Steve Zappala reelected as district attorney of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County after primary loss
Longtime incumbent Steve Zappala was reelected Tuesday as district attorney in Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh, this time running as a Republican after he lost a primary challenge.
Zappala’s victory over progressive Democrat Matt Dugan was a rematch of the May Democratic primary, which he lost. Zappala received enough write-in votes in the Republican primary to run as that party’s nominee in the general election.
“In terms of my politics, I’m not a politician,” he said during a debate in October. “I don’t care about the GOP. I don’t care about the Democrats.”
Zappala defended his record as DA and said his support came from the county. He also dismissed his opponent as having out-of-state financial support.
“Quite frankly he’s given assurances and he’s done things that every one of these prosecutors that fit the same mold all across this country have said to their constituents, they get into office and they destroy the city. They destroy a region. I’m not gonna let this guy do that,” he said during a debate.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Voters elected women for the first time to lead Philadelphia and Pennsylvania’s second-largest county, installing Cherelle Parker as the 100th mayor of the state’s largest city and Sara Innamorato as executive of the county that includes Pittsburgh.
Parker, 51, who has held office at the state and local level after first becoming involved in politics as a teenager, emerged from a crowded field of Democrats in the May primary as the only leading Black candidate and was heavily favored over Republican David Oh in the Democratic stronghold. She will replace Democrat Jim Kenney, who was ineligible for reelection due to term limits.
Across the state in Allegheny County, Innamorato, 37, defeated Republican Joe Rockey, a political newcomer. The former state legislator who campaigned on progressive models to modernize county government will replace Democrat Rich Fitzgerald, who has served in the role since 2012 and was ineligible for reelection due to term limits.
The races will set the electoral stage for 2024, when Pennsylvania will be a presidential battleground state, with candidates taking lessons about how Democrats seeand the strength of progressives in . into the next election cycle.
To the tune of “Ladies First,” an emotional Parker appeared and adressed supporters at her election night watch party, repeating campaign promises to address struggles with crime, education, jobs and poverty. She vowed to work with Philadelphia’s state legislative delegation and City Council to move the city forward.
“Who is Cherelle Parker going to be? A get-it-done Philadelphian. A get-it-done mayor who won’t ever forget her deep roots,” she said. “I’m Philly-born, I’m Philly-bred and I’ll be Philadelphian ’til I’m dead.”
Having served for 10 years as a state representative for northwest Philadelphia before her election to the city council in 2015, she touted herself on the campaign trail as a leader whose government experience would allow her to address gaping problems in the city.
“We can’t solve these problems alone,” she said previously. “We need federal, state and local government, along with the private sector and philanthropic communities, to help us address the public health and safety.”
Parker’s moderate message resonated with voters who are increasingly worried about public safety as well as quality-of-life issues, from faulty streetlights to potholes to trash collection. She also promised a well-trained police force that is engaged with the community alongt with mental health and behavioral support.
Supporters at the watch party hugged in celebration. Among them was Carolyn Mosley, 57, who said her main concerns going into the election were crime and taxes.
After meeting Parker at a church event earlier this year, she was “100% sold,” she said: “I believe that she can effectively change Philadelphia.”
“Her story reminds me of my story,” said Mosley, who is also a Black woman. “And I can see girls can emulate her.”
Innamorato’s victory is a win for a progressive movement that has sought to win local elections in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles after setbacks on the national level. Our Revolution, born during Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential race and now one of the largest progressive organizations in the country, endorsed Innamorato in the primary.
She campaigned on improving policies at the Allegheny County Jail as part of a “comprehensive public health approach to public safety.” She supports ending mandatory minimums, solitary confinement and high fines and fees for minor offenses. She also advocates for affordable housing and economic growth.
Voters in the county were also deciding between a 25-year incumbent and the county’s chief public defender in a race for district attorney that is a rematch from the May Democratic primary, in which Matt Dugan defeated longtime incumbent Steve Zappala. After a late campaign, Zappala received enough write-in votes in the Republican primary to run as that party’s nominee in the general election.
Dugan, 44, has called for reform of the office and pushed for new leadership. He emphasized diverting low-level, nonviolent offenders to mental health and substance abuse programs rather than cycle them through the criminal justice system. He said that would let prosecutors focus on violent crimes and also help break the cycle of recidivism.
Zappala has criticized those proposals, highlighting his record and career in the office and arguing in favor of prosecuting low-level crimes so they don’t spiral out of control. He said his opponent offers only “empty promises, empty assurances.”
Associated Press video journalist Tassanee Vejpongsa in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
Brooke Schultz, The Associated Press