Anderson’s planned retirement to make it tough for GOP to regain power among Westmoreland commissioners
Westmoreland County Republicans expect the path to reclaim a majority on the board of commissioners will be more difficult this year with the impending retirement of popular incumbent Charles Anderson.
Anderson announced last week he would not seek another term in office, leaving the local GOP with a huge hole to fill as it heads into the campaign season seeking to return to power after Democrats seized a board majority following the 2015 election.
“It’s a big loss for the party, but also for Westmoreland County because he’s such a great guy,” said Republican Committee Chairman Kerry Jobe. “While it’s a loss for the party, it sets a good precedent that we can have a Republican come through and do a good job.”
The local GOP has seen its fortunes rise over the past decade. Once a firm minority in the county, Republican voter registration has swelled to nearly equal that of Democrats, whose party for more than 50 years dominated local politics. As Republican membership grew, so did victories, culminating in 2011 when the GOP for the first time in more than a half-century captured a majority at the courthouse.
Anderson, a retired Marine colonel, led the ticket and, along with Republican Tyler Courtney, took over control of county government.
Courtney’s defeat in 2015 returned Democrats to power and now, with Anderson’s pending retirement, Republicans are looking for the next wave of candidates to reclaim the majority.
So far, three Republicans have announced plans to run for commissioner: Anderson’s chief of staff Sean Kertes, Municipal Authority Westmoreland County employee Paul Kosko and retired UPS worker John Ventre. More candidates are expected to announce their intentions to run for commissioner, Jobe said.
Republican and Democratic voters will nominate two candidates to run for three available seats in the November election.
“The important thing is we help each person running in the Republican primary to get their message out there. Chuck was very well liked and a phenomenal candidate, so this is a definite void. If he were to run again, he would win,” Jobe said.
Even from the sidelines, Anderson could still have an impact on the race for his replacement. According to financial reports on file in the county’s elections bureau, his campaign has more than $40,000 available to spend. Anderson said he has not decided if he will endorse any candidates in the upcoming race.
Meanwhile, no decision has been made by the Republican committee as to whether candidates will be endorsed in the primary.
With no incumbent on the Republican side of the ballot, Democrats could be in a strong position, according party vice chairman Paul Adams. Incumbents Gina Cerilli and Ted Kopas have yet to formally announce re-election campaigns, but both are expected to do so in the coming weeks.
And while Cerilli and Kopas ran independent campaigns four years ago and are not expected to team up this year, both figure to be in strong position for re-election now that Anderson is out of the race, Adams said.
Democrats may also be able to avoid a messy and potentially expensive primary season should there be no one to challenge the incumbents. Both Cerilli and Kopas have substantial cash on hand for their campaigns. Cerilli had more than $56,000 in the bank, according to her last campaign finance disclosure filed in early 2018. Kopas’ campaign, through November, listed more $93,000 in assets.
Without Anderson on the November ballot, Democrats believe they are in good shape to retain their majority.
“He’s going to be hard to replace,” Adams said of Anderson. “It does create a scenario where we have the best leadership and can present our two candidates as the standard bearers.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, email@example.com or via Twitter .