Democrat Joe Bia ousts embattled Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi |
Valley News Dispatch

Democrat Joe Bia ousts embattled Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi

Natasha Lindstrom
Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi and Joe Puet, a supporter of mayoral challenger Joe Bia, greet resident Robert Rowe as he enters to vote at the H.D. Berkey School on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

The challenger who defeated incumbent Arnold Mayor Karen Peconi in Tuesday’s primary called her actions last summer “an embarrassment” to the city, and it appears many Democratic voters agreed based on Joe Bia II’s victory by a three-to-one margin.

Bia, an Arnold councilman with two years left in his first term, collected 388 votes — or about 75% of the votes cast — to Peconi’s 129, according to unofficial results.

Four years ago when Peconi was first elected mayor, she won by more than 10 percentage points in both the Democratic primary and November general election.

But last summer Peconi drew national attention and protests outside council chambers for Facebook posts she made regarding the fatal police shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II in East Pittsburgh.

A video she shared on her Facebook page displayed water cannons being used to disperse protesters elsewhere. Some were violently knocked to the ground.

“We need one of these for tomorrow,” Peconi wrote in a comment beneath the video, referring to a protest of Rose’s death in Pittsburgh.

Later she wrote, “Bring the hoses,” and then complained of protesters, “None of them work. That’s how they can do this at 7 a.m. … Very sad.”

Peconi apologized for making the posts, but ignored protesters and council requesting that Gov. Tom Wolf step in to remove her from office.

“What she did was an embarrassment to the community,” said Bia, 45, a senior network engineer.

As for his primary win, Bia said, “The people came out today and they spoke. We have lots of work to do, and I’m looking forward to it. Thank you very much, Arnold.”

Peconi didn’t have much to say after her loss.

“I wish Joe Bia all the best,” Peconi told the Tribune-Review by phone late Tuesday before hanging up.

In addition to the Facebook controversy, Bia lamented that the city’s insurance carrier helped cover about $15,000 in costs to defend Peconi in a separate ethics investigation.

In addition to having a vote at council meetings, the mayor oversees the police department. As mayor, Bia said he would work to improve public safety.

Among Bia’s other top priorities: fixing roads, eradicating blight and finding ways to cut costs to pay for much-needed improvements.

“Our roads are horrible. We need to do something with that. The blight is terrible, it’s unconscionable,” Bia said. “Our area should not look the way it does.

“We need to spend our money much more wisely,” Bia said. “We need to work with the surrounding communities to help and to stop duplicating spending.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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