Buoyed by more than $2 million in his campaign coffers, Rich Fitzgerald announced his decision Monday night to seek a third and final term as Allegheny County’s chief executive.
“Pittsburgh’s trajectory and Allegheny County’s trajectory is in a positive direction,” Fitzgerald said on a stage flanked by several dozen local, state and national officials while addressing several hundred Democratic supporters in Pittsburgh’s South Side.
“But we’ve got some more challenges ahead of us because not everybody has enjoyed the things that are happening, and that’s a challenge I have for the last term of this office. There are some communities that haven’t seen the population growth, they haven’t seen the investment … and have lost some of their tax base. We’ve got to figure out a way to help those folks.”
Fitzgerald, 59, who grew up in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood before moving to Squirrel Hill, announced his re-election bid for the November election during a campaign kickoff event at the headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 5 on Hot Metal Street.
Among those endorsing Fitzgerald while surrounding him on stage were Gov. Tom Wolf, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb and Mike Doyle, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, labor union leaders, city and county elected leaders and Fitzgerald’s wife, Cathy.
“Rich absolutely, every day, as long as we allow him to serve, will fight for you and your job and your family just like he fights for his own,” said Lamb, who credited Fitzgerald with helping him win his first seat in Congress in last spring’s special election against Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone. “So we’re not here just applauding Rich’s campaign; we are here asking you to run again. We need you, we want you, good luck.”
Longtime ally Peduto celebrated his aligned agenda and working partnership with Fitzgerald, who he said has proven over the past eight years that he is “somebody who’s able to guide us.”
“It’s a testament that everybody is standing here for an announcement being able to say we have somebody who we can work with. And not only that, but that helps us all work together,” Peduto said. “And that’s the key about Rich.”
Newly elected state Sen. Lindsey Williams and Lamb credited Fitzgerald with his heavy involvement in helping young Democrats get elected, including by personally knocking on doors for fledgling campaigns.
“You see every day the political strength of Rich Fitzgerald,” Shapiro said. “Rich Fitzgerald is a player across our state. He makes a difference for all of us running for state office. We know that Rich Fitzgerald is the key to Western Pennsylvania. He’s my good friend. He is a great county executive. He deserves four more years.”
Wolf, state lawmakers and local officials credited Fitzgerald with a knack for fostering cooperation and a relentless energy to stay informed about and respond to community needs.
“When we had the flood in Bridgeville, he was the first person to contact us about the help that we need,” Bridgeville Mayor Betty L. Copeland said. “And I deeply appreciate all his efforts to speed up the permits and things that we need to help alleviate our flood problem.”
Fitzgerald, who served as Allegheny County Council President before his election as chief executive in 2011, touted achievements during his tenure such as strengthening the county’s financial position and reaching the highest bond credit rating in 35 years without relying on raising property taxes. He said he’s worked to invest in economic development and infrastructure, including repaving roads and repairing bridges.
Of 3,500 new hires under his tenure, one-quarter have been black, and more than 6 in 10 are women — in line with Fitzgerald’s calls to improve diversity and equitable access to economic independence.
Fitzgerald said he remains committed to providing more job training opportunities and maximizing the benefits of the likes of the Shell ethane cracker plant under way in neighboring Beaver County.
“When I came before you eight years ago, my goal, as Conor said, was to allow those young people that grew up here that were leaving the opportunity to stay,” Fitzgerald said. “Because it’s who we are as Pittsburghers and as Western Pennsylvanians; we’re about families.”
Allegheny County has more than 1.2 million residents and spans 130 municipalities across about 730 square miles.
The county code limits chief executives to no more than three consecutive terms.
Fitzgerald ran unopposed in 2015 after cruising to victory against Republican county GOP Chair D. Raja in 2011.
D. Raja is vying for the state 37th District Senate seat left vacant by rising Republican star Guy Reschenthaler.
As of Monday, county GOP officials said they have not yet heard of any Republican candidates announcing intentions to challenge Fitzgerald.
At the end of December, the Friends of Rich Fitzgerald political action committee had an ending cash balance of $2.2 million, with a total of $741,000 in contributions in 2018 and $1.3 million in 2017, campaign finance records show.
The candidate filing deadline is March 12.
A primary is scheduled for May 21, followed by a general election Nov. 5.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, email@example.com or via Twitter .