Police unions backed Republican Joe Rockey for Allegheny County executive as he unveiled a public safety plan


Fix the county jail, reimagine a juvenile detention and rehabilitation center, expand mental health services, and make the Pittsburgh region safer. Those are the main components of Republican Joe Rockey’s public safety plan as he campaigns for Allegheny County executive

Mr. Rockey unveiled the policy proposals Thursday as he was endorsed by multiple local law enforcement unions. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodges 91 and 1, which represent Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh officers, respectively, both backed him. So did the Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent union, which represents correctional officers. 

“It means a great deal to me to have the people who, everyday in their lives, put their lives at risk to protect us and to provide public safety for the 1.3 million citizens in Allegheny County,” Mr. Rockey said at FOP headquarters in West Homestead. “Bringing public safety to the forefront of our county will be at the top of my list as I lead my administration.”

Mr. Rockey is the “only candidate in the race who is seen as unambiguously pro-law enforcement,” Bob Swartzwelder, the FOP Lodge 1 President, said in a statement. 

At the Allegheny County Jail, Mr. Rockey wants to focus on increasing staff and making sure the mental health and morale of employees is adequately taken care of. 

“Clearly management at the jail has failed,” said Mr. Rockey, a former PNC executive who ran unopposed in the May GOP primary. “We wouldn’t be where we are where 20 individuals have passed in the last 30 months if management was doing a great job.”

A spokesperson for the jail said that there had only been 12 deaths of incarcerated people in that time frame, however that number does not include people who died after being transferred to the hospital from the jail. At least 19 people have died in the jail or shortly after leaving the facility since 2020. 

Mr. Rockey would not say if he planned to replace Warden Orlando Harper, but did say that part of his plan for fixing the jail is making sure it has “the right management” in place. 

Mr. Rockey faces Democratic nominee Sara Innamorato in the November general election. Ms. Innamorato, who resigned from her seat in the state House last week, has already said she would fire Mr. Harper if elected.

The GOP nominee has challenged Ms. Innamorato to a series of five debates. The two committed last week to a live one-hour debate on Oct. 3, hosted by WTAE and the League of Women Voters.

Mr. Rockey promised Thursday to attend all Jail Oversight Board meetings, something outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a term-limited Democrat, has been criticized for not doing. And Mr. Rockey said he would take politics out of the board.

“The board oversight committee spends more time making political points than actually solving the problems that have existed for several years,” he said. 

Mr. Rockey also wants to find a new place to house juvenile criminal offenders. He said he doesn’t want to reopen the Shuman Center, which closed in 2021, but would consider using the same building for a different type of center. 

“There is a need to put a child somewhere where they can separate from the environment that has led them to where they are and give them a chance to engage in rehabilitation, while the criminal process is progressing forward,” he said. 

The main focus of a new center would be rehabilitation, using resources from the county health and human services departments, Mr. Rockey said. 

Mr. Rockey said he would increase the county police force by 10%, so officers can assist other municipalities needing the support. A Safe Streets Task Force, made up of people from law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, victims of violent crime and community members, would be tasked with developing a strategy to reduce crime. 

And Mr. Rockey also wants to focus on increasing mental health care in the county, by working with state and federal officials. 

“The Allegheny County Jail is not the place to provide mental health services,” he said, referencing a 59-year old man who died in the jail over the weekend while waiting for a bed in a mental health facility. “We need to increase the capacity within the criminal justice system to provide mental health services in the appropriate manner.” 

To broadly increase mental health services, Mr. Rockey said he would work with the region’s health systems to expand their programs. 

“We’re not spending the money we should be spending to have the right statewide facilities to support them,” he said. “That is an issue that needs to be brought to the governor’s attention, the legislature’s attention, and it needs to be addressed.”

And Mr. Rockey promised to listen to victims. In addition to law enforcement members, Laurie MacDonald, the president and CEO of the Center for Victims, spoke in favor of Mr. Rockey’s plan. 

“The plight of victims is often overlooked and it’s important for them to have a voice,” she said Thursday. “Joe Rockey’s plan includes our voices. It’s been a long time coming and very much needed.”


Joe Rockey to Sara Innamorato: Debate me


Joe Rockey wants to debate.

More than four months before the November general election, the Republican nominee for Allegheny County executive challenged his Democratic rival, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, to a series of five debates.

“It’s crucial that the public becomes engaged in this contest, and the best way to do that is to put the candidates in front of the voters and have them debate the substantive issues that will determine Allegheny County’s future,” Mr. Rockey said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m calling on local broadcasters to step up and help make this series of debates happen.”

