Zappala wins race for DA, while 2 Allegheny County Council incumbents fall |

Zappala wins race for DA, while 2 Allegheny County Council incumbents fall

Jamie Martines
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
District Attorney Stephen Zappala addresses media during a press conference announcing the return of a bible, published in 1615, that was stolen from the Carnegie Library at FBI Pittsburgh Field Office on the South Side on Thursday, April 25, 2019.
Bethany Hallam, of Ross, is challenging Allegheny County Council President John DeFazio, of Shaler, for his Democrat at-large seat in the 2019 election.
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.
Joseph Rudolph

Two Allegheny County Council incumbents fell to challengers in Tuesday’s primary, but longtime District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. defeated the first challenger he’s faced in two decades.

Political newcomer Bethany Hallam defeated longtime Allegheny Councilman John DeFazio in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a shot at one of two at-large seats up for election in November.

Hallam, 29, of Ross, led DeFazio most of the night and closed with 53% of the vote, according to unofficial tallies provided by the Allegheny County Elections Division.

“He called me and he congratulated me, and I told him that it’s an honor, and I promise that I will do good for the people of Allegheny County in this seat,” Hallam said of her conversation with DeFazio, who has held the seat since the governing body was founded in 2000.

In a statement, DeFazio said, “I congratulate Bethany Hallam for her hard-fought victory. I will help her in whatever way I can as she prepares to take office.”

Traditionally, one of the council’s two at-large seats is held by a Democrat and the other by a Republican. Hallam will be the only the Democratic candidate for an at-large council seat on November’s ballot, while incumbent Councilman Samuel DeMarco III, who was unopposed Tuesday, will be the only Republican.

DeMarco, of North Fayette, has served on council since 2016.

There were two other competitive primary races for county council seats, in District 6 and District 13.

In District 13, which includes Downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville and the North Side in Pittsburgh along with the borough of Bellevue, challenger Olivia “Liv” Bennett, 40, of Northview Heights, collected 58% of the votes counted to defeat incumbent Denise Ranalli Russell, 52, of Brighton Heights, tallies showed.

In District 6, which covers municipalities south of Pittsburgh, incumbent John Palmiere, 76, of Baldwin Township, beat challenger Joseph Rudolph, 68, of South Park, with 65% of the vote, according to the results.

Tuesday’s Democratic primary race for Allegheny County District Attorney featured a challenger for incumbent Stephen A. Zappala Jr. for the first time in 20 years.

Turahn Jenkins, 41, of Churchill took on the longtime district attorney in an effort to reform what he described as a broken criminal justice system.

Zappala, 61, of Fox Chapel, won comfortably with about 59% of the votes counted, according to unofficial results.

“This campaign acknowledged that the public demands of the district attorney are changing, and I enjoyed having that conversation with the voters,” Zappala said in a statement. “I am looking forward to getting back to work advancing the agenda that they have insisted upon: further reduction of cash bail, more pathways toward diversion and less incarceration, advocating reform of laws determining justifiable use of force and categorizing violent acts against the LGBTQ community as hate crimes.”

Zappala was first appointed to the post in 1998. He beat W. Christopher Conrad in both the primary and general elections in 1999 — the last time anyone challenged Zappala in a primary or general election for the district attorney seat, according to election records.

Jenkins served as chief deputy director in the Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office. He resigned from the post in July 2018 after launching his campaign.

He also previously worked as an assistant district attorney and in the social work and mental health fields.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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