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Pittsburgh Region Loses Clout In State House While Gaining In State Senate

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - With the resignation this year of House Speaker Mike Turzai and the defeat last week of Democratic House Leader Frank Dermody, many worry this region is losing its clout in Harrisburg.

In legislative bodies, seniority counts.

With half this region's state representatives serving one term or less, the next state House will be led by leaders from back east. The one bright spot here is the growing clout for this region in the state Senate.

"I can promise you this region will not be forgotten, and we know what we need here, and we will do our best to make sure our region succeeds," Pennsylvania Sen. Kim Ward, a Hempfield Republican, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Friday.

Ward was just elected Senate Majority Leader, the first woman to hold this position.

She says that she and Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa of Forest Hills will work together for this area.

"We've always been able to work things, we've been able to talk to each other. That's important that we communicate, and on many of these issues we will be because we are from southwestern Pennsylvania on the same page," says Ward.

But with the loss of both Republican Mike Turzai and Democrat Frank Dermody, the top three House Republicans are from Lancaster, Centre and Clarion counties, while the top three House Democrats now all come from the Philadelphia area.

"I can assure you that while we might not be in certain titles, it does not mean our voices are at all diminished," says Pennsylvania Rep. Dan Miller, a Mt. Lebanon Democrat. "If anything, we will be clearer as we need to be."

Miller was just elected chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the fourth-ranking position. He is the only local Democrat on the leadership team.

Similarly, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Reese, a Mt. Pleasant Republican, was just elected chair of the House Republican Caucus, the only local Republican on that party's leadership team.

"Let's be clear about this: you can't replace a Mike Turzai," says Reese.

But Reese says southwestern Pennsylvania will be heard in part because so many Republican representatives now come from this region.

"Particularly on the House Republican side, we have a lot of pick-ups in southwestern Pennsylvania over the last 10 years. I think ultimately we have a good group working together that the leadership team will have to pay attention to," says Reese.

"No doubt about that," he adds.

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