Election Debrief: Local and County Offices

(November 10, 2023)

Allies for Children collaborates with stakeholders across the federal, state, and local levels on policy solutions to improve the lives of children and families in Allegheny County. Although this was an “off-year” election, without a presidential or midterm election, there were still numerous races and issues at stake that will impact the lives of children and families in our region.

Allegheny County Executive

On November 7, former Pennsylvania state representative Sara Innamorato (D) became the first female elected Allegheny County Executive after winning the election against retired PNC executive, Joe Rockey (R). Current Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is term-limited and his third term ends in December.

County Executive Elect Innamorato will be hitting the ground running. As the top elected official in the county, the Allegheny County Executive signs bills passed by the county council into local law and submits county-wide fiscal plans. In addition, they manage county agencies and other services which affect the lives of children, such as the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children Initiatives, and the Health Department.

The county executive is also responsible for key appointments in the executive branch, such as the county manager, solicitor, and members of boards and commissions. These appointments influence policy and decisions down the line. For example, the Allegheny County Board of Health is responsible for advising the Allegheny County Health Director on matters of disease prevention and public health. The Allegheny County Department of Public Health offers programs and services that are essential for children in our county, including Allegheny County WIC services, and the Office of Family and Child Health, where programs for healthy moms and babies are offered.

Allegheny County Council

In addition to the county executive, Allegheny County is governed by an elected county council that serves staggered four-year terms. Thirteen council members represent districts, while two represent the county as a whole (“at-large”). Allegheny County Council members adopt the county budget, approve and amend legislation, and approve appointments made by the county executive, such as those of county agencies. They also hold regular meetings on county issues where public comment can be made.

In this 2023 general election, incumbents on the Allegheny County Council ultimately held their seats. In District 5, where democrat Tom Duerr recently stepped down, democrat Dan Grzybek won the seat over republican Mike Embrescia. Before Duerr’s election in 2019, republican Sue Means held the seat for several years. Other races that got attention included Pittsburgh districts with democrats getting two independent challengers from the left. The makeup of the county council will continue to lean democrat.

Allegheny County District Attorney

Stephen Zappala Jr. was elected for his seventh term as district attorney in Allegheny County. Although Zappala lost the democratic primary election to former public defender Matt Dugan, he won this general election as a republican.

The district attorney (DA) is the chief law enforcement office within the county. The DA has jurisdiction over felony, misdemeanor, and summary offenses, and also provides legal guidance to police agencies and county departments in matters related to crime. The DA’s office works frequently with county agencies and departments such as Children and Youth Services, Juvenile Probation, and Human Services. One major children’s issue for the DA’s office will be the reopening of the former Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.

Allegheny County Controller

Corey O’Connor (D) was elected to a full term as Allegheny County Controller after being appointed in 2022. The county controller primarily serves as a watchdog, and reviews operations and finances at any agency that manages county funds. They also sit on various county boards, including those that oversee the juvenile detention system. O’Connor will therefore have a seat on an advisory board for the former Shuman Detention Center, which has plans to reopen soon.

School Boards

School districts in Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, had a few races on the ballots. Deer Lakes School District voters filled five open seats on their School Board. In Allegheny Valley, voters seem to like how things are going with their school board, as several incumbents kept their seats. At Pittsburgh Public Schools, Devon Taliaferro was re-elected to First-Vice President, and three new members were elected.

School board elections are important for children and youth, as the individuals who are elected are responsible for setting the policies, goals, and vision for the district. Key responsibilities also include adopting the annual budget as well as responding to stakeholders.

Allies for Children looks forward to continuing the work of advocating for a better tomorrow for the children of Allegheny County with the new and continuing elected officials.

Statewide elections that impact children, youth, and families, such as judicial elections, were also held. You can find complete results here.

Cristina Codario, Allies for Children Policy Director