Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, speaks on behalf of service industry workers (Pittsburgh City Paper photo)
PITTSBURGH — State Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, has jumped into the race for Allegheny County executive, pledging to continue to pursue the progressive policies that brought her to the legislature in 2018, and helped her win reelection last month.
“I know that together —and only together — we can tackle the reality that for far too long for many in this county, day-to-day life is too expensive and too hard,” the western Pennsylvania lawmaker said Thursday. “But we have the power to change it. I know together we can provide housing to help our neighbors stay in their homes, make property taxes affordable and fair, and protect renters from soaring costs. We will hold polluters accountable and build a green economy here that is good for our environment and our region’s long-term growth, and provide good-paying union jobs.”
Innamorato was joined at the announcement at Sprezzatura, a cafe in Millvale, by U.S. Rep-elect Summer Lee, D-12th District, and Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.
Incumbent County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has held the post since 2011, is term-limited and can’t seek reelection.
But there are already several challengers to be the Democrats’ nominee for county executive. That list includes Pittsburgh CIty Controller Michael Lamb, Allegheny County Councilmember Olivia Bennett, former Congressional candidate Erin McClelland, and attorney and former Allegheny County Council member Dave Fawcett.
Innamorato and Lee were part of a wave of progressive candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, and both sought to shift the balance of power in Allegheny County, where Democrats typically win local elections.
Both faced heavily-favored and longtime incumbents; Innamorato beat former Rep. Dom Costa in the race for the 21st House District with 64 percent of the vote. Lee beat then-Rep. Paul Costa in the 34th House District, taking 67 percent of the vote.
Lee, who was elected to Congress in November, said she remembered the early days of campaigning with Innamorato, when many people told them not to try to run together, that they wouldn’t win, that they shouldn’t even try.
“Many months later, not only did we win, but we won by landslides,” Lee said. “We were committed to figuring out a way to build a western Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh, that’s for every single one of us and not just a select few who have means … We decided to tackle the issues that people care about. That’s what we’re going to get with Sara: Someone who shows up every single day centering the values that brought her to this point.”
Gainey, who became Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor when he beat incumbent Bill Peduto last year, said Innamorato is a leader, not just a boss. “I know a lot of leaders but it’s different when you have a leader with a heart,” he said. “Everything that we believe in, she’s fought for. She hasn’t just talked about it, she’s demonstrated it.”
Innamorato said her childhood continues to play a central role in her political positions.
Her father suffered from opioid addiction and died of an overdose, which left her family in precarious financial circumstances.
“When I lost my father, I lost the universe of possibilities that he contained,” she said. “And my family, we lost our foundation. My mom, my sister and I lost our home.”
But her mother worked hard to ensure she and her sister had some sense of normalcy, Innamorato added, and it gave her perspective when she entered politics.
“I know that there are families across the county whose loved ones’ lives are too short, whether by overdose or gun violence. People across this county are working hard and they still can’t get ahead,” she said. “They don’t feel that secure in their housing. Single parents aren’t able to access the resources they need, and many still do not get paid a living wage. Don’t get me wrong. There were times where my story made me feel alone. 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.”
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