The Innamorato campaign didn’t provide a direct response to Mr. Rockey but said she “looks forward to continuing the conversation with voters every single day until Election Day,” WESA reported.

Ms. Innamorato, during the Democratic primary race, “already engaged in more than 20 forums and debates in every corner of the county, [and] published policy proposals to improve working people’s quality of life on her website,” the campaign told the radio station.

A former PNC executive, Mr. Rockey ran unopposed for the GOP nomination in the May primary election. His campaign said he wants debates with Ms. Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, to focus on economic development, human services, public safety, county tax policies and good governance.

He sent Ms. Innamorato a letter Wednesday asking her to agree to the events, his campaign said. 

It’s a familiar tack: Challengers and candidates in weaker positions tend to leverage such requests to pressure incumbents or better-positioned rivals into the ring. In her first run for state House in 2018, Ms. Innamorato herself challenged then-incumbent Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, to debate.

That didn’t happen after Mr. Costa said he couldn’t make any of five proposed datesMs. Innamorato went on to win

More recently, Stephen A. Zappala Jr., the Allegheny County district attorney, wouldn’t accept an April debate challenge from Democratic primary rival Matt DuganMr. Dugan won the Democratic nomination last month but faces a rematch with Mr. Zappala in November. The incumbent DA, a longtime Democrat, won the Republican nomination through write-in votes.

Ms. Innamorato, who beat five rivals in the Democratic primary for executive, has already appeared on stage with Mr. Rockey. He and Democratic candidates participated in a variety of joint forums before the May 16 primary. 

In Democratic-friendly Allegheny County, Ms. Innamorato is the widely presumed frontrunner to succeed outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a term-limited Democrat. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county by roughly two to one. 


Joe Rockey got early union support in his campaign against Sara Innamorato for Allegheny County executive



A Pennsylvania group of trade labor unions is supporting Republican Joe Rockey over Democratic nominee Sara Innamorato for Allegheny County executive, a state union leader announced Thursday.

Coming just three weeks after the May 16 primary elections, the endorsement from the Pennsylvania District Council of the Laborers International Union is an early boost for Mr. Rockey in the battle for the grassroots and fundraising support from organized labor. Unions generally back Democratic candidates in Allegheny County, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.

“I never judge a candidate by a party. I judge it by what that candidate can do for our membership and what the candidate believes,” Philip Ameris, the group’s president, told reporters Downtown at the Laborers Building.

He described Mr. Rockey, a former PNC executive, as a proven leader who believes “extreme political views will only cause division and stifle development and progress.” Ms. Innamorato’s support for a local ban on hydraulic fracturing — the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking — helped swing the labor council to the Republican, Mr. Ameris said.

The organization represents some 24,000 workers statewide, some in the fracking industry, he said. About 1,000 Allegheny County government workers are part of the group, which is rooted in construction and the public sector. Downtown-based Laborers Local 1058 and Monroeville-based Local 373 joined the council in endorsing Mr. Rockey.

Overall Laborers membership countywide is about 4,000 to 5,000, Mr. Ameris estimated. He said his council would be “a significant financial supporter” for Mr. Rockey but did not say how much it would contribute.

The regional group gave more than $100,000 to County Treasurer John Weinstein’s failed bid for the Democratic nomination for county executive, according to campaign finance reports. Echoing one of Ms. Innamorato’s campaign slogans, Mr. Ameris said Mr. Rockey, 58, would make “Allegheny prosper for all” through common-sense governance.

“We keep hearing that he can’t win. He can definitely win,” Mr. Ameris said.

In a statement to WESA, the Innamorato campaign said she’s “the pro-union candidate” in the race and would work to make “Allegheny County the most pro-union county in the country.” 

Ms. Innamorato “has shown up on picket lines for carpenters, Teamsters, teachers, UPMC workers, painters and steelworkers,” her campaign said.

Mr. Rockey, of Ohio Township, has said he would draw on his corporate experience to sell employers on bringing jobs to Western Pennsylvania. Speaking with reporters last month, he called himself “an ideal candidate” for building trades unions “because I am about growth.”

And in a recent fundraising email to supporters, Mr. Rockey cast Ms. Innamorato, a state representative from Lawrenceville, as a threat to the local economy. The progressive’s opposition to fracking “would ruin our chances at finally securing economic prosperity,” Mr. Rockey wrote.

“It is imperative that we support our unions,” Mr. Rockey said Thursday, noting his late father and father-in-law were “passionate union members.”

His agenda emphasizes union labor, including for the construction of new plants, he said. Natural gas in Western Pennsylvania can drive manufacturing, cultivate union jobs and help the environment by cutting reliance on coal-fired plants in China and elsewhere, Mr. Rockey said. 

