2 McCandless council members knocked off in GOP primary
Two first-term McCandless council members who were propelled into office amid community outrage over plans to build a Walmart supercenter, failed to win party nominations in Tuesday’s primary to run for a second term.
Council President Kim Zachary lost the Ward 1 Republican nomination to Greg Martin, who pulled in 68.48 percent of the votes. No candidates ran for the Democratic nomination.
Despite the loss, Zachary, who changed party affiliation from Democrat to Republican when she ran for her first term, plans to challenge Martin in the fall.
She posted on social media that she is “the McCandless Ward 1 Democratic candidate. Thank you everyone for your help” — an indication that she had enough write-in votes on the Democratic ticket to secure the party’s nomination. Zachary changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican before she ran for her first term.
In most municipal races, only 10 votes are needed in the primary to get on the ballot for the general election, according to the Allegheny County election bureau.
The names of people who received write-in votes are released after certification by election officials.
Ward 3 Councilman Steve Mertz also lost the GOP nomination to run for a second term to Chuck Mazur, who has not held previous elected office.
Mazur secured the party’s nomination with 84.95 percent of the vote. Mertz also became a Republican before running for his first term.
Mazur will will face Democrat Deawna Marie Alfonsi, who ran unopposed for her party’s nomination.
Ward 5 Republican Councilman Greg Walkauskus, who also won a first term after joining the battle to block the Walmart project, declined to seek re-election.
In a narrow race, Joe Beierle picked up 52.17 percent of the vote to defeat Angela Woods for the GOP nomination to run for Walkauskus’ seat in the fall.
But Woods also indicated in a social media posting that she, too, received a sufficient number of write-in votes to run in the fall.
“We worked hard and came really close to securing the Republican nomination, only losing by 19 votes,” she wrote. “We did win the Democratic write-in, so I’m advancing to the general election in November as Republican on the Democratic ticket.”
Woods switched her party affiliation to Republican in March 2016 after several years as an independent, according to county election records. Prior to that she was a registered Republican.
Incumbent Ward 7 Councilman Bill McKim did not seek another term.
Only one candidate from each party sought nominations to run for McKim’s seat — Republican Patrick Semon and Democrat Patricia Cloonan, who both secured party nominations to square off in the fall.
Zachary, Mertz and Walkauskus were elected in 2015 with the help of residents who opposed the Walmart project and accused the council of failing to be transparent and rushing the project’s approval without giving proper public notice.
While the battle among some residents to keep Walmart out of McCandless ended in late 2016 when a local grocery chain bought some of the property on which the retail giant needed to build, the community organizing efforts to oppose the project continue to influence the town’s political landscape.
The self-styled community activist group and political action committees that sprung up to fight Walmart and help elect Zachary, Mertz and Walkauskus to their first terms also helped with Ward 6 Councilwoman Carolyn Schweiger’s successful 2017 bid to unseat long-time councilman Ralph LeDonne.
Schweiger also was a Democrat before deciding to run for office.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .