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Field crowded for Westmoreland commissioner, row office races

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Four Republicans and three Democrats will run for county commissioner this spring in Westmoreland County, topping a ballot full of contested races and primary challenges for incumbents.

Tuesday afternoon was the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions to appear on the May 19 primary ballot.

On the Republican ballot, Commissioners Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney were challenged by dentist Ron Gazze and kiln operator Jason Atwood, both of Greensburg.

Four years ago, Courtney and Anderson won the first GOP majority in the county commissioners office in six decades. They said they will run as a team again this year. Gazze, who ran for commissioner as an independent candidate four years ago, will run as a Republican this year.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Ted Kopas will be challenged by South Greensburg business owner Linda Iezzi and law student Gina Cerilli. Iezzi finished third in the Democratic primary four years ago. Cerilli is a first-time candidate.

All three Democrats have indicated they will run separate campaigns this spring.

The top two vote-getters in each primary will face off in November for the three commissioner positions. Democrats have focused on this race since losing their majority as well as five row office positions in 2011.

“Everyone has the right to run,” Democratic Party Chairman Henry Boldyzar said.

Nine lawyers are vying for three open judge seats on the county's Court of Common Pleas.

David Regoli, who was appointed last year by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, Scott Mears and assistant public defender Chris Huffman are running as Democrats.

Harry Smail Jr., who also was appointed by Corbett last year, is running, along with fellow Republicans Thomas Anderson, Hope Aston, state Rep. Tim Krieger, Leslie Uncapher Zellers and Jim Silvis.

All judicial candidates cross-filed, meaning they will run in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

While Democratic Party committee members are set to meet to consider endorsements, Boldyzar said they could decide to have an open primary in which the party would stay neutral in the contested races.

“It'll be up to the committee,” Boldyzar said.

Republican Committee Chairman Michael Korns could not be reached for comment.

Three Republican incumbents who were part of the party's sweep of courthouse row offices in 2011 have primary challengers.

First-term Sheriff Jonathan Held will be challenged by his former chief deputy, Paul McCommons, and a deputy in the office, Steve Felder.

Two Democrats who ran four years ago, Deputy Coroner Paul Cycak and Penn Township businessman Al Lonzo, are seeking their party nomination for sheriff.

First-term Controller Jeffrey Balzer will be challenged by Clint Jones, a West Newton financial adviser. Balzer ran as a write-in candidate in the GOP primary four years ago and managed to defeat two-term incumbent Carmen Pedicone in the general election.

One Democrat, Joseph Dreskler Jr., is on the ballot for controller.

The race for recorder of deeds has a rematch. Incumbent Frank Schiefer will be unopposed in the GOP primary. Former recorder of deeds Tom Murphy is seeking to win back the job. Murphy, a Democrat from Arnold, served three terms before losing to Schiefer four years ago.

First-term incumbent Jared Squires, a Republican, and Democrat John Scott Nestor, a Monessen councilman, are the lone candidates for county treasurer.

Chief deputy in the register of wills office, Sherry Magretti Hamilton, a Hempfield supervisor, is unopposed in the GOP primary to replace incumbent Michael Ginsburg, who is not seeking re-election. Democrat Maria G. DiPiazza is the lone Democrat on the ballot for that row office.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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