He ran unopposed for the Republican nomination for county executive. A third-term state lawmaker, Ms. Innamorato, 37, topped a six-candidate field to win the Democratic nominationwith more than 37% of the vote.

Her union support includes the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union. Several SEIU entities accounted for more than $280,000 of her roughly $843,000 in campaign fundraising from January through April, according to financial disclosures.

Outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat first elected in 2011, is term-limited.

While Democrats enjoy close relationships with unions, it’s not unprecedented for Republicans to win endorsements from more conservative segments of organized labor. The Laborers council in Western Pennsylvania endorsed then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, for reelection in 2014, and Republican John Rafferty for state attorney general in 2016.

At the national level, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters endorsed Ronald Reagan for president in 1980 and again in 1984 — and the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016 and 2020.


Republican Allegheny County executive candidate Joe Rockey says he’s a centrist



PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Joe Rockey, the Republican candidate for Allegheny County executive, says he is the centrist the county needs.

Rockey knows he’s in an uphill battle but says he’s the most qualified candidate to lead the county.

Rockey ran unopposed for the GOP nomination two weeks ago, so most people don’t really know much about him, but he hopes to become a household name before this campaign is over in November.

Born on a leap year on Feb. 29, 1964, Republican county executive candidate Joe Rockey says his roots in this region are very modest.

“I grew up on the North Side in some challenging times. My father got sick. He was a UAW worker and he got sick when I was 5 and was unable to go back to work. So we had some really challenging financial times. I’m a young man who grew up using food stamps,” Rockey said. 

With a degree from Duquesne and a job at PNC Bank, Rockey worked his way up to the senior management ranks of PNC before taking an early retirement.

“People describe me as an executive, a businessman, but really at my core I’m a kid who grew up on the North Side making sure that the people around me have the same chance to do the things that I did,” he said. 

Unlike his opponent, Democrat Sara Innamorato, Rockey has no experience in politics but says he has the experience, unlike Innamorato, of running large entities like Allegheny County.

“I’ve actually managed larger teams than what the county employment is. I’ve managed bigger budgets than what the county is in my career,” Rockey said. 

Rockey says job one for the next county executive is to grow the economy.

“The county executive is the lead salesman for Allegheny County. And in my first year, I will be in a hundred companies around this country talking to them about the advantages of bringing their supply chains to Allegheny County,” Rockey said.

Rockey says he’s not into party politics and is right in the middle on the political spectrum.

“Both the left and the right have a fringe on the far side that are preventing us from moving this country forward and will prevent us from moving the county forward. My opponent is from that far-left wing. I am truly a centrist. I’ve been a centrist all my life. I believe in getting things done, working with people regardless of their background,” Rockey said. 

Delano: “Are you going to endorse Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee next year?”

Rockey: “I will not support Donald Trump. Donald Trump is an example of the divisiveness I just talked about before.”

For Rockey to win county executive, he will need to attract Democratic voters who voted against Innamorato, along with Independents and Republicans. It won’t be easy, but the North Side native is confident he can do it.


Rockey calls himself ‘a centrist’ as the Republican launches his county executive campaign against Innamorato


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A day after state Rep. Sara Innamorato emerged as his Democratic opponent, the Republican nominee for Allegheny County executive debuted his campaign message for the general election, presenting himself as “a centrist who is focused on the middle.”

“A centrist can win in Allegheny County,” Joe Rockey, a former PNC executive, said Wednesday during a Downtown news conference. “I tell people that the only ‘R’ in this race is ‘Rockey,’ and I mean that. I show up here as I am coming to represent every citizen in Allegheny County. I’m not coming with a partisan view.”

The Democratic-leaning county last had a Republican executive about 20 years ago, after the current local government structure was first put into place. But Tuesday’s primary election results extended a series of progressive victories in Western Pennsylvania Democratic politics over the last several years, with Ms. Innamorato leading the ticket. And Republicans hope those same progressives will turn off swing voters in November.

Ms. Innamorato, 37, was widely seen as the most liberal of six candidates in the Democratic primary for executive and won with about 38% of the vote. Mr. Rockey, 59, a first-time candidate for elected office, ran unopposed for the GOP nomination — allowing him to avoid the kind of primary-season rightward lurch that can sometimes hobble Republican nominees in November.

Mr. Rockey said Wednesday that Ms. Innamorato, a third-term lawmaker from Lawrenceville, doesn’t have his history of working “executive to executive” to encourage companies to come to Allegheny County. His PNC career included selling employers on doing business in Western Pennsylvania — work he would continue as executive, he said.

