Allegheny County District Attorney Zappala ‘affiliates’ with Forward Party in reelection bid

The longtime Democrat will appear on the Republican ballot in November

By: - August 17, 2023 3:14 pm

PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala received the endorsement of the Forward Party on Thursday, announcing his “affiliation” with the third-party organization as he campaigns for re-election as a Republican.

“I am honored by the support of the Forward Party because it is an indication that my office isn’t a Republican or Democratic office, it’s an effective one,” Zappala said in a statement to the Capital-Star. “Their support affirms our American ideals that justice should fairly serve all Americans, regardless of political party, race, sex, religion or ideology.”

A longtime Democrat who is in his sixth term as district attorney, Zappala lost in the Democratic primary in May to the county’s Chief Public Defender Matt Dugan. But Zappala will appear on the ballot in the fall as the Republican nominee. He received roughly 9,700 of more than 11,000 write-in votes, and accepted the GOP nomination in June.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a prosecutor,” Zappala said, adding his job was “to fight criminals, not coddle them.” He said he was running for re-election as district attorney because Allegheny County is “at a crossroads,” and he would “fight against anyone who puts the rights of criminals above victims.”

Zappala, who was first elected in 1998, added that “extreme experiments in criminal justice have proven to make families less safe. I will not let Pittsburgh descend into the lawlessness of San Francisco and Philadelphia. There is simply too much at stake.”

The Forward Party, founded by former Democratic candidate for president Andrew Yang in 2022, does not yet meet the requirements for official political party status in Pennsylvania. Its “affiliates” are “elected officials who retain their party registration with one of the two major parties, but publicly join with Forward” and pledge to govern according to its platform that includes principles like “bottom-up not top-down”  governing, “work together, not against” and “more listening, less talking,” according to its website.

Its other affiliates in Pennsylvania include state Sens. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, and Anthony H. Williams, D-Philadelphia; and Philadelphia Republican city commissioner Seth Bluestein.

Forward Party CEO Lindsey Williams Drath praised Zappala’s 25 years as district attorney in a statement, adding “he has won both Democratic and Republican primaries, showing his broad-based and cross-partisan appeal.”

The Dugan campaign said in a statement to the Capital-Star that the candidate was “proud to have beaten Steve Zappala in the Democratic primary based on his platform of building a justice system that works for us all. Steve is now associating with his third political party in four months a party whose most prominent supporters in Pennsylvania are outside the mainstream by supporting abortion bans and school vouchers.”

This article was updated at 5:41 p.m. Thursday Aug. 17, 2023 to include comment from Stephen Zappala.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications.