Republican county executive candidate Joe Rockey pitches a ‘middle ground’ platform | Ryan Deto

Allegheny County Republicans have struggled in elections as of late, and one county executive candidate is hoping to turn the tide with a pitch that is inclusive to a broad swath of voters.

Retired PNC chief risk officer Joe Rockey announced his campaign for Allegheny County executive at the Wyndham Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

He is the first Republican to throw his hat into the race in a historically Democrat-leaning county.

“I still believe I have something left to give in the place that raised me,” said Rockey, of Ohio Township. “We need a new kind of renaissance. It’s not enough to put up new buildings and arenas without the people to fill them.”

Rockey, 58, grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He attended North Catholic High School and later Duquesne University, earning an accounting degree. He said his father was a union Democrat.

Eventually he became a certified public accountant and worked as PNC’s chief risk officer.

Rockey said the local economy is his “Number 1 priority.” He said he would work with organized labor, businesses, and nonprofits to improve economic conditions in Allegheny County.

Rockey lamented the region’s struggles with population loss and said the county should be doing a better job at attracting the family-sustaining careers that will attract and keep people in the area.

“Tampa should be a place we go on vacations — not a place we visit our grandchildren,” he said.

He believes he can appeal to Democrats and independents in a county where Republicans are severely outnumbered. He said he would stand “right in the middle,” and that voters who believe in the kind of “common sense solutions” he is promoting make up the majority of Allegheny County voters, regardless of their party affiliation.

The last two general elections have shown Democrats strengthen their numbers in Allegheny County.

President Joe Biden won in 2020 by a margin only eclipsed by Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Both Gov. Josh Shapiro and Sen. John Fetterman improved upon Biden’s Allegheny County margin in 2022.

On Tuesday, all three Democrats won their special elections in Allegheny County by at least a 3-1 margin over Republican opponents. A Republican candidate hasn’t carried the whole of Allegheny County since 2010, when Republican Tom Corbett won the county by less than a percentage point.

Despite these odds, Republicans are buoyed by Rockey’s chances.

Sam DeMarco, an Allegheny County Councilman and chair of the county Republican Committee, said Republicans believe they have a “very real chance” at retaking the county executive office for the first time since 1999. He said that Democrats have elicited a field of “career politicians who are out of step” with county residents.

Republican Jim Roddey was elected Allegheny County’s first county executive in 1999 and served one term. Roddey is chairing Rockey’s campaign.

“This region needs a problem solver,” Roddey said. “Someone that understands business, not someone pushing extreme political theories.”

Republicans appear to be united behind Rockey’s campaign, which could provide them a needed boost compared to Democrats who have already amassed a large primary field.

Several Allegheny County Republicans were in attendance at Rockey’s launch, including former U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, North Hills state Rep. Rob Mercuri, and former state Rep. Carrie DelRosso of Oakmont.

Rockey attempted to strike a chord appealing to conservatives and possible liberals. He spoke about tackling homelessness and crime in Downtown Pittsburgh, and also spoke about including everyone in the county’s growth.

“A vibrant economy is the surest way to eradicate poverty,” he said.

Conspiracy theories about rigged elections have become a growing issue of concern among some Republicans, particularly the 2020 election. Rockey said he wants to ensure that elections are held fairly, but said he has confidence that this has been done in the past in Allegheny County.

He also criticized some Democrats as proposing “radical policies.” When asked what those proposals were, he didn’t specify and said some progressives were proposing ideas that “might work in California, but not Western Pennsylvania.“

He said there would be some differences between him and incumbent County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who is term limited.

Rockey lauded Fitzgerald for his economic growth strategy surrounding Pittsburgh International Airport, but said he wanted to accelerate efforts like that.

When asked about the Allegheny County Jail, which has become a hot button issue, Rockey said he wants to understand all the issues there and meet with stakeholders before offering potential fixes.

He rejected any notion about privatizing the facility and said local government should run the jail.


Former PNC executive Joe Rockey is the first Republican to enter the race for Allegheny County executive

While seven Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination in the May 16 primary election, no other Republicans have entered the race

A retired financial services executive has entered the race to succeed Rich Fitzgerald as Allegheny County executive — and he’s the first Republican to join the fray.

