THE NEXT ALLEGHENY COUNTY EXECUTIVE IS SARA INNAMORATO, PICTURED WITH LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR AUSTIN DAVIS, LEFT, AND PITTSBURGH MAYOR ED GAINEY. (PHOTO BY EMMAI ALAQUIVA)
Innamorato dominates city proper; Joe Rockey takes most suburbs — Innamorato wins by less than 9,000 votes
There are about 167,000 African Americans in Allegheny County, and most of them have the same questions when it comes to the county’s future: Will they have access to jobs with a pay high enough to sustain a family? Will they be able to afford the rising cost of apartments and homes in the Pittsburgh city proper? Is the county doing enough to curtail the violence that occurs not just in Pittsburgh, but in the surrounding municipalities?
African Americans in elected positions like Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Pa. Lt. Governor Austin Davis, U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, and state Reps. Lindsay Powell and La’Tasha Mayes, all backed Sara Innamorato to be the person to lead Allegheny County as the next chief executive. And while exit polling was not widely conducted throughout the county, the chances are good that many African Americans in the county who voted in the Nov. 7 General Election voted for the Democrat on the ballot, the one the Black elected officials backed, Innamorato.
Turns out, Innamorato needed every vote. Innamorato won with 51.0 percent of the vote, to challenger Joe Rockey’s 48.7 percent. More bluntly, Innamorato won by just 8,323 votes.
SARA INNAMORATO WITH STATE REP. LA’TASHA MAYES, LEFT. (PHOTO BY EMMAI ALAQUIVA)
The Black elected officials who backed Innamorato obviously believed that Innamorato had the better vision for the future of Allegheny County than her opponent. She’s a staunch advocate of more affordable housing, high-paying jobs for all ethnicities, safe communities, and for those on the abortion debate, she’s pro-choice.
When she officially takes over for the term-limited Rich Fitzgerald in January 2024, she will inherit a $3 billion budget, and many of her decisions will shape Allegheny County. One of those decisions is possibly a county-wide property tax reassessment, which Innamorato said she would be in favor of. If that happens, there’s a chance property taxes would go up for a lot of county residents.
However, Innamorato has said that a reassessment under her leadership could bring on a property tax relief to longtime homeowners, similar to a program that is used in Philadelphia.
Also, Innamorato will be watched to see how Allegheny County goes forth with who they hire. Under Fitzgerald’s watch, he touted that 25 percent of the hires at the county since he took office were Black. That’s 25 percent in a county that’s 13.5 percent Black. Will there be even more Black hires working for Allegheny County under Innamorato? Only time will tell.
As she was cheered during her Election Night Watch Party at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, Nov. 7, she said part of her vision was to “create solutions to addiction, violence and poverty that makes us all safer, our families stronger, and our communities more vibrant.”
She continued to be cheered for making history as the first woman county executive in Allegheny County, a position that began in 1999.
“I’m honored, I stand on the shoulders on so many others (women in politics) that came before me,” Innamorato, a former state Representative, said. “I’m just thrilled to have this label and I know it will probably open it up to more scrutiny, and we will just be on top of our game, making sure that we are creating a space for everyone, and collaborating and delivering on the promises that we made.”
HOLDING THE SIGNS IN THE FRONT ARE ATU LOCAL 85 MEMBERS KARIMA HOWARD AND CLAY DAVIS. ATU LOCAL 85 MEMBERS IN THE BACK ARE JAMEEDA JONES AND SARITA ALLEN. (PHOTO BY GAIL MANKER)
Among those in attendance were members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents Pittsburgh Regional Transit drivers. Karima Howard, Jameeda Jones, Sarita Allen and Clay Davis, all African Americans, told the Courier they supported Innamorato because she’s a big supporter of unions.
The Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council and two local units of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also endorsed Innamorato.
“I’ve had the privilege of serving with Sara in Harrisburg,” said an excited Lt. Gov. Davis on the stage, himself the first Black Lt. Governor in Pennsylvania’s history. “We elected someone who’s going to work like hell for working-class people here in Allegheny County. We elected a compassionate, thoughtful leader who will help make sure we create an Allegheny County that works for each and every one of us.”
Lt. Gov. Davis likes to say that those “closest to the pain” should be “closest to the power.” He said that Innamorato will make sure of that. But also, Innamorato, 37, has been through pain herself, and it’s well-documented. She lost her father to drug addiction in 2009.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, Innamorato posted in 2019 that “my dad went to rehab 7 times. He died 10 years ago. Some days I’m still mad at him, but mostly I just miss him. My fight for harm reduction is my way of honoring his memory. Why? Because dead people can’t recover.”
At the Election Night Watch Party, Innamorato told the crowd: “My story is my own, and in sharing it, I know that others feel seen, because over my time as a state Rep. and throughout this campaign, I’ve heard from people who are struggling with their own addiction or lost someone they loved too soon to an overdose or gun violence. I’ve heard from seniors, and single moms with two jobs and not enough childcare. It’s not easy to share these stories but we do so because government is best when it’s connected to the struggle of everyday people.”
“One thing I can tell you about this region is that we love people,” added Mayor Ed Gainey, the first Black mayor in Pittsburgh’s history. “Believing in people is how we change this region. I asked people to support Sara Innamorato because of the way she treats people. Coming out of a pandemic, people questioned her experience, and the best experience you can ever have is lived experience, trust me on this. We have somebody that has had life’s struggles and get (back) up. When you see somebody that has compassion for people that are weak, not to exploit them, but to empower them, that’s the type of leader we need in Allegheny County.”