GOP seizes back control of Westmoreland commissioner board; Cerilli ekes out final seat
Republicans reclaimed a majority on the Westmoreland County board of commissioners.
Voters elected GOP political newcomers Sean Kertes and Doug Chew to the three-member board. Democrat Gina Cerilli finished third for an apparent second term in office. In doing so, county voters on Tuesday turned out incumbent Ted Kopas in favor of Cerilli, who retained her board seat by what appears to be a slim 234-vote margin
With all 305 precincts reporting, Kertes received 27.2%, Chew 26.5% and Cerilli 23.2%, with support for Kopas at 23%. All of the results are unofficial until certified by the county election’s board.
“I am ecstatic. I’m blown away, and I’m beyond happy,” Kertes said from his victory party at All Saints Brewery in Greensburg. “It’s been a year and a half we’ve been getting the message out there, and the voters responded. The voters have spoken that they want a Republican majority.”
Kertes, 33, of Greensburg, will replace his boss, Commissioner Charles Anderson, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Along with Chew, 49, of Hempfield, the GOP will reclaim the majority it lost in 2015.
“The voters have spoken, and they wanted a return to a fiscal-conservative approach and to no no-bid contracts,” Chew said from his victory party at Ferrante’s Lakeview in Hempfield. He vowed to work with Kertes during the next four-year term.
“We are Republicans first and we should be the team the voters expect us to be,” Chew said.
The Republicans led almost from the first batch of votes counted. The race between Cerilli and Kopas was tight throughout the night with the incumbents separated by razor-thin margins. At various updates, results showed the Democrats separated by just 13 votes with more than 70% of precincts counted.
Cerilli, behind most of the night, took small lead with 96% of the votes tallied.
“As it stands right now, I am obviously disappointed,” said Kopas, 46, of Hempfield. “I’ve given my heart and soul to the county for the last nine years, and I don’t regret a thing.”
He said he has not given any thought to asking for a potential recount.
Cerilli, 33, of Hempfield, said she is ready to serve another term.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, as you would expect,” she said. “I am certainly happy to be re-elected.”
The incumbent Democrats spent the campaign defending their records, while Kertes attempted to mix his support of the agenda of his retiring boss while also stressing differences from Anderson. Chew challenged both incumbents, linking Cerilli to policies of the county’s water authority while also criticizing her, Kopas and Kertes for accepting campaign donations from county vendors and authority board members.
Cerilli sought another term in office, having won the most votes among the final four candidates in 2015. She holds a law degree and passed the bar exam after her first election. Cerilli works part-time as an associate attorney with a Pittsburgh law firm.
Kopas was first appointed to the board of commissioners in 2010. He won a four-year term in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. He previously served more than eight years as chief of staff to then county commissioner Tom Balya.
Kertes worked as a deputy county treasurer and in 2016 was hired to serve as Anderson’s chief of staff.
Chew, a biochemist, worked at the University of Pittsburgh and now operates his own grant writing consulting business.
Despite their party affiliations, all four candidates ran separate campaigns.
Cerilli called herself a “moderate Democrat” and campaigned with several other Democratic row office candidates.
The Republicans also ran apart, as Chew targeted Kertes during the primary race and was critical of him and Anderson’s agenda during the fall campaign season.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .