PITTSBURGH — For the first time in more than a decade, voters in Allegheny County will choose a new county executive this year because Democratic incumbent Rich Fitzgerald is term-limited and can’t run again.
The race is not quite as crowded as the contest for Philadelphia’s next mayor, where Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney also is term-limited.
But the mix of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County’s top job runs the gamut from long-time party stalwarts to newer progressive voices.
And there’s still time for the field to grow even larger: The deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions to appear on the May 16 primary ballot is March 7.
Here’s a look at who’s announced they’ll seek the county executive job so far.
Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein has been in his job since 1999, and appears to have the biggest war chest of all the candidates, according to January 31 campaign finance reports.
During a campaign kickoff event in Pittsburgh last month, Weinstein pointed to his experience in county government, and said he doesn’t plan to seek re-election to his current job, instead going all-in on the county executive race.
Weinstein told WESA-FM that he believes the relationships he built over his tenure “could really be beneficial” to the area.
“It is no secret we are facing so many challenges in this region,” he told the crowd at his kickoff event.
State Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, first came to prominence along with now-U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, in 2018, as one of many progressive candidates who beat longtime Democratic incumbents.
She said during her campaign kickoff event in December that her childhood has played a central role in her politics; her father died of a drug overdose, and she and her mother and sister struggled financially.
“There were times where my story made me feel alone,” Innamorato said. “But I knew I wasn’t. I knew that in our shared struggle, there is power. And when we come together in that struggle in solidarity, we can do big things.”
Longtime Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb announced in November that he would seek the county’s top job. He’s served in local government in some capacity since 2000.
The county’s last-ever prothonotary, Lamb, also the uncle of former U.S. Rep Conor Lamb, told KDKA-TV that public officials should be independent in thought.
“I know we can deliver service better, and I know there is a role for the county to work with our municipal partners to do that,” Lamb said.
Erin McClelland is a consultant with the Allegheny County Department of Health and Human Services, and says that work has helped inform her bid for county executive.
“We have a workforce crisis,” she told the Capital-Star. “We are operating far below where we should be, and there is no chance of fixing it because most of our workforce comes out of civil service.”
She said her top priority would be to address how the county hires, which she called “completely antiquated, outdated, and burdensome.”
Allegheny County Councilor Olivia Bennett said she sees the lack of racial equity as the most important issue in Allegheny County. Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission found in a 2019 report that the city is the “most unlivable” city for Black women.
“It is the most consequential thing that needs to be addressed in this region,” Bennett told the Capital-Star.
She noted that while on county council she helped pass the Independent Police Review Board, focused on police accountability.
“I am a coalition builder, a connector, a consensus builder,” she said. “That is the type of person that needs to be at the helm of a county that is facing so many issues.”
Former Allegheny County Councilor Dave Fawcett, said in announcing his campaign for county executive In December that his experience as a litigator positioned him for the role, and that he was not afraid to take on big challenges.
“It’s on us to ensure that our children from all parts of the County have equal opportunities to learn, to be healthy and, later, to have great employment opportunities here in Pittsburgh,” Fawcett said.
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