Ventre, Kertes lead campaign spending in GOP race for Westmoreland commissioner
When it comes to spending, Republican candidates John Ventre and Sean Kertes topped the crowded field of GOP hopefuls in the Westmoreland County Commissioner primary race.
Ventre listed nearly $47,000 in expenses while Kertes reported spending more than $30,000 from Jan. 1 through May 6, according to campaign finance records filed with the county elections bureau.
Seven candidates are seeking two Republican nominations on May 21.
Kertes, the chief of staff to Republican Commissioner Charles Anderson, reported raising more than $31,000 this year. His campaign committee ended 2018 with $24,400 for his first run for public office.
“When your name is new, money is not most significant. Name recognition is what matters, and but it takes money to have more presence in all 65 municipalities,” Kertes said.
Most of Kertes’ campaign money raised this year came from three donors: Anderson, who gave $7,000 from his campaign account; county Treasurer Jared Squires, for whom Kertes formerly worked, donated $5,000 from his campaign committee; and Kertes, who contributed $5,000 to his campaign.
He also received small donations from several county vendors as well as a total of $650 from Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County board members and employees.
Kertes was criticized this year by a group of GOP challengers for accepting money from donors who do business with the county.
“County vendors have always given to all the county commissioner candidates. If I could self-fund, I’d be happy to. The donations are not guarantees that anyone will get a contract from me. There is no pay for play,” Kertes said.
Ventre’s campaign listed no contributions. Nor did it list the source of the funds used to pay for his campaign expenses.
Ventre, a retired business executive, said Monday he used his own money to pay for his campaign spending.
“I am self spending because I am not for sale,” Ventre said. “I have said I will take no money from no-bid (vendors) or from the water authority.”
But Ventre said that if he is nominated to run in the fall against incumbent Democrats Ted Kopas and Gina Cerilli, he will accept campaign donations.
“I think I have to because the other three candidates will have more than $100,000 to spend,” Ventre said.
None of the other Republican candidates reported any significant donations or spending.
Heather Cordial, an insurance company program director, listed $6,635 in donations, including $5,000 of her own money. Paul Kosko, a computer resources officer for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, raised just under $2,000. Patricia Fritz, a former chief deputy sheriff, reported raising $500 through donations from herself and her boyfriend; and dentist Ron Gazze reported that he raised no money.
Cordial’s campaign reported spending $5,377, while Kosko spent just more than $1,500. Fritz said she spent $1,400, and Gazze $579.
Doug Chew was the lone commissioner candidate who did not file a campaign finance report by the May 10 deadline. Chew’s report was still not filed at the close of business on Monday and as a result faces $40 in fines, according to elections bureau officials.
Chew said family issues prevented him from filing his report. It will be submitted Tuesday, he said.
Cerilli, who is seeking her second term in office, listed more than $144,000 in campaign expenses this year. Her campaign raised $64,575 so far in 2019, including more than $15,000 from union and other political action committees. She also listed donations of more than $5,600 from water authority board members, staffers and owners of the private consulting firm that operates the utility.
Cerilli still has more than $35,000 in her campaign fund.
Kopas listed a balance of nearly $113,000 in his fund. He continued to raise money, more than $21,000 since April 1, including about $1,100 in small donations from water authority interests.
County commissioners are paid roughly $80,000 a year.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .