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Senate leader drops challenge to Lindsey Williams

PA Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati dropped his challenge to and seated Sen. Lindsey Williams as the elected senator of the north Pittsburgh suburban 38th District. Williams, former communications and political director for the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Local 400, won a formerly Republican-held seat.

Williams defeated Jeremy Shaffer, a local township commissioner, for the seat formerly held by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny). Shaffer bested Vulakovich in the May primary. Williams went on to win the general by 800 votes.

Wendy Ullman, a member of Bucks County Community College Federation of Teachers, was sworn in as a first-time state representative in House District 143, and Chris Rabb, a member of Temple Association of University Professionals, was sworn in for his second term as state representative in House District 200.

In a statement, Williams called the last few weeks stressful but complimented the Republican caucus for its handling of the residency examination.

“I appreciate their professionalism and efficiency in bringing this matter to a close as quickly as possible so that I can get to work doing the job I was elected to do for the people of District 38," Williams said.

A lawsuit before the election failed to dislodge Williams from the ballot, as a Commonwealth Court Judge threw the case out, saying a challenge should have been filed earlier. However, his ruling left open the option for action by Senate leadership.

The state constitution says a Senator must be a Pennsylvania resident for four years before they stand for election. Williams handed over a file with 1,000 pages of documents, including signed affidavits of friends she was staying with after accepting a job offer in Pittsburgh in late October 2014 as proof to Scarnati’s office.

The debate also received national attention with coverage from The Intercept, Salon and Esquire. Democrats have attempted to tie action against Williams to Republicans stripping power from Democratic governors in Wisconsin and North Carolina.

In his statement, Scarnati pointed to a vague constitutional definition of residency and placed his trust in William’s documentation.

The same day as Scarnati’s announcement, Democratic elected officials and supporters gathered in Pittsburgh and at the Capitol to protest Republican opposition.

AFTPA President Ted Kirsch joined labor and Democratic officials around the state calling on Scarnati to drop his challenge. (Read his statement here.)

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