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Redistricting zaps Mayernik, Kaiser; Bodack's Senate seat kept intact

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

By John M.R. Bull, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Correspondent

HARRISBURG -- State Sen. Leonard Bodack will keep his Lawrenceville seat, but two state representatives from the Pittsburgh area are facing political extermination from new electoral district lines approved yesterday by a panel dominated by legislative leaders.


Proposed House of Representatives districts

Proposed Senate districts


House Democratic leaders wanted to terminate state Rep. David Mayernik's political career, and the new legislative district lines approved yesterday diced his constituency into seven other districts throughout the North Hills and West suburbs.

Mayernik's home now sits in a newly configured House district that stretches northwest from Bellevue and part of Ross through part of Franklin Park deep into Beaver County, a district now represented by Democrat Susan Laughlin of Ambridge. The rest of what was his district was turned over to neighboring lawmakers. Mayernik was left with scant chance of re-election.

"They terminated me," he said. "This was Politics 101. It sends a message: Don't step out of line. Right now, I expect to be running. I'm just not sure where I'll be running."

Democratic leaders for years have been angry with Mayernik for crossing party lines and voting with Republicans and otherwise bucking caucus leaders.

Another Democratic lawmaker on the outs with his leaders, Ralph Kaiser of Brentwood, found his district merged with the neighboring district of Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick.

The two will face each other in next year's election. An analysis of voting patterns in the new, combined district shows that Kaiser will be at a disadvantage.

He said he was disappointed, but he seemed more upset over Mayernik's plight.

"They cut him up like a Thanksgiving turkey," Kaiser said.

The Democratic leader who maneuvered to have Mayernik and either Kaiser or Readshaw lose their seats through redistricting said it wasn't personal.

"I like all these characters and I find charm and political vitality in all these members," said House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, D-Waynesburg. But he said Mayernik had to go or the Democrats would risk him "slipping even more into the embrace of John Perzel," the Philadelphia Republican who is House majority leader.

On the other side of the aisle, maverick Republican John Lawless of Montgomery County saw his district eviscerated by leaders of his party, leaving him ripe for a re-election loss. Lawless has a tendency to tell his party's secrets to the news media, and his leaders, as a result, wanted him gone.

"They shafted me. They took away my base," said Lawless, who promised to either run for re-election or mount a challenge for a state Senate seat. "This was about cowards at work. This is about paying the debts to the boys."

Redistricting is done every 10 years to reflect population shifts identified in the U.S. census. Every House and Senate district in the state was changed to some extent. For example, the 40th House District, now held by John A. Maher, a Republican, will pick up a large chunk of Bethel Park that was not previously included in his district of Peters and Upper St. Clair.

Boundaries for the new districts -- approved by a reapportionment panel composed of the four caucus leaders in the House and Senate and chaired by retired state Supreme Court Justice Frank Montemuro Jr. -- may be changed slightly in the next two months but are not expected to change substantially before gaining final approval in November.

On the Senate side, Democrats won their battle to keep intact the seat held by Bodack.

Senate Republicans had sought to have Bodack's district moved to the Poconos, one of the most rapidly growing parts of the state. But Montemuro privately told Republican leaders he wouldn't go for that.

In the end, he let Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have the final say on new district lines in Western Pennsylvania. In Eastern Pennsylvania, he gave Republicans that authority.

Senate districts in the Pittsburgh area were reshaped extensively, but at no apparent political cost to incumbents.

The 40th Senatorial District of Jane Orie, R-McCandless, was extended north to take in several additional Butler County communties.

Several West suburbs, including Moon, Findlay and North Fayette, were switched from Sen. Jack Wagner's 42nd District to Sen. Tim Murphy's 37th. Wagner is a Democrat, Murphy a Republican.

Wagner's district grew southward, taking in Castle Shannon, Dormont, Green Tree and Scott, all of which were formerly represented by Murphy.

Districts in the city's eastern suburbs -- held by Bodack, Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Sean Logan, D-Monroeville -- were spread north and east, with Bodack's district meandering as far east as Kiskiminetas and Bell in Westmoreland County.

The top Senate Democrat, Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, said the new lines were fair. His Republican counterpart, David "Chip" Brightbill, said it was the best that could be hoped for, in that Montemuro refused to allow wholesale changes.

The most dramatic changes were to House districts.

Mayernik's 29th Legislative District was moved to Bucks County, Kaiser's 41st District was reconstituted in Lancaster County and the 47th District seat now held by Leo J. Trich Jr., D-Washington, was moved to York County.

Trich is retiring. The area he now represents will be divided among neighboring districts now represented by Timothy Solobay of Canonsburg, Peter J. Daley II of California and Victor Lescovitz of Midway, all Democrats.

A fourth seat, in Philadelphia, was moved because of declining population. It will be in Monroe County in the Poconos. That seat is held by Republican Chris Wogan, who is stepping down to become a judge.

Because the population has shifted in the last 10 years away from the traditionally Democratic strongholds of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia into the more Republican-dominated suburbs, the Republican caucus stands to pick up some seats as a result of the redistricting.

Perzel said he was quite happy about the new district boundaries and predicted that the Republican caucus would gain seats after next year's election, likely adding four seats to its current majority of 104 and knocking the Democrats back to 95 seats.

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