How did the region’s embattled candidates fare in the primary? |

How did the region’s embattled candidates fare in the primary?

Megan Guza
City Councilwoman Darlene Harris reflects on her years of public service on May 22, 2019, the day after she lost in the Democratic primary to challenger Bobby Wilson.
Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi, and Joe Puet supporter of mayoral challenger Joe Bia, great resident Robert Rowe, as he enters to voter at the H.D. Berkey School Tuesday. May 21, 2019.
Turahn Jenkins, left, the former chief deputy director of the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office, is challenging county District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. in the May 21 Democratic primary election.
Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held
Peters Township School Board member William Merrell
Bobby Wilson plans to challenge Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris in the Democratic primary on May 21.

Several incumbents went into Tuesday’s primary election facing strong criticism or controversy over decisions they made in office.

Some won, some lost.

Here’s a look at how the embattled candidates fared.

Bobby Wilson topples Darlene Harris for Pittsburgh City Council District 1

Unofficial vote tallies show Wilson taking more than half of the vote – 57% to Harris’ 32%. A medical researcher at Pitt, Wilson ran on a pledge to advocate for working families on the North Side and champion the city’s Housing Opportunity Fund.

Harris, 66, has sparred with everyone from Mayor Bill Peduto to council President Bruce Kraus, accusing the latter of stealing a crèche from her in Christmas 2017. She has fended off challengers to her council seat before but couldn’t Tuesday night.

Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi wouldn’t resign, so voters took matters into their own hands

Peconi refused to resign her office last year amid outrage over a Facebook post some viewed as racist and advocating violence. Voters on Tuesday met that refusal by ousting the incumbent in favor of first-term councilman Joe Bia II.

Bia garnered 394 votes – about 75% of the total ballots cast.

Peconi came under fire when she posted a video of protesters elsewhere being hit with water cannons, commenting, “We need one of these for tomorrow,” a reference to demonstrators protesting the police shooting of Antwon Rose II.

Protesters and Gov. Tom Wolf called for her resignation, but Peconi later said she was “tired of hearing” about it.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. sails past first challenger in two decades

The incumbent district attorney shouldered the blame for the failed prosecution of Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh cop who shot and killed unarmed black teen Antwon Rose in June.

Protesters pointed to Zappala’s history of not charging police officers, a refrain they have continued ever since.

Zappala took 59% of the vote over Turahn Jenkins, who was the first to challenge Zappala in 20 years.

Reaction swift, severe for Peters school board member

Screenshots of a Facebook post some labeled racist and offensive surfaced last week, quite possibly costing Peters Township school board member William Merrell his seat at the table.

The post included a link to a list suggesting what would happen if all African Americans left the country and was accompanied by a racial slur. The screenshots suggest that Merrell posted the link and added his own comment of, “Crime in the Burgh would go down for sure.”

With five open seats and six cross-filed candidates, Merrell received the low vote on each side: 5% from Democrats and 11.4% from Republicans.

Westmoreland sheriff, still facing corruption charges, fends off challengers

Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held received the biggest chunk of Republican votes, staying alive among three competitors and setting his sights on a third term in office.

Held was charged last year by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro with three criminal counts that accused him of using county resources and staff to aid his last reelection bid in 2015. Investigators claimed Held directed his on duty staff to perform chores related to campaign fundraisers. A trial in December ended with jurors unable to reach a verdict.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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