Perspective: Primary Election shows that the ‘progressive’ movement is real


by Chardae Jones

For New Pittsburgh Courier

Pittsburgh progressives had a night in the Primary Election on May 16.

Allegheny County saw state Rep. Sara Innamorato cinch the Democratic county executive nomination over John Weinstein, Dave Fawcett, Michael Lamb, Will Parker and others, as she won with roughly 15,000 more votes than the second-place finisher, Weinstein. Many people assumed Weinstein would win, as he was the former county treasurer and had more financial campaign donations, but Innamorato, at just 37, proved that the person with the most money isn’t always the winner. She tapped into that same movement that saw now-Congresswoman Summer Lee get into office. Innamorato got the people involved and they believed it when she said she wants to create a county for all.

Summer Lee saw what the county could be when she ran for state representative and won back in 2018. “The power of the people is greater than the people in power,” she loves to say, and says it with conviction.

That is a great way to sum up the 2023 Primary in our area. Voters are showing up and it might not be in big numbers, but the power of the people isn’t going unnoticed. Mayor Ed Gainey explained that this shift couldn’t happen without the people. He was there to celebrate Innamorato’s win at Trace Brewing on May 16.

SARA INNAMORATO speaks during her Election Night Watch Party at Trace Brewing in Bloomfield. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Upon her win, Innamorato explained her strategy was meeting people where they were, and that, she did. “Pundits are already calling Allegheny County the critical battleground for the 2024 election and what we do in these next few months to register new voters, engage new communities, and expand the electorate is critical,” she explained in a press release.

Others that cleaned up included the Allegheny County Council incumbent Bethany Hallam, who kept her seat. She defeated Joanna Doven by a little over 20,000 votes. Hallam has had a phenomenal seat on the Jail Oversight Board and she’s been so loud that people understand. She’s fighting for the minimum wage to be raised in the county and also a transparent government.

And speaking of the County Council, the District 10 race saw DeWitt Walton defeat Carlos Thomas by a mere 724 votes. They both ran great campaigns and were out in the communities and their close numbers were reflective of the tight race. Showing up was half the battle in a lot of these races.

MATT DUGAN, left, defeated Stephen Zappala for the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County District Attorney. But Zappala received enough Republican write-in votes to be on the Republican ballot for November’s General Election, if he accepts the nomination. If he does, it’s Round Two between the two contenders in November.

One of the most-watched Primary races was the Allegheny County District Attorney. After two decades in office, Stephen Zappala was defeated by Matt Dugan for the Democratic nomination. Dugan won with over 19,000 more votes in his favor. Dugan, the chief public defender in the county, shares a different opinion on how the DA’s office should be run.  Dugan met community members where they were and didn’t just put up signs. He didn’t just get the voters’ support. He also got support from the ACLU.

“Like so many of the district attorney contests across the country, the race between Stephen Zappala and Matt Dugan came down to competing visions about how prosecutors choose to navigate and how they might work to reform the criminal legal system,” said Danitra Sherman, deputy advocacy and policy director at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a statement. “We improve public safety when we focus on prevention over punishment, and by investing in communities to tackle the root causes of crime —like poverty and lack of opportunity. Tonight (May 16), Allegheny County voters chose reform, rejecting the failed tough-on-crime policies that were a hallmark of Mr. Zappala’s more than two decades in office.”

But wait…it turns out that Zappala probably will be on the Republican ticket in November for the General Election. It was announced on Tuesday, May 23, that Zappala received over 9,600 write-in Republican write-in votes in the Primary. He only needed 500. Thus, if he accepts the Republican Party’s nomination, he’ll face off against Dugan, again…as a Republican.

Khari Mosley can be  considered a “progressive” candidate, although he’s not in the same age bracket as the Summer Lees and Sara Innamoratos. He won the election for the Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh City Council District 9.  He defeated Khadijah Harris, and he is pretty much guaranteed to win the election in November and take over officially for longtime Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess.

This progressive energy is spreading throughout the region. But how can “progressive” be defined, exactly? Congresswoman Lee told the Tribune-Review that “progressive” means “folks who are seeking to advance us. Advance racial justice, environmental justice and social justice. Not just in our world, but in our politics.”

Don’t be surprised, but come November, the government in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County will most likely continue to reflect the people who show up to the polls. These people are not only the traditional “conservative” Democrats that Pittsburgh has been known for, but also the younger, more “progressive” thinking voters. As the years go on, it will be interesting to see if this progressive movement inspires more people to run for office to keep the momentum going.

(This perspective is by Chardae Jones, who also is the former mayor of Braddock.)





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