again for the 40th District.
A revised legislative map approved moves the territory to the other side of the state.
Under the plan, Orie’s former territory—which encompassed parts of northern Allegheny County and southern Butler County—moves to Monroe and Northampton counties on the eastern half of the state to reflect growth near the New Jersey border.