“If you don’t have jobs, your population will naturally decline,” said Mr. Rockey, of Ohio Township. “If you have job growth in Allegheny County, you will retain the children who are leaving our county, and you will bring others into the county looking for those jobs.”

The county lost more than 50,000 jobs over the past five years, according to a report released in April.

Mr. Rockey also contrasted himself with Ms. Innamorato on energy policy. She has said she would support a local ban on hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas drilling technique known as fracking. Mr. Rockey called natural gas a vehicle for job creation.

And he identified himself as “an ideal candidate” for the building trades unions who backed one of Ms. Innamorato’s primary opponents, “because I am about growth.” He said his campaign has been in communication with those unions, which supported County Treasurer John Weinstein’s unsuccessful campaign.

Still, Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, said in a statement late Tuesday that the labor group shares “many core values” with Ms. Innamorato.

“We know that there are a lot of serious issues to work out between us, but we are committed to putting in that work and finding a way to move forward together, and we believe she shares that commitment,” Mr. Kelly said. 

Ms. Innamorato’s campaign declined to comment Wednesday. In an email to supporters, Innamorato campaign manager Kacy McGill said Mr. Rockey “is already falling back on the same sexist tropes that we saw used against us in the primary.”

The Innamorato campaign, the email said, won Tuesday “by engaging our friends, family and neighbors where they are at and talking about real issues that matter to our communities: building a green and just economy of the future, ensuring housing for all, expanding mental healthcare, investing in our young people and holding corporate actors accountable when they harm their workers or pollute our air.” 

Precinct-level results in the Democratic primary for Allegheny County executive
Map: Research: Mike Wereschagin, graphic: Ed Yozwick/Post-Gazette • Source: Allegheny County • Created with Datawrapper

Ms. Innamorato’s challenge in November will be appealing to a broader electorate than her progressive base, said Christopher Nicholas, a longtime Harrisburg-based GOP consultant. Republicans could highlight what some call her “extremist views,” he said.

Ms. Innamorato said in an interview last week on KDKA radio that she emphasizes “old-school” Democratic values. But her primary opponents would have had broader appeal to general election voters, Mr. Nicholas said.

“If there will be a chance for a Republican upset,” he said, “Innamorato was the candidate you want to run against.”


Months of campaigning. 8 days left. And the race for Allegheny County executive is anybody’s guess


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After more than $2 million in commercials and months of campaigning, the race for Allegheny County’s top elected office is a toss-up one week before the finish line. 

That’s the consensus drawn from a cross-section of private and public polling data, and interviews with Democratic Party insiders and other political observers watching the primary contest for county executive. 

State Rep. Sara Innamorato, a Lawrenceville progressive, led by a dozen percentage points in one poll released last week. But the race remains in flux, with plenty of room and time for a more centrist Democrat to catch up before the May 16 primary election. Eighteen percent of likely Democratic voters were still undecided, according to the poll from Pittsburgh Works Together, a coalition representing business and labor interests (it had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points) 

“There’s still enough votes out there that this could change,” one Democratic organizer said. “With this polling coming out, you can expect to see some campaigns directing the fire on Sara.”

Indeed, fundraising text messages sent late Wednesday by County Treasurer John Weinstein’s campaign seemed to reflect fears that, despite Mr. Weinstein’s early and initially overpowering spending on the airwaves, the momentum is with Ms. Innamorato. The fundraising texts, sent just hours after the poll made waves in the race, cast Ms. Innamorato as “divisive,” “inadequate,” “extreme,” and “bankrolled by radical progressives.”  

He and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb were tied at 20% in the new poll, both down from a survey by the same group a couple months earlier.

Former PNC executive Joe Rockey is the only Republican running to succeed outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a term-limited Democrat.

It remains to be seen if there will be a sustained last-minute campaign to bring down Ms. Innamorato, who is following the same kind of political playbook that elevated progressives such as Mayor Ed Gainey and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee to victory in recent years. Those campaigns also helped build the progressive infrastructure supporting her campaign. 

The Democratic organizer — who like others interviewed spoke on condition of anonymity because of a pressure campaign not to engage with the Post-Gazette during an ongoing strike by some PG employees — framed it as Ms. Innamorato’s race to lose in the homestretch.

“Honestly, I don’t know who has the money to do it — to make any dent, or enough of a dent,” the organizer said of efforts to stop her.

But a senior Democratic leader was more skeptical about Ms. Innamorato’s durability. While a six-candidate race almost surely means none will capture 50% of the vote, it’s tough to predict whether voters will swing strategically to consolidate momentum behind one candidate and block another, this top Democrat said.

