Allegheny County Democrats pick up a County Council district, but Republicans secure state Supreme Court seat in 2017 election

Allegheny County Democrats pick up a County Council district, but Republicans secure state Supreme Court seat in 2017 election

Author: Stephen Caruso/Wednesday, November 8, 2017/Categories: Pittsburgh

In an off year election that turned out just under one in four Allegheny County voters Tuesday night, a liberal Democrat picked up a suburban Republican seat on the county council while another Republican council member won re-election on a knife edge margin.

However, in a statewide race, Republicans secured a temporarily appointed seat on the state Supreme Court for the next ten years.

Also, an independent progressive candidate, backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, ousted a 24 year Democratic incumbent for magistrate judge in Pittsburgh’s East End. Other than those races, many officials ran unopposed on the city and county level.

Voter turnout for the county overall was three percent lower than the 2015 off-year election, when the county executive, county controller and district attorney were up for election. It was three percent higher than 2013’s election when many of the county and city same positions were up for a vote.

City elections

Of five city races, only one was even contested on a night that affirmed continued Democratic dominance in the city of Pittsburgh.


As the Allegheny County Democratic Committee held its annual election night party Tuesday night, one election that required little sweat was the race for the Mayor of Pittsburgh.

After beating two primary opponents in May, incumbent Bill Peduto ran unopposed to secure his second four year term. He won 95.95 percent of the vote.

However, he was nowhere to been seen at the UA Local 449 Steamfitter’s hall in Mt. Washington as party officials and candidates milled about.

There in his stead was Keyva Clark, Peduto’s campaign manager. She said the Mayor was actually on his way to Bonn, Germany for a United Nations climate summit.

“We wanted candidates with contested races to have the spotlight,” Clark said.

City Council District 4

While four Pittsburgh city council members were up for re-election Tuesday, only one faced a competitor.

The lone competitive race was for District 4, which includes much of the city’s South Hills neighborhoods. There, Democrat Anthony Coghill defeated Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate 79.50 percent to 17.78 percent.

Coghill, who has no prior elected experience, partially credited his win to a 4-1 advantage in registered Democrats in the district, as well as to his message to focus on local quality of life issues over taking stands on national topics.

“I’ll categorize myself as a blue collar, hard working guy, and I was going to look out for the district, whether it be clean water, whether it be public safety, whether it potholes, whatever you want to say, back to basics,” Coghill said at the ACDC event Tuesday night.

A victory for Cibrone-Abate would have made her the lone Republican on council, and the first since the Great Depression. The lack of Republican voice in city government also motivated her to run in the first place.

Incumbent Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak announced she was stepping down to spend more time with her family late last year, sparking a primary between her Chief of Staff, Ashleigh Deemer, and Coghill. Coghill defeated her by nearly 15 percentage points in the May contest.

City Council Districts 2, 6 and 8

In other news, facing no challengers, Councilmembers Theresa Kail-Smith (District 2), Dan Gilman (District 8) and R. Daniel Lavelle (District 6) all won re-election while running unopposed.

Kail-Smith, who represents the city’s West End, and Lavelle, who represents the Hill District, will now sit for a third term, while Gilman, representing parts of Oakland, Point Breeze and Shadyside, earned his second.

County elections

The slate of six county council races ran the gamut from razor thin margins decided by less than one percent of the vote to incumbents running unopposed for reelection. But by the end of the night, the Democrats had picked up an extra seat on council to increase their majority to eleven of the fifteen seats. 

County Council District 3

The pickup was by Anita Prizio, a Bernie Sanders delegate at last year’s Democratic national convention. She defeated incumbent Republican Ed Kress in District 3, which includes Fox Chapel, O’Hara Millvale and Shaler to the north of Pittsburgh.

Prizio, a small business owner from O’Hara, focused her campaign on transparency in government, environmental issues, and responding to the opioid epidemic.

“Hopefully I have some new ideas I can implement on council, my transparency issues, clean water, clean air, clean government,” Prizio said.

Kress, who was elected in 2013, could not be reached for comment.

County Council District 1

Republican Incumbent Tom Baker won by a whisker against Democratic challenger Jack Betkowski Tuesday night, 50.35 percent to 49.45 percent.

According to The Incline, both candidates focused their campaign on the opioid crisis. The district encompasses much of western Allegheny county, including Moon and North Fayette.

County Council Districts 4, 8, 9 and 12

The rest of the districts up for election were won by the incumbents, all Democrats. In District 4, Patrick Catena Jr., a former Carnegie city council member appointed to the County Council in January, won his own term with 65.69 percent of the vote against Dimitrios Pantzoulas.

In District 8, Charles Martoni, a 17 year incumbent, bested his Republican challenger Michael Dell with 62.25 percent of the vote in a district made up of Monroeville and Plum.

And victory was guaranteed for District 9’s Bob Macey, who represents much of the Mon Valley, and District 12’s Robert Palmosina, who represents parts of Pittsburgh’s West End and South Hills neighborhoods along with Green Tree and Mount Oliver, who both ran unopposed.

Judicial Races

Justice for the Supreme Court

In a statewide race, Republican Sallie Mundy defeated Democrat Dwayne Woodruff by just over four percentage points Tuesday night, 52.34 percent to 47.66 percent. Mundy was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf after the resignation of J. Michael Eakin in March of that year.

Woodruff, a former Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steeler and current Allegheny County Family Court judge, previously ran for the seat on the Supreme Court in 2015 but lost in the primary.

Mundy, who according to her website is endorsed by the National Rifle Association, pro-life groups, and public safety unions, will not change the party alignment of the court, where Democrats currently hold a 5-2 advantage. 

District 31 Magisterial Judge

Mike Pappas, a former civil rights attorney and independent candidate, knocked off 24 year Democratic incumbent Ron Costa for a magisterial district judge seat that encompasses parts of Bloomfield, Friendship East Liberty and Highland Park in Pittsburgh. While Pappas had no official party support, he was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America in a race that showed the growing power outside the established parties.

Speaking at the party Tuesday night, ACDC chair Nancy Patton Mills said the party is preparing for more challenges from independents as they may arise.

"Every cycle will will have new people running," Patton Mills said. "A lot of our incumbents are aware of a trend, a lot of independent people will be running in the future. We’re preparing our party to meet any challenges and congratulate all winners."