Joe Rockey, 58, of Ohio Township, announced his campaign for the GOP nomination during a Downtown appearance Wednesday morning. A former chief risk officer at Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services, he identified as a political centrist — the North Side-born son of a union Democrat — and warned against “politics as usual” and “radical ideas driven by ideology and not common sense.”

“The economy is our No. 1 problem, and it’s at the heart of what we need to go after,” Mr. Rockey said at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh.

While seven Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination in the May 16 primary election, no other Republicans have entered the race. Mr. Fitzgerald, a Democrat who is term-limited and cannot seek re-election this year, will have served 12 years as county executive when his third term ends next January.

The leadership post, arguably the most powerful elected position in Pennsylvania west of Harrisburg, pays about $146,500 this year. It sits atop the county government system approved by voters in 1998 and put into place in 2000.

Since then, three men — including Mr. Fitzgerald — have held the position. Only the first, Jim Roddey, is a Republican. He served from 2000 to 2004 and is now chairing Mr. Rockey’s campaign.

“We need to govern from the middle and put solutions front and center,” Mr. Roddey told the gathering of Republican elected officials and supporters at the Wyndham. “The only thing extreme about Joe is his desire to get things done.”

Mr. Rockey said he would reinvigorate economic development efforts, prioritize workforce development and pursue partnerships with business, labor, foundations and universities. He told reporters he would take a bipartisan approach to consensus-building and “accelerate the way we bring jobs into our community and make sure that every single family has an opportunity for growth.”

“It’s time for those of us in the middle to take back Allegheny County and to create a future for everyone,” Mr. Rockey said.

Candidates in the Democratic primary include former County Council member Dave Fawcett, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb and County Treasurer John Weinstein. 

Sam DeMarco, the county Republican chairman, said the party has a “very real chance” to win the executive’s seat for the first time in more than two decades. Republicans Matt Drozd and D. Raja lost to Mr. Fitzgerald in the 2019 and 2011 general elections, respectively (Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t have a Republican opponent in 2015). Democrats account for about 57% of registered voters in Allegheny County.

“The Democrats offered up a primary with career politicians out of step with the values of the majority of voters in our county,” Mr. DeMarco said Wednesday. Voters don’t like “loud disputes, impasses and arguments driven by ideological extremes and political posturing.”

“People are tired of fads and cheap drama,” Mr. DeMarco added. “They want the Allegheny County we remember, the county we can once again be — prosperous, growing, a place where generations of the same family can stay and raise the next generation.”

He highlighted Mr. Rockey’s work in the nonprofit sector, where he is a board member at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality and the Little Sisters of the Poor home on the North Side. He also sits on the boards of Catholic Charities and Duquesne University, his alma mater, and was involved in establishing the Second Avenue Commons shelter in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Under the county charter, the executive submits legislation to County Council, appoints key officials with the council’s consent and leads the administration of county government, among other duties. Candidates for the May 16 primary races in Pennsylvania have from Feb. 14 until March 7 to circulate and file paperwork to get on the ballot.

Adam Smeltz: [email protected]@asmeltz

First Published February 8, 2023, 8:23am


Joe Rockey running for Allegheny County Executive

Republican businessman enters 2023 race


The first Republican candidate has entered the race for Allegheny County executive.

Joe Rockey, a retired financial executive and North Side native, officially announced his campaign Wednesday at a news conference in downtown Pittsburgh.

During his announcement, Rockey said we need a new renaissance that’s focused on the people of Allegheny County. 

“It’s not enough to put up new buildings and arenas without the people to fill them,” Rockey said. “It’s about creating opportunities, building futures and supporting the families of our region.”

Rockey was joined at his announcement by former county executive Jim Roddey, the first person elected to the office in 1999 and a former chair of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat, is in his third and final term.

Seven Democratic candidates are seeking the party’s nomination for county executive in the May 16 primary.


Republican Joe Rockey joining race for Allegheny County executive

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A local businessman is throwing his hat in the race for Allegheny County executive. 

Joe Rockey, who’s a retired financial executive and community volunteer, made the announcement on Wednesday. 

Rockey says he believes Allegheny County needs to see continued growth and offer more opportunities for residents and people moving in.  

“People need to feel invested in being here. That can only happen if we invest in them,” he said. 

Right now, Rockey is the lone Republican in the county executive race. There are already seven Democrats running.