But what led to the vote shift?
University of Pittsburgh election analyst Lara Putnam says it was a mix of
“The key two pieces are about labor and the grassroots,” says Putnam. “The people that are in labor households are the not the same as the grassroots that entered after
The grassroots shined in Mount Lebanon, the district's most liberal area. Iovino was able to build up large margins in the borough, and Democrats may have even exceeded their expectations here.
Lynne Hughes, a progressive grassroots organizer in Mount Lebanon, says that in the Howe precinct of Mount Lebanon, organizers were hoping for Iovino to secure 64 percent of the vote, but she exceeded that with 69 percent. Hughes also notes turnout there was about 40 percent, which is high for a special election.
"There was a disproportionate high turnout in Mount
But it wasn’t just racking up votes in the reliably Democratic Mount Lebanon that led to Iovino’s victory, says Putnam. She says generating votes from labor union families throughout the district was also important. Turning out votes in middle-class, union-supporting households in Moon and Upper St. Clair was critical in stemming the tide of the conservative wave that supported Trump in 2016.
Here is a comparison between 2019 and the last 3 races in this district. Iovino and Smith won by similar amounts, but look at the geographic spread. Mt. Lebanon really punched above its weight. pic.twitter.com/wMps6IfQDn— Ben Forstate (@4st8) April 3, 2019
Take Bethel Park as an example. The borough supported Trump and former Republican state sen Guy Reschenthaler in 2016. For the special election, Iovino carried Bethel Park.
Putnam says towns near Allegheny-Washington county border have historically supported Republicans and did so in large numbers in 2016. But when given an option like Iovino, Democrats have made gains in these areas that help propel their candidates to victories.