Zappala wins Allegheny County District Attorney race

The incumbent Democrat lost in the primary but received enough write-in votes to run on the Republican ticket.

By: - November 7, 2023 11:15 pm

After losing to challenger Matt Dugan in the May primary, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala was reelected Tuesday, according to unofficial tallies. The Associated Press called the race for Zappala shortly after 11 p.m.

Zappala, who served six terms as Allegheny County district attorney, received enough write-in votes to qualify for the Republican nomination, which he accepted in June. Dugan, the county’s chief public defender, won the Democratic primary with 55.6% of the vote, to Zappala’s 44.3%. 

Like several other high-profile races in Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County district attorney contest attracted attention from outside sources. Between the May primary and the general election, Dugan’s campaign received close to $1.8 million from the Pennsylvania Justice and Public Safety PAC, funded by progressive billionaire George Soros, campaign financial disclosures show. 

More than $1 million of the PAC’s funding came as in-kind contributions that paid for television commercials and mailers. Dugan told the Capital-Star in May that the funding helped his campaign increase its profile because Zappala “had long-standing relationships with labor and other folks and a lot of folks were afraid to donate to us for fear of retribution.” 

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Zappala’s campaign raised close to $700,000 in the general election, which included about $200,000 from PACs representing labor unions and banks, among other groups, campaign financial disclosures show. 

In August, he received an endorsement from the Forward Party, founded by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Zappala said at the time he would “not let Pittsburgh descend into the lawlessness of San Francisco and Philadelphia,” a theme repeated in his television commercials.

During a debate in October, Zappala repeatedly said “I’m not a politician,” but suggested the length of his term in office was an asset. Dugan portrayed a DA’s office in disarray and called his record into question. 

This story was updated at 11:15 p.m.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly