Metcalfe is well known for spreading homophobia, and Smith is openly gay. Ultimately, his race attracted a lot of buzz, and though Metcalfe prevailed by more than 16 points, this was his closest general election victory in more than a decade.
Now, Smith is hoping for a rematch against Metcalfe in this year’s general election. Smith is running in Pennsylvania House District 12, which includes Cranberry and much of southern Butler County.
“We came within 2 percentage points in Cranberry alone,” said Smith of his 2018 effort. “We outperformed the expectations. We had close to 900 individual contributions and we had a lot of Republicans vote on our ticket.”
This cycle, Smith originally ran of U.S. Congress in an attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) but dropped out in December. He says when a Democratic candidate that was planning to run against Metcalfe changed their minds, he decided it was time to run against Metcalfe again.
This year, Smith has put together a team consisting of campaign manager Steve Kochanowski, who worked on Superior Court Judge Daniel McCaffery’s successful campaign; former state House candidate John McCabe; treasurer Alecia McKee; and consultants Daren Berringer and Joe Trippi.
He says he is also receiving support and backing from the House Democratic Campaign Committee. Last cycle, Smith put a big focus on the traffic and lack of state funding for Freedom Road in Cranberry, but he says this year’s campaign will focus more broadly on Metcalfe’s record and his failure to help HD-12 receive necessary funding for infrastructure, schools, and development.
Smith says municipal and county governments in the district are spending money on lobbyists in Harrisburg to do the work that representatives like Metcalfe should be doing themselves. He adds that instead of focusing on far-right issues like climate change denial and an anti-LGTBQ agenda, Metcalfe should be putting that energy toward representing his district in Harrisburg.
“We are going to hit harder on his record,” says Smith. “Freedom Road was a big thing last time, and Daryl was too busy focusing on my sexuality and my mother, rather than my record. My focus will be on his record.”
Smith also criticized Metcalfe’s placement chairing the state House’s environmental committee.
“I question his ability ... he doesn’t know one thing about the environment,” says Smith. “He is like a kid in a candy store in that committee,” says Smith referencing Metcalfe’s large campaign contributions from natural-gas companies.
Last February, Metcalfe said Pennsylvania needed high carbon-dioxide emissions to help grow vegetables, an obviously false claim that has been disproved by several scientists.
The 2020 race will likely be more difficult for Smith. With President Donald Trump on the top of the ticket, turnout will be higher in a district that is staunchly conservative. But Smith says he thinks he can get some crossover votes.
“If they want to vote for Trump, go for it, I am not worried about federal races,” says Smith of potential voters in HD-12.
Pennsylvania's primary election is April 28 and the general election is November 3.