Ravenstahl, Wheatley win Democratic nominations for state rep.’s races


Supporters of Adam Ravenstahl celebrate at Billy’s Troy Hill Bistro on Tuesday night, May 18.

Adam Ravenstahl will likely represent the 20th District in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives for the next two and a half years.

More than a few pitchers of Bud Light went around at Billy’s Troy Hill Bistro where Mayor Luke Ravenstahl gladly let his brother take the spotlight.

The 25-year-old Summer Hill native received 59 percent of the vote in the special election to fill the remainder of Don Walko’s former seat.

In addition, he earned the Democratic Party primary nomination for the seat in this fall’s general election, which traditionally awards the race’s Democratic nominee with the victory.

Ravenstahl received 40 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, with his three competitors Mark Purcell, Dan Keller and Tim Tuinstra receiving 26, 25 and 11 percent, respectively.

On the lower Northside, State Rep. Jake Wheatley won a likely fifth term in the 19th District after defeating two challengers for the Democratic nomination. With 61 percent of the vote, Wheatley’s nearest competitor, Tonya Payne, received 26 percent, and Northsider Mark Brentley received 13 percent.

But Wheatley’s win was a sure thing. Adam Ravenstahl’s win, on the other hand, was much less certain in a crowded field of political lesser knowns.

“Obviously, when your younger brother is running, it’s natural that people use it as a referendum on [my] administration,” Luke Ravenstahl said. “But I didn’t [help] him at all.”

Adam agreed that his successful campaign had more to do with campaign work than his brother’s popularity.

“I think it had a lot to do with the hard work I’ve done for the last five months. People had the opportunity to meet Adam, [as opposed to Luke],” Adam Ravenstahl said.

The first thing Adam will do?

“Sleep in!” he laughed.

In front of the crowded bar, Adam thanked his girlfriend of three years, Alisha Henzler, for being there for him when the campaign got hectic.

He said he has yet to make a decision on hiring any legislative aides.

Dan Keller, right, stands with his son J.D. outside a precinct in Brighton Heights.

Adam’s mother Cindy Ravenstahl took her son’s election in stride.

“I never perceived us as a political family,” Cindy said. “I think people have the idea that we sat around and talked about politics when they were growing up. That was never the case.”

One key to Adam’s victory appears to stem from Northsiders’ overwhelming respect for the Ravenstahl family. His victory also illustrates how voters don’t always elect the candidate with the most endorsements.

That accomplishment clearly went to Dan Keller, who received both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s endorsement and that of the Pennsylvania branch of the Service Workers International Union, as well as many others.

A registered Republican from Brighton Heights, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she voted for Adam Ravenstahl over the Republican Alex Dubart in the special election.

 “One of the reasons why I voted for Adam Ravenstahl is that the family has a good government background … also, I want to see what he does in the next six months,” she said.

Dan Keller said Adam Ravenstahl had the odd strategy of standing near him most of the day outside the precinct next to St. Cyril of Alexandria School in Brighton Heights. The two exchanged few words and greeted voters one after the other.

"He didn’t move five feet [all day]," Keller said.

Voter turnout across most of the Northside was sparse.

Brighton Heights Citizens Federation’s President Pete Bellisario filled the role of minority clerk at a precinct in the 27th ward. He said the two districts at the polling station received 425 votes out 1300 eligible registered voters, or 33 percent.

Gerry Seidl, the minority inspector at the precinct for ward 26, district 12 in Observatory Hill, said the 113 votes the precinct saw all day was lower than she remembered from past elections. According to the Allegheny County election website, the 2008 primary at the same precinct saw 212 voters.

Districts 1 and 2 of ward 21 in Manchester both reported less than half the number of voters than the 2008 primary, which was higher due to the presidential primary race between President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Voter Vaughn Tait stands outside a voting precinct in Manchester.

This might have been part of the reason Rep. Wheatley beat his nearest competitor, Tonya Payne, by such a wide margin. Another factor could have been that voters were not thrilled with his competitors’ political accomplishments.

“I can’t vote for Tonya,” said Manchester resident Vaughn Tait. “She’s a product of the Pittsburgh Public School System. And [Mark] Brentley has been on the school board for years and hasn’t accomplished that much.”

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