Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, with the support of Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf, announced his bid for re-election Thursday.
The Squirrel Hill Democrat is seeking a second four-year term, and his campaign can be summed up in two words: jobs and transportation.
With desirable jobs come young talent, and according to Fitzgerald, that talent leads to progress.
“People are attracted to where there’s economic opportunities,” he said. “That’s why we lost people for decades because the economic opportunities were better in other cities. That has changed now and we want to keep that momentum going.”
Fitzgerald referenced commitments from Google and U.S. Steel as two examples of what he's been able to bring to the table since taking office in 2012.
If re-elected, Fitzgerald said transportation expansion, specifically a Bus Rapid Transit system connecting Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood to downtown, will also be a priority.
“Oakland and downtown Pittsburgh are the two biggest job centers in this region, and quite frankly, they’re becoming overcrowded,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a challenge and we have got to make sure that we can move people in and out of there if we are going to continue growth.”
In October, the Port Authority signed off on the estimated $200 million Bus Rapid Transit project, but a two-year, $4 million engineering and environmental review process has slowed its progression.
Pittsburgh International Airport also has room for improvement, according to Fitzgerald. He said the county has been working to attract more flights and airlines, but there needs to be “more connectivity.” Since 2006, passenger traffic at the airport has dropped about 21 percent.
Wolf said Fitzgerald’s work in the county thus far can be seen as a model for the state, and he hopes Fitzgerald can show him the ropes when it comes to rebuilding an economy from the ground up.
“I want to learn from Rich Fitzgerald,” he said. “He is a good, practical political leader. He knows how to get things done. He’s shown that here. And I want to learn from him, in terms of what he, Mayor Peduto and all the others have done to revitalize this region.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, as well as City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, were among the hundreds of people who came out to the IBEW Local 5 union hall in South Side in support of Fitzgerald.
Wolf also said Fitzgerald would be a valuable ally when it comes to working to erase the state’s nearly $2 billion deficit.
“The best way we can eliminate that deficit is by having the kind of economic development we’re starting to have here in the west, all throughout Pennsylvania,” he said.
Prior to his time as County Executive, Fitzgerald sat on county council for 12 years where he was elected council president four times.
He is currently running unopposed.