Dems easily capture Allegheny County row offices
Democrats fended off GOP challengers on Tuesday in contested races for Allegheny County row offices and County Council.
"After last year, people began to write off the Democratic Party in Allegheny County," said Mike Mikus, campaign manager for Democratic county executive-elect Rich Fitzgerald. "We proved from the bottom of the ticket to the top that we are back and stronger than ever."
In an open county controller race, Democratic state Rep. Chelsa Wagner, 34, of Beechview decisively defeated Republican Bob Howard, 61, of Marshall, 63 percent to 27 percent, according to unofficial results.
"I'm certainly happy with the results, but we're facing a difficult time in Allegheny County," Wagner said.
She said she plans to ensure that county officials handle property reassessments fairly and looks forward to integrating the city and county financial accounting systems. Wagner said she has a good working relationship with Fitzgerald, but will become the watchdog.
"Hopefully there aren't many instances where you need to get to the point where you're adversarial, but if it would get to that point that's something I'm prepared to do," she said.
Howard, a former accountant and controller at PPG Industries, could not be reached for comment. Wagner won election to the state House in 2006. She is the niece of state Auditor General Jack Wagner and the daughter of 19th Ward Democratic committee chairman Pete Wagner.
This was the first contested controller's race since Mark Patrick Flaherty won in 2003. Flaherty chose to step down at the end of his second term next month. The office pays $66,500 a year.
Democrats have a 2-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans in the county.
Longtime County Treasurer John Weinstein, 47, of Kennedy defeated Republican Ned Pfeifer, 78, of Shadyside, 68 percent to 32 percent, according to unofficial results.
Pfeifer is a former chemical engineer at Alcoa. Weinstein was first elected in 1999. He makes $66,500 a year.
"I'm humbly honored that the taxpayers of Allegheny County re-elected me for the fourth consecutive time," said Weinstein. "We have a lot of issues facing us and we have to come up with solutions that are outside the box."
The only contested race on the part-time County Council matched Democratic incumbent Nick Futules, 58, of Oakmont against Republican challenger Michael Dell, 44, of Plum.
Futules appeared to defeat Dell, 57 percent to 43 percent with 95 percent of voting precincts reporting. Futules runs a banquet hall, catering and other family businesses. Dell is a certified public accountant.
Seven incumbent council members ran unopposed. Newcomer Heather Heidelbaugh, 53, of Mt. Lebanon will take over the Republican at-large seat. She defeated fellow attorney Edward Kress in the Republican primary. Council members receive a $9,000-a-year stipend.
In Beaver County, Democratic incumbent Commissioners Joe Spanik, 65, of Aliquippa and Tony Amadio, 60, of Aliquippa appeared to defeat Republican challengers Dennis Nichols, 63, of Beaver and Craig Conforti, 27, of New Brighton and independent candidates Jack Manning, 59, of Chippewa and Donald "Jay" Paisley, 66 of Beaver Falls.
In Butler County, Republicans Dale Pinkerton, 71, of Butler, the lone incumbent commissioner running for re-election, won along with retired Interstate Pipe & Supply Co. founder Bill McCarrier, 71, of Butler Township who was a commissioner in the 1990s, according to unofficial returns with 92 percent of precincts reporting.
They appeared to defeat Democrats Jim Eckstein, 55, of Meridian and Jerry Johnston, 62, of Butler Township.