It’s also unclear how much mail voting will shape the makeup of the electorate — there hasn’t been a race for executive since Pennsylvania vastly expanded mail voting — and how outside money could still influence the race.

As of Friday, the progressive Working Families Party had spent about $300,000 on commercials to support Ms. Innamorato and attack her main rivals as unreliable Democrats, according to AdImpact, which tracks political advertising. That’s about three-quarters of what her own campaign has put up for TV ads. 

Headquartered in Brooklyn, the minor political party has a Pennsylvania chapter and counts labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union among its biggest donors. SEIU entities have also provided substantial support for Mr. Gainey and Ms. Lee, D-Swissvale. 

Ms. Innamorato’s campaign is testing whether progressives can duplicate those victories in countywide contests, where Democrats trend further right than they do in city races. Her approach also echoes those that led to progressive victories across the state and the country, including wins by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the liberal Vermont firebrand, endorsed Ms. Innamorato on Wednesday. That and the ideological bent of typical primary voters probably bode well for her prospects, said Dan Mallinson, a professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg who specializes in local politics.

“In politics, it ain’t over till it’s over. But as you get closer to the election, it’s harder for events to swing things,” Mr. Mallinson said. “As long as they’re doing the work of getting people out to vote — not just the ads for name recognition, but knocking on doors to get people to come out — she’s on a good trajectory.”

At the same time, an Innamorato victory wouldn’t necessarily portend “a big progressive renaissance in Western Pennsylvania,” since Mr. Lamb and Mr. Weinstein are effectively splitting her opposition, he said. 

“If there was only one of them, presumably they would be at 40%,” Mr. Mallinson said.

And that’s not counting trial lawyer Dave Fawcett, a former county council member running as a centrist who had 8% support in the latest Pittsburgh Works poll. His campaign had spent the second-most on ads as of Friday — about $772,000 to almost $1.1 million for Mr. Weinstein, according to AdImpact.

Now seen as a potential threat after spending significant sums on TV, Mr. Fawcett has come under pressure from some Lamb allies to suspend his campaign and avoid splitting the non-progressive vote, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Fawcett has given no indication that he will do so.

“We are well positioned to win this race,” Fawcett campaign adviser Mike Butler said in a statement after this story first appeared. “Dave is a good option for someone looking for a person who can actually make change and move our region forward. Dave is gaining ground every day while John [Weinstein] and Michael [Lamb] are stuck in gear. We are moving full steam ahead.”

Two other Democrats, former Pittsburgh school board member Theresa Sciulli Colaizzi and mobile app developer Will Parker, have barely registered in any polling or spent money on TV.

One Democratic strategist watching the race said most voters could end up splitting their support between Ms. Innamorato and Mr. Lamb. While Mr. Lamb has lagged in spending on TV commercials, he’s been endorsed by Mr. Fitzgerald. And Mr. Weinstein’s big spending — even when he was the only candidate on the air — “wasn’t able to move the needle,” the strategist said.

“He’s had so many different ads focusing on different topics and different messages, I don’t think anything has really sunk in with voters,” the strategist added, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the campaigns.

Mr. Weinstein’s support dropped eight percentage points in the two months between the two Pittsburgh Works polls, while Mr. Lamb dropped four points. Party insiders had widely seen Mr. Weinstein as an early front-runner after he gained key party and labor union support, including endorsements and campaign contributions. Initial fundraising reports showed him with a six-figure lead in the money race. (Citing a “technological error,” his campaign was the only one that didn’t meet a deadline Friday to file campaign finance reports with the county, so it remains unclear how much money he has going into the homestretch.)

His labor backing includes the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council, Steamfitters Local Union 449 and Iron Workers Local Union No. 3. Ms. Innamorato’s union support includes the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the SEIU, whose political committees are among her biggest contributors.

That split follows long-standing political differences between the more conservative building trades unions and other, more liberal segments of organized labor, said John Delaney, an expert in labor-management relations. 

How different labor groups coalesce around the Democratic nominee against Mr. Rockey could signal whether that divide is deepening, said Mr. Delaney, a vice president at St. Vincent College. Organized labor’s value to candidates may be greater in the “ground game” — organizing voter turnout — than in big contributions, he said.

“In a lot of elections in the past, there’s been this type of split early on, with the bulk of people coming together once the candidate has been chosen in the primary,” Mr. Delaney said. 

For Republicans, running against Ms. Innamorato in the November general election “would be a target-rich environment” because of her liberal policy positions, special-interest and outside support and relative inexperience as a three-term state lawmaker with a thin record, said Sam DeMarco, the county GOP chairman. Either Mr. Lamb or Mr. Weinstein likely would be a more formidable opponent for Mr. Rockey given their long government experience and more moderate positions, he said.

