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Cerilli outspends commissioner competition in Westmoreland County

Rich Cholodofsky
| Sunday, May 10, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Political newcomer Gina Cerilli leads all candidates for Westmoreland County commissioner in fundraising and spending in the May 19 primary.

The campaign for Cerilli, a Democrat, spent nearly $96,000 so far this year, according to financial reports filed Friday in Westmoreland County.

A public relations specialist, the 29-year-old graduated from law school last week.

From April 1 through May 4, Cerilli raised more than $62,000, outpacing Democratic incumbent Commissioner Ted Kopas and South Greensburg businesswoman Linda Iezzi, who is seeking one of two Democratic nominations.

Cerilli far outpaced Republican incumbents Chuck Anderson and Tyler Courtney, whose financial reports show their campaign spent a combined $31,000 since Jan. 1.

“There are so many candidates running, so I have to have money,” Cerilli said Friday. “I want to get my name out there. I'm a newcomer, so I have to be more aggressive with it.”

While Cerilli is a newcomer, her family has been an integral name in county politics for decades. Even with those political ties, her ability to raise money has surprised some observers.

“Ms. Cerilli obviously has a strong organization. No one raises that kind of money unless they have a really solid base of support,” said Jim Wasylik, president of West Media Group, a political consulting firm in Latrobe.

“I can't recall someone coming on the scene and be able to spend that kind of money. It's a pretty unusual situation,” he said.

According to her financial report, Cerilli had $8,600 remaining to spend leading up to the primary.

Kopas, who is seeking his second full term in office, has a bankroll of more than $87,000 leading into the final week of the campaign.

His campaign raised about $46,000 since the beginning of the year and spent less than $37,000.

“I believe we've allocated our resources properly. This is only part of a year-long strategy,” Kopas said.

Iezzi, who finished third, was just a few votes shy of winning a Democratic nomination for commissioner four years ago. She said her finances are less important because she has continued to campaign since that primary loss.

Iezzi's campaign reports indicate she spent $17,000 since the beginning of the year and has about $5,500 left for the final days of the primary season.

“It's not a disadvantage,” Iezzi said. “This is not my first race. I've done this for four years to get my name out.”

Republican incumbents Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney are running a coordinated campaign and are sharing expenses. They face challenges from Greensburg dentist Ron Gazze and Irwin resident Jason Atwood, both of whom are running shoestring campaigns.

Gazze's campaign listed less than $500 in assets while Atwood's reports showed donations of just $1,600.

Anderson and Courtney, who in 2011 seized control of the board for Republicans for the first time in six decades, said they are not taking the primary lightly.

“I don't take anything for granted. We're doing what we need to do to tell our story. Tyler and I are running together, so we're doing it for half-price,” Anderson said.

Anderson's reports showed his campaign has spent less than $6,000 this year while it has raised about $13,000. He has more than $77,000 for the last weeks of the primary and into a potential general election.

Courtney's campaign has raised and spent more. Since April 1, Courtney has raised more than $40,000 and spent about $25,000. His campaign still has nearly $87,000 in reserve.

“We don't want to use up a lot of our cash reserves moving into the general election,” Courtney said.

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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