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Cherepko Wins Third Term;
Few Surprises in Local Races

- Incumbent McKeesport mayor defeats challenger, 2-1
- Voters OK Marsy's Law
- GOP dominates in Westmoreland

By Staff Reports
The Tube City Almanac
November 06, 2019
Posted in: Politics & Elections

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko is headed for a third term after winning Tuesday's election by a 2-1 margin.

According to complete but unofficial results from the Allegheny County Elections Division, Cherepko, a Democrat, defeated former city councilwoman Fawn Walker-Montgomery, running as an independent, 2,058 to 1,056 votes. There were 13 write-ins.

Across the region, there were few surprises on Tuesday, despite insurgent campaigns run, in some cases, by well-funded independents. Voters across Pennsylvania gave their overwhelming support to a proposed constitutional amendment dubbed "Marsy's Law," though it is unclear if their votes will be counted.

In McKeesport, Cherepko was running on his record as well as the strength of his "McKeesport Rising" program to address blight, infrastructure upgrades and crime. The former McKeesport Area teacher and McKeesport city council president had the endorsement of the Democratic Party as well as state Sen. Jim Brewster and state Rep. Austin Davis.

But Walker-Montgomery had attracted support from state Rep. Summer Lee's UNITE political action committee as well as Lisa Middleman, an independent who was challenging Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr.

Walker-Montgomery and Middleman both encouraged voters to "split the ticket" --- not vote for endorsed major party candidates.

Yet Zappala, who has served as the county's top prosecutor since 1998, handily defeated Middleman. Returns showed that Zappala, who was cross-filed as both a Republican and a Democrat, had about 57 percent of the vote versus 42 percent for Middleman.

Middleman won many neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh and three of 32 precincts in McKeesport, as well as one precinct each in Duquesne and Clairton.

Zappala dominated everywhere else, both in the Mon-Yough area and across Allegheny County's suburbs.

In the city, Cherepko led in all but six of McKeesport's 32 voting precincts, the county said. Voting turnout was about 26 percent in the city.

Four incumbent city council members --- Tim Brown, Keith Soles, Richard J. Dellapenna and LuEthel Nesbit --- were running for four seats, and will be returning in January, barring unforeseen circumstances.

There were 38 write-in votes, the county said.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat, held off a challenge from former Republican council councilman Matt Drozd, a Republican, 68 to 31 percent, to win his third term; while County Controller Chelsa Wagner, also a Democrat, easily defeated Republican newcomer Brooke Nadonley, 63 to 36 percent.

Across the line in Westmoreland County, incumbent Sheriff Jon Held, a Republican, was defeated for re-election by retired Greensburg magisterial district judge James Albert, a Democrat, by more than 5,000 votes, according to complete but unofficial returns from the election bureau. There were 154 write-ins.

Held, who has served as sheriff for eight years, has been dogged by allegations of corruption and last year faced criminal charges that he used his county office staff to perform political work. His trial on those charges ended without a verdict. Held also has been sued by several former employees.

Albert's win was one of the few bright spots for Westmoreland Democrats, who apparently have lost control of the county commission after incumbent Ted Kopas was defeated.

Returns showed newcomers Sean Kertes and Douglas Chew, both Republicans, as the top vote-getters across the county, followed by Democratic incumbents Gina Cerilli and Kopas.

Outside of sheriff, Republicans also won all of Westmoreland County's so-called row offices.

Voters in both Allegheny and Westmoreland counties went for the so-called "Marsy's Law" constitutional amendment by wide margins --- 69 to 31 percent and 74 to 26 percent, respectively. The amendment would expand the rights granted to victims of crimes.

"Marsy's Law" also was approved statewide, though the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that blocks counties from certifying county-level results.

Last week, a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the amendment's language, as drafted, was too broad to pass as a single amendment to the state constitution. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit from the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.

Originally published November 06, 2019.

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