Teplitz, DiSanto in hotly contested race for Pa. Senate seat

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gerrymandered districts in Pennsylvania all but assure that incumbents win their fall elections and Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry) is seeking re-election.

“In my second term, I’ll continue to fight for great schools, good jobs, and government reform,” Teplitz promised voters during a recent visit to ABC27 studios. “And I’ll continue to be the most accessible, responsive, and transparent public official I can be.”

But getting a second term won’t be easy for Teplitz. Republican challenger John DiSanto is a Midstate businessman running as an outsider. You may have heard that’s trendy this campaign season.

John DiSanto
John DiSanto

“Everybody’s fed up with government; the way it’s working, the way we’re getting things, or not getting things done,” DiSanto, a land and real estate developer, said Monday.

This showdown for the district that represents Harrisburg, much of Dauphin County and all of Perry County is bigger than the two candidates.

“This election is not just about the 15th district,” said Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital, a lifelong resident of the 15th. “This election will reverberate across the state.”

Four years ago, Teplitz was the first Democrat in 76 years to win the seat after Jeff Piccola retired. Republicans desperately want it back and are hoping to get a veto-proof majority in the Senate. They need to flip three seats and are counting on the 15th. They also redrew the district to include all of Perry County, which is – ahem – GOP-friendly.

Sen. Rob Teplitz
Sen. Rob Teplitz

“This is an interesting political year,” Teplitz said with a smile at a recent Meet the Candidates night. “We’re running our own race on our own schedule.”

In television ads, Teplitz has thrown a few punches. One says that DiSanto would slash all funding for programs that help veterans and seniors. DiSanto denies that profusely.

DiSanto countered with an ad of his own in which he’s shoveling horse manure and saying that Teplitz, too, has been shoveling the stuff on the end of his pitchfork.

“I think the tone so far has been about as civil as it gets in an election in 2016,” Epstein said.

It’s also a rare sight in 2016: a fall election with two strong candidates and no automatic victory for the incumbent.

“This is what we want in America,” Epstein said. “You have a choice this time. It’s gonna be a nail biter.”

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