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Fitzgerald Says Gov. Wolf Has Confidence In New Party Chair After Last One Pressured To Resign

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Democrats across Pennsylvania have a new party leader.  Nancy Patton Mills was elected Saturday as chairwoman of the State Democratic Committee as candidates are gearing up for critical races for governor, U.S. Senate, Congress and the state legislature.

“I think this was something for the governor that he was very interested in,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Gov. Tom Wolf pressured Marcel Groen to resign as state chairman in February, following controversial comments and a lack of response to some sexual harassment allegations against some Democrats in the state.

Patton Mills had chaired the Allegheny County Democratic Party until she lost a reelection bid to Eileen Kelly a week earlier. Despite that defeat, Fitzgerald said Patton Mills has “done a great job.”

He cited Conor Lamb’s victory  in the March special election for the House District 18 seat “with Allegheny County really leading the way,” including areas that traditionally don’t vote democratic such as Bethel Park, Upper. St. Clair and Moon Township.

According to Fitzgerald, the governor and Patton Mills want the party to be unified. 

“I think what the state party wants to do is make sure that their message is consistent with candidates at all levels, at the top of the ticket, all the way down the ballot," he said. 

Fitzgerald said that consistent message should be about jobs, economic growth, health care and education.  And the ballot is a long one: contests for U.S. Senate, 18 U.S. House seats, governor, half of the state Senate and all 203 state House seats.

The county executive said to have success in these campaigns, it’s important for Patton Mills to reach out to younger voters.

“In off-year elections, it is the seniors who vote in higher numbers than people under the age of 30," he said. "That’s changed over the last year; we’ve seen much more engagement of young people.”

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm