By ERIC SLAGLE Daily News Staff Writer



It looks like an upset in the 39th Legislative District with longtime Democrat David Levdansky saying the race was too close to call and his challenger, Republican Rick Saccone, declaring a tentative victory late Tuesday night.

“I won Washington County,” said Saccone after a long night that showed him, unofficially, losing to Levdansky in Allegheny County by a vote of 8,089 to 7,896. Saccone said his unofficial returns from Washington County, however, showed him bettering Levdansky by a vote of 2,578 to 2,252, thus giving him 106 more total votes.

Levdansky, who had figures at his campaign headquarters in Elizabeth that showed him trailing Saccone by a closer margin, said he wasn’t going to concede the loss or declare victory until the official vote count is in.

“This is a couple of dozen votes,” Levdansky said at one point during the evening. Later, a supporter presented numbers that showed Levdansky losing by a single vote. Levdansky contended the difference in votes was less than 1 percent of the total votes cast and said of determining a winner, “It might be a recount.” Levdansky, 56, of Forward Township, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and has been in office since 1985.

Saccone, 52, of Elizabeth Township, is a former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer and special agent and an assistant professor of political science at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

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“It shows that a person rather than a party can win,” Saccone said of his apparent victory. Saccone’s campaign capitalized on what he called Levdansky being a “career politician.” Saccone said he would push for term limits if elected and uncover fraud and waste in government.

Saccone said the voters “went for the guy that they thought would do it.” Saccone had about 100 supporters and volunteers with him at his campaign headquarters at Central Fire Hall in Elizabeth Township Tuesday night.

About 10 of those in his camp were students he knew from St. Vincent.

Bobby Angelo, who is one of the students and is also a Republican councilman from South Connellsville, said he volunteered for his professor “because he has good values and I wanted to support him.” Saccone volunteer Sally Fellabaum, 68, of Elrama, said she decided to back Saccone after meeting him at a recent church function in Round Hill Park. It was the first time she ever volunteered for a candidate and Fellabaum said she did so because “he’s down to earth” and a supporter of senior citizens.

Levdansky campaigned in this election on his experience, pre senting himself as a public servant unafraid to take on money interests and a supporter of a severance tax on Marcellus shale drillers.

The race between the two men had its ugly moments and both continued, even Tuesday night, to say one had outspent the other in the campaign.

Each also accused the other of running a dirty campaign.

During the campaign, Saccone had criticized Levdansky for advertisements that linked him, as a former member of the Elizabeth Forward school board, to genderequity lawsuits that resulted in the district paying out some $3.3 mil lion in damages to teachers who were hired at the wrong pay step.

Levdansky defended the ads as factually accurate even though Saccone said he had nothing to do with the controversial hiring practices that led to the suits.

Levdansky said vandals defaced a campaign poster of his along Route 48 in Elizabeth Township with a pornographic image.

The candidates did not debate each other during the race.

Saccone turned down a League of Women Voters of Washington County debate because of a schedule conflict.

Saccone later said the National Rifle Association or Firearm Owners Against Crime, both of which backed Saccone, could hold the debate. Levdansky didn’t take him up on the offer, saying it would have been like him arranging a debate before the Democratic Party or Allegheny County Labor Council.

At Levdansky campaign headquarters, campaign supporter Margaret Morgan, who is also president of the Elizabeth Forward school board, said the tight race in the 39th was part of a larger political trend this year.

“This was throw-the-Democratsout day,” she quipped.