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State House control may depend on battle for local state House seat

State House control may depend on battle for local state House seat
State House control may depend on battle for local state House seat 02:45

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Voters in parts of the North Hills and Allegheny Valley will elect a representative this fall in a new state House district with no incumbent.

Last spring, the state Reapportionment Commission created some new state House districts without incumbents, giving voters the chance to send someone new to Harrisburg.

If you live along the western side of the Allegheny River from Sharpsburg north to Natrona Heights in the 33rd Legislative District, you know this is a competitive race between Democrat Mandy Steele and Republican Ted Tomson.

"I'm involved in multiple businesses, and I've got a skill set that I'm really able to juggle a lot of things and get up to speed. And getting back to my line of work in the recycling business, the scrap metal business, you're involved with a lot of different businesses," Tomson told KDKA-TV political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

Voters to elect representatives in 2 new districts 02:47

Thomson highlights his business skills in a family scrap metal business with a focus on energy development, while Steele, the first Democratic woman elected to Fox Chapel's council, wants to bring back manufacturing to this region, especially in clean energy.

"There's tremendous opportunity to drive investment and jobs our way, and the future is strong and promising if we send someone to Harrisburg who is going to pursue that opportunity for our region," says Steele.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court says states can set their own abortion policies, Steele says she will vote to maintain women's rights and access to abortion.

"It's a concern that I hear from door after door from Democrats, from Republicans, from independents. They want to see women's rights protected. They're fearful our own doctors may lose the power to care for us in the way that they need to," says the Democrat.

Tomson, who has been endorsed by the anti-abortion LifePAC, says the issue is not one he hears much about in this district.

"I am pro-life, and I do support exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. But in Harrisburg, my focus is going to be on improving the economic climate here in Pennsylvania. I'm going door to door and I'm talking to a lot of people, and it's not really a defining issue in my campaign," says the Republican.

After the 2020 census and the state Reapportionment Commission drew new district lines for 203 House members, the Democrats have their best shot in years to win control of the state House.

The new 33rd Legislative District along the Allegheny River from Sharpsburg to Natrona Heights is up for grabs this November.

"There are real issues here at stake. This is the first time that we are actually close enough to flip the House in favor of the people," says Steele.

Steele says it matters which party controls the state House, especially if voters care about raising the minimum wage and abortion rights.

"It is something that would be absolutely central to my focus to my work in Harrisburg is making sure we protect women's rights here in Pennsylvania so that women can be full participants in society because if we lose autonomy over our own bodies, we are really limiting the potential of women in Pennsylvania," says Steele.

Tomson says it's more about the candidate, not the party.

"Being in business, I work with both Democrats and Republicans, and I think mostly is listen to their message and what is resonating with them," Tomson said.

The Republican says as a businessman he wants to cut government spending, while Steele says she has a track record working in local government.

"Being in business, a skill set you do develop if you have a successful business is you're able to produce more with less," notes Tomson.

Steele highlights her agenda:  "Working in a bipartisan way to keep taxes low, to protect the rights of our community members, and to create jobs."

For Democrats to win control of the state House, they must win districts like the 33rd. Republicans are determined to not let that happen. 

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