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Ellenbogen faces challenger in only Allegheny County Council primary race

Theresa Clift
| Thursday, March 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Allegheny County Councilman Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville
Allegheny County Councilman Jim Ellenbogen, D-Banksville
Democrat Robert Palmosina, who is challenging Ellenbogen for the District 12 seat on Allegheny County Council.
Democrat Robert Palmosina, who is challenging Ellenbogen for the District 12 seat on Allegheny County Council.

For the first time in 10 years on Allegheny County Council, Jim Ellenbogen will face a challenger in the primary election.

Ellenbogen is the only county councilman being challenged this spring. Banksville Democrat Robert Palmosina, Collier's public works director, is making a run for Ellenbogen's District 12 seat.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed Palmosina — a ward chair who cast a vote in favor of endorsing himself — while County Executive Rich Fitzgerald endorsed Ellenbogen.

Ellenbogen said he did not seek the committee's endorsement.

“That endorsement is not a reflection of the voters in this district,” he said. “It's just a joke.”

Ellenbogen, who chairs council's Public Safety Committee, said during his time on council, the county has hired more police officers, added a station in Wilmerding and reinvented the police force.

“People have defined me as a common-sense councilman who's not afraid to speak up for the right issues,” Ellenbogen said. “I'm not a wallflower.”

Ellenbogen said he was the only Democrat on council to vote against the politically charged 10 percent drink tax in 2008.

Formerly chief enforcement officer for the state Department of Revenue, Ellenbogen is no longer an employee there, said Kevin Hensil, a department spokesman.

Ellenbogen declined to discuss his departure, saying he is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the department.

Palmosina worked for Pittsburgh's Public Works department for more than 30 years before being fired in January 2014.

He filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was fired for supporting Jack Wagner, Mayor Bill Peduto's opponent, in the Democratic primary. The city settled with Palmosina in February 2015 for $55,000.

Palmosina, who started in Collier in April, said he is looking for a way to give back to the community — an opportunity he misses about his job at the city. If elected, he said he plans to learn the needs of staff and residents, then put forth legislation to address those needs.

“I'm not a regular politician,” he said. “I will stick to my guns and truly look at the issues.”District 12 includes Pittsburgh's southern neighborhoods, the West End and portions of the South Hills.

The primary is May 16.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669 or tclift@tribweb.com.

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