"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," said Readshaw in a statement. "Over the years, I have made so many friends and have enjoyed representing the 36th District to the best of my ability."
During his career, Readshaw has chaired a standing House committee and co-chaired the bipartisan Pennsylvania Military Community Protection committee. He currently serves as the Democratic chair of the House Professional Licensure Committee.
With this announced retirement, Jessica Benham (D-South Side) is currently the only Democrat seeking the district's nomination. HD-36, which encompasses many of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods such as South Side, Allentown, Carrick, and Brookline, is more conservative than other Pittsburgh state House seats, but it still reliably votes Democratic.
Readshaw was fairly well-known for being one of the Democratic caucus' more conservative members. He consistently joined Republicans in sponsoring and voting for anti-abortion legislation, and also backed several gun-rights initiatives.
Benham has been gathering several endorsements from local elected officials and progressives in the area. Kail-Smith is easily the most high-profile moderate elected official on this list. https://t.co/1nHCHmmd0i— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) January 7, 2020
There was some speculation that after 2020, when the district maps are redrawn, HD-36 would be drawn out of existence to coincide with Readshaw retiring. But the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social & Urban Research predicts that Allegheny County will only lose the equivalent of one-third of a district and the area surrounding Allegheny County is likely to lose the equivalent of two-thirds a district.
With Readshaw retiring, the race of HD-36 is now wide open. Benham has started her campaign gathering strong support from progressives and was recently endorsed by Pittsburgh City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith (D-West End), a more moderate legislator. Her platform is very progressive and if she won, she would become one of the first openly autistic lawmakers elected in the U.S.
However, given the district's relatively conservative voting patterns for a Democratic district, a more moderate candidate could see success there. Today, Readshaw told WESA that at least one other challenger, Democratic ward committee member Heather Kass, will seek the HD-36 seat, and he expects more to enter the race now that he has announced his retirement.
Very very quick maps for HD-36 where Jessica Benham is challenging longtime incumbent Harry Readshaw in next years Dem primary. Left is DeFazio/Hallam (purple/green)-53/47%. Right is Zappala/Middleman (purple/orange)-63/37%. pic.twitter.com/nWWFzEA8ZY— Ben Forstate (@4st8) November 27, 2019