“We know it’s a high climb for any Republican to win countywide office in Allegheny County due to the registration disparity,” Mr. DeMarco said (roughly 57% of voters are registered Democrats). 

But November could evoke Republican Jim Roddey’s election as executive in 1999, Mr. DeMarco said: “You could have labor, corporate [interests] and reasonable concerned citizens getting behind the Republican.”


County executive candidates promise environmental justice, expanded language service and mental health funding to Allegheny’s Asian communities

By: Hannah Wyman

The day before Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, four Allegheny County executive candidates promised to stand against discrimination or hate while in office during a forum held at the Philippine Center of Pittsburgh in West Mifflin.

The Republican candidate, retired PNC executive Joe Rockey, and three Democratic hopefuls — former Pittsburgh school board member Theresa Sciulli Colaizzi, state Rep. Sara Innamorato and county Treasurer John Weinstein — were asked a series of questions drawn from API Platform for PA developed by the AAPI PA Power Caucus, which hosted Sunday afternoon’s forum. 

A chair reserved for Pittsburgh city Controller Michael Lamb sat empty on the stage as he had RSVPed to the event but failed to attend. The other Democratic candidates — attorney and former county councilor Dave Fawcett and entrepreneur Will Parker — were also not in attendance.

Ballots will be cast on May 16, taking the county one step closer to a new county executive. The position is currently held by Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat who is in his third and final term due to term limits. 

On Sunday, candidates spoke on issues important to the AAPI community such as language accessibility, voting security, environmental justice and mental health resources to a crowd of about three dozen Asian Americans and allies. 

Lani Mears, president of the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, shared that a report on immigrants and refugees in Allegheny County in 2013 indicates a 52% growth of the foreign-born population from Asia between 2000 to 2010. Other national data reflects that Asians are the fastest-growing population of undocumented immigrants with nearly 1.5 million Asian undocumented immigrants in the United States today. 

Mears posed questions about welcoming undocumented immigrants into the county and ensuring the right people will be working on related initiatives for the candidates.

All candidates agreed that their respective staff would be diverse and filled with those who had the proper skill set to do the job. 

“When you’re working with the AAPI community, there’s dozens and dozens of languages that need to be available for individuals so that they know how to access their government that they’re paying taxes into,” Innamorato said. “It’s working with all of our county departments to ensure that we get language access resources out into the community through organizations.”

Rockey spoke of matching the services of entities such as Catholic Charities once in office.

“The best thing for us to do is to improve employment so that immigrants who come here are documented or otherwise have a future and have an opportunity going forward,” he said. “I’ve seen firsthand what Catholic Charities does for immigrants who come into Allegheny County. They’ve set up services, they’ve offered support for the day-to-day needs of immigrants who show up in our county, again, no question of whether they’re documented or not documented.”

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Pittsburgh chapter president Sabrina Liu pointed to an AAPI PA Caucus survey taken last year that found 69% of the respondents stated that they agree that the government should shift resources allocated for police departments to health and human services, including mental health responders, workforce development and nonviolent alternatives. 

Rockey, Colaizzi and Weinstein all expressed that defunding the police is not the answer.

“The premise that we defund one part of the county to fund another, I don’t believe it’s the right place to begin, but I absolutely believe we need to fund mental health services,” Rockey said. “We need to fund the support for mental health services as early as possible with simple and easy access so that individuals can get issues addressed quickly, privately and in a manner that prevents them from becoming lifelong challenges that they will carry with them.”

Weinstein said the county has an obligation to assist and “step right in.”

“That’s a responsibility of the county, and we will be the conduit to work with our nonprofit organizations, with UPMC, with Highmark and all the other hospital organizations in this region to supply mental health treatment where it’s lacking, and the county will use our Department of Human Services as well to help facilitate that,” he said.

Mears asked the candidates how they would mitigate the challenges of air and water quality while alleviating the disproportionate burden that AAPI and other communities of color face.

“We need to hold these people accountable,” Colaizzi said. “If they’re given specific guidelines that they’re supposed to operate under then I expect them to operate under [them]. … I don’t know if we can blame [air quality] on the buses and the cars because now we have scooters, we have bikes. What is causing the problem? We need to identify what causes the problem before you can even try to resolve it.”

Innamorato also talked about regulating air quality and setting air quality standards in addition to investing in the Health Department’s air quality division. 

