2019 Local Election Recap



Allegheny County DA Candidates Stephen Zappala (left) and Lisa Middleman (right)

On November 5, the 2019 Pennsylvania General Elections took place. It was an off-year election so the ballot did not feature any major legislative races. Still, ballot referendums and elected positions were decided at the state, county, municipal, and school board levels. While the upcoming 2020 presidential race dominates media coverage, it is important not to overlook local results, as they affect the daily lives of Pittsburghers.



The only statewide decision on the ballot was a referendum called Marsy’s law. If approved by Pennsylvania voters, the initiative would add an amendment to the Pennsylvania state constitution involving the rights of crime victims. Although the amendment received almost 70% of the vote, it is currently under review by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit, deeming the proposed amendment unconstitutional.

Allegheny County

In one of the most high profile races in Allegheny County, longtime incumbent Stephen Zappala beat independent challenger Lisa Middleman for the position of District Attorney (DA) with 57% percent of the vote. The Allegheny County DA oversees the DA office which is responsible for investigating, diverting, and prosecuting crimes on behalf of the state. The race was contentious and sparked a dialogue about criminal justice reform in Allegheny County.

Zappala was not the only incumbent to prevail in a county race. County Controller Chelsa Wagner, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and County Treasurer John Weinstein were all re-elected to their respective positions. Additionally, 10 members were elected to the Allegheny County Council, which is in charge of making decisions involving county land, taxes, and budgets. Most notably, progressive political newcomer Bethany Hallam—who beat the incumbent Democrat in the primary last May—ran a successful County Council race against a Republican challenger.


Incumbents dominated city elections as well. City Controller Michael Lamb and City Council members Bruce Kraus, Corey O’Connor, Deb Gross, and Ricky Burgess all retained their seats. The only newcomer to City Council was Bobby Wilson, who beat a Democratic incumbent in the primary last May.

A ballot referendum to raise taxes to support Pittsburgh parks passed with just 52% of the vote. The decision was controversial as some argued that the parks needed money for maintenance, while others oppose tax money going to a private fund (Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is a public-private partnership).

Pittsburgh Public School Board

Arguably, the election most relevant to the daily lives of Allderdice students is the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors. The PPS board of directors consists of nine elected officials, who volunteer their time to play a variety of roles within the district. These include enacting district-wide policies, making decisions involving curriculum, determining the tax rates that fund the schools, managing the budget, and hiring and evaluating superintendents. The board of directors positions up for re-election were filled by Devon Taliaferro, Pam Harbin, William Gallagher, and Kevin Carter. Harbin will fill the district 4 seat, which encompasses Allderdice, after a hotly contested primary election last May.