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Politics & Government

Democrats sweep Allegheny County Council races, growing their majority by one seat

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Courtesy of Anita Prizio, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, and Jack Betkowski
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Democrats Anita Prizio (left), Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis (center), and Jack Betkowski prevailed in the three contested races for Allegheny County Council Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Democrats won all three contested races for Allegheny County Council in Tuesday’s election, meaning their party has gained a new seat on the 15-member body, for a total of 13.

In the Allegheny River Valley and suburbs north of Pittsburgh, O’Hara Democrat Anita Prizio easily held onto her seat despite a vigorous challenge from Fox Chapel Republican Meredith Dolan. With about 99% of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Prizio had gained 54% of the vote.

Dolan, who has been active in national Republican causes, criticized Prizio for embracing “socialist” policies. The Republican pointed to Prizio’s efforts to fight climate change, promote single-payer healthcare, and limit the use of “less-lethal” weapons by police.

But Tuesday night, Prizio said her victory “just shows that labels aren’t so important.”

“I think there’s a lot of scare tactics when someone says ‘socialist’ or ‘extreme,’” she said. “But when my constituents looked at my record and what I’ve accomplished and what I would like to accomplish, I’m far from being extreme.”

On Tuesday, Democrats also won two seats that are being vacated by their current occupants.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis beat Republican Eric Casteel in Pittsburgh’s east suburbs. The candidates, both residents of Plum, vied for a seat currently held by Democrat Paul Zavarella, who did not seek reelection.

Naccarati-Chapkis had gained a 21-point lead with 99% precincts reporting Tuesday night.

Democrats have held her district since county council was established in 2000, thanks largely to Zavarella's long-serving predecessor, the late Charles Martoni.

Upon winning, Naccarati-Chapkis said her initial priorities will include environmental sustainability and the equitable distribution of funds from President Biden’s infrastructure package, which is still pending before Congress.

Democrat Jack Betkowski, of Ross, scored the third county council victory for Democrats. He gained 51% of the vote after all precincts had provided results.

Betkowski’s district covers the Ohio River Valley and airport-area suburbs. It’s currently represented by outgoing Republican Tom Baker, so Betkwoski’s win was key to growing Democrats’ majority on council.

Moon Republican Joe Wise had also run for the seat, but he died just days before Tuesday’s election.

Wise still appeared on Tuesday’s ballot. If he were to have garnered more support than Betkowski, council would have appointed a replacement, who would serve until the 2023 election.

Wise had warned that Betkowski would support “extremist” legislation backed by progressive Democrats.

But on Tuesday, Betkowski countered that his record as a Ross township commissioner, a position he currently holds, reassured voters that he’s “a reasonable person.”

“The policies that I pursue [are] definitely not [reflective of] the type of extremists that sometimes people get characterized [as] in elections,” Betkowski said. He noted that his chief priority as a councilor will be to encourage collaboration among the municipalities in his district to address challenges such as stormwater runoff.

Tuesday also featured three uncontested elections for council. As the only candidates in those races, Democratic incumbents Pat Catena, Bob Macey, and Bob Palmosina are set to begin new four-year terms in January.

Democrat Kevin Kraus was the lone candidate in the race for Allegheny County Sheriff. He will replace outgoing Democratic sheriff William Mullen, who did not run for reelection.