“The role of the county executive, it starts with the people that we are appointing to the Board of Health and the air pollution control committee,” she said. “Those need to be people who have a public health background, who will understand climate change science and those who, most importantly, are from the impacted communities and from environmental justice communities so that they have a seat at the table when it comes to strengthening our regulations and ensuring that enforcement occurs.”

Following Liu’s question about protecting the AAPI workforce and expanding the rights of those in industries difficult or even impossible to unionize, such as restaurants and health care, all four attendees said they were dedicated to protecting unions and workers’ rights. 

Colaizzi used her time on the school board when she settled 19 union contracts as an example of her dedication. 

“Every union should be in every business as far as I’m concerned because that’s what guarantees that employees get treated good and then the employer is then forced to do that, but the union then has to step up to the plate, so it’s a two-edged sword, and if anybody can walk this one, it’s me,” she said.

Both Weinstein and Innamorato mentioned their endorsements, Weinstein’s from Allegheny County Labor Council endorsement and Innamorato’s from from SEIU Healthcare, teachers at Community College of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We have built a coalition that centers workers in our campaign, and that’s how I plan on governing,” she said. “We have the opportunity to do a better job and enforcement at the county; we have a lot of great ordinances on the books that protect workers and are supposed to pay people a prevailing wage.”

Rockey spoke of his father, who fell ill when Rockey was 5, and how their family was supported by the United Auto Workers. 

“I will do what’s in my power to support all the unions that work inside of Allegheny County government and to those organizations around the county who are looking to create better lives for the people who work in all those distances and so that leadership is what is necessary, and I’m standing with and beside folks from a firsthand knowledge of what the union did for my family.”

All candidates agreed that language accessibility could be greatly improved within the county.

“This is retail government for people to be able to use the services that we provide; it has to be done on a retail level,” Weinstein said. “The county could do this through an app. We have no app right now that we could utilize. We need to create an app, and there will be an app next year that you can download on your phone, you put it in whatever language that you speak …. It’s not just about calling an 800 number. You can actually look on your phone, and it will translate for you through the county app.”

Weinstein also spoke about connecting with schools in the county to provide more language opportunities and expand services. Although the county cannot mandate anything for these schools, Weinstein said he has the connections with school board presidents and superintendents to have such conversations. 

One audience question noted the rise of hate and violence against the AAPI community since the pandemic and subsequent anti-Asian rhetoric.

All speakers said they would lead with a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination and hate within the county. 

Colaizzi referenced her Italian heritage and first-generation identity and said she would lead with empathy and inclusion in the office. 

“I’m first-generation Italian so if anybody gets it, it’s me,” she said. “As a woman, I’ve been put down. As an Italian, I’ve been put down. … I have been put down so many times, especially as a politician, but guess what? I got back up, and I’ll fight for your nationality as well. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. I’ve been there, done that and I’ll do it again.”

In a news release, Mears called the county executive the most powerful elected candidate in the region.

“It’s critical that our diverse Asian Pacific Islander communities hear directly from the candidate who will oversee the systems that impact our everyday lives,” she said.

Asian American votes spiked to unprecedented levels in 2020 and 2022, and Pennsylvania had the highest vote-by-mail sign-up rate of any racial-ethnic community in Pennsylvania, and the second highest mail-in-ballot return rate, Kim Huynh of API PA said.

“Every voter deserves the chance to have their voice heard and their ballot counted, and speaking a language other than English shouldn’t exclude you from contributing to democracy,” Liu said in a statement. 

A video of the entire forum can be found here.


How to bring back jobs to Allegheny County? Candidates for executive float their pitches at RMU


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A forum centered on the Allegheny County job market drew a cross-section of ideas Wednesday from a half-dozen candidates for county executive.

While the hourlong exchange at Robert Morris University saw few jabs from the five Democrats and one Republican, their pitches for reversing the county’s job losses varied widely, from encouraging immigration to improving access to child care.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, seen among the leading candidates in the May 16 Democratic primary race, said the region must do better in welcoming international immigrants.

“I know some people find it controversial. But any region that’s growing right now is growing by the number to which they attract international immigrants,” Mr. Lamb said. “If we don’t get serious about that and get more welcoming around that, we’re going to die. And you better be prepared for that.”

Organized by Pittsburgh Works Together Inc., an alliance of labor, workforce and business interests, the event followed a report showing the county lost more than 50,000 jobs in the past five years.

The county’s economy was the worst-performing urban core county of any metropolitan region in Pennsylvania and Ohio, according to the findings from the coalition.

County Treasurer John Weinstein cited public safety and the health of Downtown Pittsburgh as cornerstones of attracting jobs.

