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Dems Sweep County Offices — Except for DA

Zappala holds off challenger to capture seventh term

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 08, 2023
Posted in: Politics & Elections

In an image from live video, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato celebrates her election as Allegheny County’s first woman chief executive with well-wishers at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale. (Facebook)

Democrats had a good night across Allegheny County on Tuesday — with one notable exception.

With 99.7 percent of the returns counted, former state Rep. Sara Innamorato was on pace Wednesday morning to become Allegheny County’s first woman chief executive, and other members of the party were capturing row offices and county council seats.

But Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., running as a Republican, held off challenger Matt Dugan, winning re-election to a seventh term thanks in part to strong support in the Mon-Yough area.

Incomplete and unofficial returns from the Allegheny County Elections Bureau showed Zappala leading Dugan by nearly 12,000 votes with all but four precincts counted.

Dugan, a Democrat, defeated Zappala in the May primary, but Zappala won the Republican nomination with write-in votes, setting up the rematch.

Outside of the city of Pittsburgh, a traditional Democratic stronghold, Zappala had strong support everywhere in Allegheny County. In the Mon Valley, Zappala won four of McKeesport's 12 wards, five districts in Clairton and all but one ward in North Versailles Twp.

The district attorney has had a strong presence in the Mon-Yough area, where members of his office’s drug task force work closely with local police, and he maintains an office on Lysle Boulevard in the former Daily News Building.

With all but four precincts reporting, Innamorato, a two-term legislator from Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood, held an 8,300 vote lead over Republican Joe Rockey, a retired PNC Bank executive from Ohio Twp. running for his first elected office.

Innamorato will replace outgoing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who is retiring after serving three terms.

During a victory party at Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale, Innamorato was joined by several Mon-Yough area elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Austin Davis of McKeesport, and she thanked state Rep. Nick Pisciottano of West Mifflin and others for their support.

“This is a new era of partnership between the city and the county,” Innamorato said, following an introduction by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, “and I know when we work together, we will deliver great things for people throughout this region.”

Innamorato performed well in traditional Democratic strongholds such as McKeesport and Duquesne and also picked up districts in Dravosburg, East McKeesport, Glassport, North Versailles Twp., Versailles and Wilmerding.

Rockey swept White Oak — which has been trending strongly Republican for decades — and all of the Elizabeth-Forward communities.

About 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Allegheny County — an unusually high level for a non-presidential year election, reflective of the intense interest in the race for the two top county-wide offices.

That was fueled in part by heavy spending on advertising, including TV and radio commercials and direct mail from the candidates and political action committees. The Tribune-Review reported that more than $2.5 million was poured into the county executive race — most of it by Republicans, with $230,000 coming from Philadelphia-area billionaire Jeff Yass, who was supporting Rockey.

Turnout in the 2019 municipal elections — the last time the county executive race was on the ballot — was only 29 percent.

In other county row office elections, Democrat Corey O'Connor was handily defeating Republican Bob Howard in the race for controller; in the race for treasurer, Democrat Erica Rocchi Brusselars was leading Republican Herb Ohliger by a wide margin; and in the race for an at-large seat on Allegheny County Council, Democratic incumbent Bethany Hallam was leading Republican Sam DeMarco by 57 to 42 percent.

In the only referendum on the ballot, county voters by a 52 to 48 margin voted to change the way that members of Allegheny County Council are reimbursed from a per-meeting basis to a per-year basis.

Statewide, Democrat Daniel McCaffery defeated Republican Carolyn Carluccio for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. McCaffery will replace the late chief justice Max Baer, who died last fall.

The Supreme Court race was another one influenced by Yass, who donated at least $2 million to efforts to elect Carluccio, according to published reports.

Originally published November 08, 2023.

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