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Primary voters take down at least 2 incumbents in Pennsylvania House

Sean Dougherty, center, running in the Democratic primary to unseat state Rep. Kevin Boyle in Pennsylvania's 172nd District, is congratulated by his sister Kaitlin Dougherty and his mother after declaring victory at the Red Rooster Inn in the Northeast section of Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 23. The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania election results include a loss Tuesday in the Democratic primary by a Philadelphia state representative one day after prosecutors announced that they had erroneously issued a warrant mistakenly accusing him of violating a protective order.

Rep. Kevin Boyle, seeking an eighth term, was one of at least two incumbent state lawmakers defeated on Tuesday, losing to Sean Dougherty, whose father is state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty.

The warrant that was withdrawn came up in the context of a years-long child custody and divorce dispute. His ex-wife’s lawyer, Diana Schimmel, said Wednesday that they contacted police in Pennsylvania and New Jersey after his ex-wife received a text from Boyle earlier this month, saying he may go to the lawyer’s home. Boyle’s attorney, Andrew Montroy, has said the flawed warrant issued “in the final days before election day has caused tremendous professional damage to my client.”

In an Altoona area district, Rep. Jim Gregory lost by nearly 10 percentage points to Scott Barger in the GOP primary. Barger, a former pastor and radio station operator, had focused on Gregory’s role in the dealmaking surrounding Democratic Rep. Mark Rozzi’s brief bipartisan tenure as House speaker early last year.

Rozzi’s elevation to speaker was also raised by Dave Nissley, who ran an aggressive but failed effort to unseat House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler in the Republican primary for a rural Lancaster County district. Cutler won by more than 7 points.

Vote counting continues in other races, where election officials will have to tabulate overseas and provisional ballots before certifying the winner.

First-term state Rep. Mike Cabell is trailing challenger Jamie Walsh by just eight votes out of more than 9,000 cast in the Republican primary for a southern Luzerne County seat. Walsh, who owns a gutter company, helped start a group during the pandemic that advocates for conservative positions on education matters.

Still unresolved is state Rep. Amen Brown’s three-way Democratic primary in a Philadelphia district, although he has a lead of more than 100 votes over his closest challenger.

State Rep. Ryan Bizzarro lost the contest for the Democratic nomination for treasurer to Erin McClelland but remains on the fall ballot for reelection to his Erie seat in the state House. Bizzarro will have a Republican challenger in November, while McClelland will take on Republican state Treasurer Stacy Garrity.

In a Pittsburgh state Senate seat that is open with the pending retirement of Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat, state Rep. Nick Pisciottano will face Republican Jen Dintini, a security company owner, in November. Republicans see a chance to flip Brewster’s seat, while Democrats would need to retain it if they have any shot at the three-seat net gain they’d need to tie the chamber and claim the majority on the strength of Democratic Lt. Gov. Austin Davis’ tiebreaking vote.

The three-candidate Democratic primary to succeed Pisciottano remains close, with the top two candidates less than 50 votes apart out of more than 9,000 ballots cast.

Democrats see one potential pickup in the Harrisburg state Senate district where Republican Sen. John DiSanto is retiring. Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, and Dauphin County Treasurer Nick DiFrancesco, a Republican, both won contested primaries.

The lone state legislative vacancy was filled Tuesday when Republican Jeff Olsommer beat Democrat Robin Schooley Skibber by nearly 17 percentage points. Freshman Rep. Joe Adams, R-Pike, cited medical issues when he resigned in February. In the simultaneously held primary for that seat, Olsommer beat a fellow Republican and Skibber was unopposed, so the Republican leaning district will have a rematch in about six months.

Olsommer’s special election win keeps the House margin at 102 Democrats and 101 Republicans.

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