“That’s one of the reasons that we’re losing jobs — because of the crime that’s perpetrated in the City of Pittsburgh,” said Mr. Weinstein, another Democrat seen among the top candidates. “That’s not acceptable. Pittsburgh is the vibrant jewel of Western Pennsylvania, and we have to keep that strong.”

State Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, said the county’s human services can play a key role in enabling people to join the workforce. In particular, many women want to work but have trouble lining up child care, she said.

Ms. Innamorato also called for rethinking workspaces for hybrid and remote work arrangements and for emphasizing jobs in the clean-energy sector. Dave Fawcett, a Democrat and trial lawyer, urged better planning to help the region retain emerging jobs in robotics.

“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I want jobs; I want to bring people here,’” Mr. Fawcett said. “You need to plan, and the county executive can do that.”

Will Parker, a Democrat and mobile-app developer, called for recruiting business owners who offer robust health benefits as a way to keep workers in the area. He also pressed for promoting inclusion while fighting racism and workplace bullying.

Former PNC executive Joe Rockey, the only Republican candidate to succeed outgoing County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, said the region’s abundant natural gas and water offer strategic advantages. The county should leverage those to spur manufacturing and create jobs, including as water becomes more scarce in some western states, Mr. Rockey said.

Only he and Mr. Fawcett indicated they would not support a fracking ban for Allegheny County. Mr. Rockey said using natural gas to attract manufacturing jobs from China could help the global environment by reducing coal use in the Asian country.

“If you’re environmentally conscious, as I am, you have to acknowledge that over the last 20 years, it is natural gas which has actually reduced the greenhouse [gas] emissions in the United States,” Mr. Rockey said.

Democrat Theresa Colaizzi is the only announced candidate for executive who did not participate in the event. 


Allegheny County executive candidates discuss views for Mon Valley towns

By Max Robinette

Allegheny County executive candidates participated in a community forum at the McKeesport Palisades Wednesday to discuss their visions for the Mon Valley.

Democrats Sara Innamorato, Dave Fawcett, Michael Lamb, Will Parker and John Weinstein, as well as Republican Joe Rockey are the remaining candidates to replace current county Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Steel Rivers Council of Governments Executive Director An Lewis and Turtle Creek Valley COG Amanda Settelmaier moderated the event, directing questions that addressed issues specific to the region.
Steel Rivers COG joins 19 municipalities along the Monongahela River, working to combat blight, encourage new industry and provide access to funding from local, state and federal resources. Turtle Creek COG joins 20 municipalities in the eastern part of the county.

Lewis and Settelmaier asked questions about pervasive issues they’ve seen working with municipal governments. The forum took on a round table discussion format, with candidates providing a brief response, passing the question to the next speaker.


Republican Joe Rockey says his centrist views will help him win Allegheny County executive race

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While at least seven Democrats want to be Allegheny County’s next chief executive, only one Republican has stepped forward in this year’s election.

As KDKA-TV political editor Jon Delano explains, Republican Joe Rockey thinks he can attract moderate Democrats and independents to his campaign.

Rockey has never run for public office. A retired senior executive at PNC, Rockey says he will focus on job growth to keep our children and grandchildren from moving away.

“Allegheny County has lost more jobs in the last five years than any other county in Pennsylvania and in any other county in Ohio,” he says.

Rockey — who grew up on the North Side, lives in Ohio Township and is married with kids and grandkids — says he will reinvigorate economic development in the region.

“We have to bring together the impact of labor, our businesses, the universities, and our foundations to have a unified and concerted effort to bring employment to western Pennsylvania,” he said,

And the Republican says the next executive must work to remove the disincentives to come to this region like crime.

“It is not great for our city to have shootings at midday Downtown,” Rockey said. “That is not a way to have people come back to the city. It’s not a way to grow and bring other companies to us.”

Rockey hopes to attract votes across political parties, saying he’s a centrist like the three previous executives: Republican Jim Roddey and Democrats Dan Onorato and Rich Fitzgerald.

He expects the Democrats to nominate either a Democratic socialist from the left or an old-school career politician.

The seven Democrats running are county Councilwoman Liv Bennett, former Councilman Dave Fawcett, state Representative Sara Innamorato, City Controller Michael Lamb, human resources manager Erin McClelland, software developer Will Parker and County Treasurer John Weinstein.

“If the true majority in Allegheny County, the folks in the middle who believe in common sense solutions whether they are Democrat, Republican, or independent, if they look at my record and what I am capable of doing,” says Rockey, “I believe I can win this election regardless of who the Democrats put up.”

Candidates in both parties have until March 7 to file nominating petitions. The election is in 12 weeks on May 16.