Westmoreland Commissioners Cerilli, Kopas could form unified front for fall election
As Westmoreland County Republicans waited until late Tuesday to learn which two GOP candidates will seek to reclaim the party’s majority on the board of commissioners, Democrats have known since February that incumbents Gina Cerilli and Ted Kopas will be on the ballot this fall.
Cerilli and Kopas were unopposed in Tuesday’s primary. In November, they will face Republicans nominees Sean Kertes and Doug Chew. GOP Commissioner Charles Anderson is retiring.
And while it’s unclear just how unified the GOP ticket will be for this fall’s general election, the same question exists for the Democrats, who ran separate campaigns four years ago and said they will do so again this year.
“I’m interested in working with anyone who wants to build off my good work over the last eight years,” said Kopas, who is seeking his third full term in office.
Whether that person is Cerilli is yet to be determined.
Cerilli and Kopas have voted together on most issues over the last four years, including county budgets, the enactment of a project labor agreement for county construction contracts, increasing the local hotel tax to fund tourism promotion and approving development of a comprehensive plan released as a blueprint for county growth.
There have been disagreements, though. Cerilli voted with Anderson to hire a private insurance carrier to oversee workers compensation benefits, a move that was reversed this year. She also distanced herself from Kopas through the formation of a slate of county Democratic candidates she described as “moderate Democrats.”
Despite the differences, Kopas said there’s room for both to work together during the upcoming campaign.
“She and I will be talking about the same successes over the last four years and that’s fine with me,” Kopas said.
Cerilli did not respond to requests for comment.
Democratic Committee Chairwoman Rachel Shaw said she expects Cerilli, and Kopas to work together this fall.
“These are conversations we will have moving forward. Ultimately, they know what is at stake,” Shaw said.
For decades, Democrats had no real concerns about securing a majority on the board of commissioners, as the party held an overwhelming edge in registered voters. Slowly over the last 20 years, though, Republicans narrowed the gap and this year finally overtook Democrats — 104,836 to 103,349.
A wave of recent GOP successes culminated in 2011 in the party’s first victory on the county level when it won a majority on the board of commissioners and a sweep of five county row offices.
Over the last three-plus years, Anderson served as a swing vote when Cerilli and Kopas were at odds.
Anderson declined to discuss the working relationship between the Democrats but said most of their work results in agreement among the three commissioners.
“It’s all about personalities. Everybody has a relationship with everyone else,” Anderson said.
Several Republican candidates this spring targeted Cerilli during the primary campaign. During a candidate’s forum last week, several GOP candidates offered praise for Kopas’ work as commissioner.
Anderson said the makeup of the Republican slate this fall could ultimately decide whether there will be any cooperation between the Kopas and Cerilli campaigns.
“It all depends on who the candidates are,” Anderson said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .