Westmoreland Sheriff Jonathan Held holds off GOP primary challengers | TribLIVE.com

Westmoreland Sheriff Jonathan Held holds off GOP primary challengers

Rich Cholodofsky

Embattled Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held will continue his campaign for a third term in office.

Held, while still defending himself against pending criminal charges of public corruption, on Tuesday defeated three Republican challengers to win the GOP nomination for sheriff.

According to unofficial results, Held received 32.8% of the vote in defeating two current sheriff’s department staffers and a retired Greensburg police officer. Steve Felder, president of the sheriff’s department union, received 28.7% — coming up 896 votes behind Held. Retired Greensburg police officer Eugene Zulisky finished third (21.3%) and Deputy Sheriff Sam Pilato was fourth (17%).

“We live in a representative Republic and the voters have spoken and I am humbled,” Held said Tuesday night. “I think the public sees what is truly going on.”

Felder could not be reached for comment. As of late Tuesday, he had not called to concede the race to Held.

Democrat James Albert, a retired district magistrate in Greensburg, was unopposed and will run against Held in November.

Held, 45, of Hempfield, was charged last year by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro with three criminal counts that accused him of using county resources and staff to aid his last reelection bid in 2015. Investigators claimed Held directed his on duty staff to perform chores related to campaign fundraisers. A trial in December ended with jurors unable to reach a verdict.

The attorney general’s office said it will continue its prosecution of Held. The sheriff contends the case should be dismissed on double jeopardy grounds. He has an appeal pending with the state’s Superior Court. No new trial date has been set.

Felder testified as a witness against Held during his criminal trial.

Meanwhile, Held had to answer questions about the leadership of his office, which was named as a defendant in more than a dozen discrimination lawsuits filed since he first took office in 2012. Held denied any wrongdoing and criticized county commissioners for settling the cases without his consent. In all, the county paid more than $350,000 to settle the lawsuits.

Held maintained his stewardship of the office warrants another four years in office. He said his office has been under budget and saved taxpayers $2 million.

Held said he plans to meet with his Republican challengers.

“They obviously have ideas about how the office can be improved. I want to hear their input. I want to hear from them,” Held said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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