Political strategists weigh in on how voters chose progressive Innamorato and Law & Order Zappala

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County Executive-elect Sarah Inamorato will be both the youngest and first woman elected to serve in the position.

On the day after her election, political analysts debated how the 37-year-old did it.

In a district that is two-to-one Democratic by registration, Sarah Inamorato has always been the heavy favorite to win, but Republican Joe Rockey nearly took the win away from her.

“In a big blue wave, Joe Rockey was one point away from winning the race for Allegheny County executive, and I think that’s an incredible story of a good candidate who ran a really good campaign,” said Republican political strategist Mike DeVeney.

Republican political strategist Devaney, who worked on Rocky’s campaign, says Rocky simply hasn’t been able to beat the odds.

“I’m not sure what else could have been done in this campaign. Joe Rockey was a superb candidate. He worked his tail off,” Devaney said.

But Democratic political analyst Joanna Doven says Inamorato won, despite the millions spent against her, because she was very strategic in her campaign.

“She was very smart in her centering in the last thirty days of the competition,” Doven said. “She denounced the Democratic Socialists of America movement, of which she was once a part, and joined what I would call moderate Democrats. She attended groundbreaking events. You didn’t see her much with Mayor Ed Gainey or Representative Summer Lee.”

Doven says that helped convince enough Democrats that Inamorato would not govern as a left-wing progressive.

“I think that effort and Josh Shapiro, the governor coming out to support her a lot in the last week, really tipped the scales for her to win by about 8,000 votes,” Doven said.

Devaney, a Republican, also credits Shapiro’s TV ad with making a difference.

“When a race is as close as this, everything makes the difference. I think Governor Shapiro entering this race, strategically what he did was send a message to Democrats that Sarah is a viable Democrat,” Devaney said.


Sara Inamorato, 37, becomes the first woman elected Allegheny County Executive

So how did the same electorate — about 41 percent of registered voters — elect both Inamorato and perhaps his polar opposite, District Attorney Steve Zappala?

Longtime Democrat Steve Zappala won a record seventh term as district attorney. Sometimes the same voters seem to elect polar opposites.

Inamorato has always presented herself as a progressive Democrat and had no problem endorsing fellow Democrat Matt Duggan for district attorney. But on Tuesday, the same voters who elected her chose to re-elect District Attorney Steve Zappala, a much more conservative law-and-order Democrat.

“I think people just weren’t comfortable with the idea of ​​a progressive prosecutor in the model that George Soros has funded in other municipalities,” said Ben Wren, Zappala’s campaign manager.

“Every messaging opportunity we’ve had, we’ve tried to make sure people know that Steve is a law-and-order democrat and that Matt Duggan is soft on crime.”

Wren says their strategy was key for Zappala’s Democratic supporters, even though he was running for the Republican nominee — it was easier for him than for Republican Rocky because Zappala ran in the primary of the Democratic Party last May.

Steve in the primary received just over 31,000 mail-in votes in the Democratic primary, so we had a target list of people who had already voted for Steve once,” Wren said.

All mail-in voters received special attention from Zappala, Wren says, so when those votes were counted, Zappala did 14,000 votes better than Rocky in his race for county executive. Zappala won re-election by 11,000 votes, also thanks to votes from outside the city of Pittsburgh.

“There seems to be a schism between urban Democrats and what I call Mon Valley and suburban Democrats,” Wren said.

Zappala won many of the same communities Rocky won, but by larger margins. Wren says both the district attorney race and the county executive race will teach future candidates.

“We’re going to look at everything that happened in Allegheny County last night and see what we can learn going forward,” Wren said.

Although we will get a short break from all these negative TV commercials, the 2024 campaign is already starting in earnest. And it will probably be much more intense than the last one.

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