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Politics: District 21 state house race loses half its field 

Crowded no more, the state House of Representatives race in District 21 is down from six Democratic contenders to three. Frank Pistella, Dan DeMarco and Paul McKrell will not appear on the April 22 primary ballot, even though all three filed for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement, which was decided Feb. 10.

Pistella, who once held the District 21 seat for 28 years, says he was disheartened by losing the endorsement by a more than 2-1 margin. He's returning to full-time work at Neighborhood Legal Services Association, a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to the poor.

"There's always a next time," Pistella says.

DeMarco, a Ross Township commissioner who made suburb representation an issue in his campaign, is leaving open the possibility that he will run as an independent candidate.

"I think it's going to primarily come down to who wins the nomination," he says. "That's going to weigh heavily on my decision in terms of jumping into the race."

McKrell, a former Pennsylvania executive director of the Young Democrats of America, could not be reached for comment.

At a Feb. 6 forum, McKrell and DeMarco unabashedly declared that they would run with or without the endorsement.

"I'm going to run because I want to do this job," McKrell said. Immediately after that, DeMarco said, "I believe that I can win this race. ... There's a thirst in the North Hills, in Ross Township, for at least one representative in the state House."

They both, however, failed to meet the Feb. 12 deadline to file nomination petitions for their names to appear on the ballot.

District 21 is made up of some eastern city neighborhoods and suburbs to the north. The incumbent, Democrat Lisa Bennington, who defeated Pistella in 2006, announced in January that she was not seeking re-election.

The primary ballot will feature former Pittsburgh City Councilor Len Bodack (the committee-endorsed candidate), Brenda Frazier (who resigned from Allegheny County Council in February to run in District 21), and former Pittsburgh Police Chief Dominic Costa. No Republican filed to be on the ballot.

DeMarco speaks positively of Costa and Frazier, and says he is most likely to run if Bodack wins the nomination.

"I think that Mr. Bodack is somewhat damaged goods. He lost his seat in city council," DeMarco says. "I don't think he's going to get a favorable recommendation when it comes to the media. I think that his record kind of speaks for itself."

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