Democrat Fitzgerald tops Raja in Allegheny County executive race
An ebullient Rich Fitzgerald celebrated his victory on Tuesday to become the third executive-elect in Allegheny County history, promising to continue the policies he says have turned the region around.
Fitzgerald, 52, D-Squirrel Hill, who runs a water treatment consulting business and served on County Council for 12 years, including eight as president, defeated D. Raja, 46, R-Mt. Lebanon, who founded a software company in his spare bedroom and grew it into an international firm with hundreds of employees.
In Westmoreland County, Republicans appeared on the verge of authoring a historic shift in government power. GOP candidates were close to winning a majority of the board of commissioners and several row offices for the first time in 55 years.
Fitzgerald led Raja by 25 percentage points with 93 percent of precincts reporting. Fewer than 30 percent of voters appeared to have turned out for a contentious race which, by the end, became marked by mudslinging.
"We were able to get our message out and win over the voters," Fitzgerald told supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall on the South Side.
Raja conceded about 9:30 p.m.
"There is no doubt this county is better off for the debate we just had," Raja told about 100 supporters in a Radisson Green Tree ballroom. Evoking cheers from supporters, he added: "I am not going away. I will continue to be involved."
With 245 of 306 precincts reporting in Westmoreland County, Republicans Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney were topping the ticket with 27 percent and 23.7 percent, respectively. Incumbent Democrat Ted Kopas was running third with 23 percent. Mt. Pleasant Borough Mayor Gerald Lucia was in the fourth position, several thousand votes short of winning a seat on the board.
Despite a Democratic registration edge of more than 2-to-1 in Allegheny County, Fitzgerald campaigned hard until the end, starting the race's last days before dawn to greet commuters at transit stops around the county. Raja hosted town hall meetings throughout the summer and began the campaign's final week by launching a group he called Democrats for Raja in an attempt to appeal to the electoral majority.
When Fitzgerald takes office on Jan. 2, there won't be much time for a honeymoon. Outgoing two-term Executive Dan Onorato went straight from his inauguration to a high-stakes meeting with US Airways officials who were abandoning their hub here. Today, issues at the airport, Port Authority and within the county budget will demand immediate attention.
Port Authority faces a $64 million deficit next year and the prospect of chopping its service in half. Pittsburgh International Airport, designed to handle 30 million passengers, served just 8.2 million last year.
The county doesn't have much money to spend on major new initiatives. After more than 10 years with no property tax increases, the difference between tax revenue and expenditures in the county nearly reached $50 million. Neither candidate offered specifics about where they would cut expenses or which tax they would raise.
But the issue that's likely to eclipse all others in the early part of next year is the court-ordered property assessment.
The state Supreme Court ordered the county to reassess because it said property values are so stale that the tax bills they determine are unconstitutionally inaccurate. The reassessment is scheduled to take effect next year, with new home values going to Pittsburgh homeowners first, as early as December. According to a Common Pleas Court schedule, the county is supposed to mail homeowners their preliminary values by Jan. 31 and certify the new assessments by early April.
Fitzgerald said he'll refuse to implement the new assessment until state lawmakers require all counties to keep their property assessment as current as Allegheny County's, even saying he would go to jail rather than comply with a court order to send out the new values.
None of these problems is insurmountable, Fitzgerald said, pledging to work with Republican leaders in Harrisburg to bring jobs to the county he'll lead for the next four years.
"Jobs is not a partisan issue," Fitzgerald said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- With most starters resting, Steelers turn in lackluster loss at Heinz
- Experts warn Kane’s Haiti trip might jeopardize any case from 2014 wiretap
- Steelers laud decision, praise Brady for taking on Goodell
- Liriano struggles as Brewers complete sweep of Pirates
- Vick supporters, opponents demonstrate before Steelers’ game, but coexist
- Gorman: Friday night to be strange without Fedko
- Steelers notebook: Thomas, Moats only starting defensive players to see action vs. Panthers
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto: Public has stake in Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Czech rookie Simon getting familiar with surroundings
- Five taken to hospitals after school bus-SUV crash in Washington Township
- Two Westmoreland men charged with drug possession