By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
After 25 years in office, conservative Democratic state Rep. Harry Readshaw is retiring just months before he was set to face a progressive opponent in the April 28 primary.
“For 13 terms – that translates into 25 years – I have been blessed and humbled by being elected Pennsylvania state representative of the 36th Legislative District,” Readshaw said in a statement. “The 36th District has been reapportioned twice during my tenure and has geographically changed. Yet, my constituents have honored me with their continual support, and I am very grateful.
“Over the years, I have made so many friends and have enjoyed representing the 36th District to the best of my ability. May you all be blessed as we continue the journey in the year 2020 and show concern for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Many pundits have wondered for years when the long-time representative might retire. Jessica Benham, a community organizer and co-founder of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, announced in September that she would be challenging Readshaw. Readshaw has faced opposition before, including a race against state Rep. Erin Mochany (thanks to redistricting), but this is a different political climate than he has faced in the past.
This region has seen a string of long-time incumbents knocked off their perches by young, progressive Democratic women at both the state and county level. In fact, first-time successful candidates Sara Innamorato, Summer Lee, Bethany Hallam beat three entrenched Democrats with a combined 48 years of experience.
On Tuesday night Benham told the Current that she had heard rumors about Readshaw’s possible withdrawal from the race, but said his exit won’t at all change her campaign strategy.
“From the very beginning, we have been running our own race over here at Team Jess,” Benham said. “I’ve been out knocking doors and having conversations with voters about the issues that matter the most to them.
“I also want to thank Rep. Readshaw for all the years he’s served this district and wish him all the best in his retirement.”
A pro-life, pro-gun Democrat, Readshaw would never be mistaken for a liberal Dem. In the past couple of months, the progressive Benham has picked up a number of high-profile endorsements from SEIU Pa State Council, State Sen. Lindsey Williams, Hallam, Pittsburgh City Councilors Bruce Kraus and Theresa Kail-Smith and Erika Strassberger, Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett and others. You can learn more about Benham by watching her appearance on the Pittsburgh Current Podcast.