Longtime Democratic state Sen. John Wozniak, 56, survived a scare from newcomer Tim Houser to win his ninth term in the Senate.
The final tally was 29,471 to 27,720, for a 3 percent margin of victory across the sprawling 35th senatorial district.
“That was some run, wasn’t it?” Houser, 55, said late Tuesday. “It has been a good experience.”
The race was targeted by the state Republican Party, hoping to hold onto control of the Senate as a combination of retirements and failed redistricting efforts gave Democrats an opportunity to erase a 30-20 Republican majority over two election cycles.
Republicans saw the 35th as a chance to win a new seat, throwing more than $150,000 into the final weeks of race to help challenger Houser, a funeral director from Ebensburg.
The slim margin of victory did not shock Wozniak, of Westmont, who pointed to the last-minute onslaught of attack ads from both sides.
“That’s what negative campaigning does,” Wozniak said. “But that’s politics. I had to fight back.”
Wozniak said he does not blame Houser for the negative ads.
“It was never about Tim; it was about me,” Wozniak said. “I’d use the same stuff against me if I were running against me.”
Many of the ads called attention to Wozniak’s three decades in Harrisburg. He first was elected to the state House in 1981, winning the Senate seat in 1997.
Houser called Wozniak to concede the election just after 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Wozniak is looking forward to a slight change in the dynamics of the senate, with Democrats picking up at least two seats statewide.
“It makes for a more viable political force,” he said.
Wozniak wants to continue diversifying the state’s economy and seek to reform basic education funding formulas.
For his part, Houser said he plans step back out of politics.
“I think that sometimes God asks you to bloom where you are planted,” Houser said, adding that he has enjoyed helping families in Ebensburg through his funeral business.
“So, it is back to the funeral home work tomorrow,” he said.
Houser hopes his impressive showing against the 32-year legislator encourages others to consider running for office.