Fitzgerald, Raja are winners in county executive race

Dowd, O'Connor, Kraus, Burgess and Harris win in City Council

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Former county Council president Rich Fitzgerald was headed to hard-fought but solid victory over county Controller Mark Flaherty to capture the Democratic nomination for county executive while D. Raja, a Mt. Lebanon Commissioner, was on his way to capturing the GOP standard over Chuck McCullough, a former county councilman whose underfunded campaign was further burdened by a pending criminal trial.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said tonight that Mr. Fitzgerald ran a flawless primary campaign.

"He was organized, had a clear message and he got the vote out," Mr. Onorato said. "Rich worked his butt off. I've never seen anyone work as hard as Rich and his family."

Mr. Onorato predicted that starting Wednesday the Democratic nominee will be concentrating on the general campaign "and we Democrats will be united behind him."

Many of the volunteers were wearing green T-shirts with the message "Welcome to Fitzburgh" printed on them.

Republican Congressman Tim Murphy told a group of people gathered in a room in the Radisson in Greentree Mr. Raja had won.

"It's nice to have some people in charge who have signed the front of a paycheck," Rep. Murphy said. He was one of several members of the Republican leadership who endorsed Mr. Raja in his race against Mr. McCullough.

Republican Heather Heidelbaugh has defeatead Ed Kress in the race for at-large Allegheny County Council member. Barbara Daly Danko won in District 11, Rich Fitzgerald's old seat.

State Rep. Chelsa Wagner won going away in in the three-way race for the Democratic nomination for county controller. She will face Robert Howard, a former North Hills school director who was unopposed for the Republican nomination.

In a four-person Democratic battle, Darlene Harris, Pittsburgh's city council president, emerged the apparent winner in a tight battle with Vince Pallus, an endorsed candidates allied with the Ravenstahl administration. The results of the five Democratic council contests were shaping up as a disappointment to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. His allies had hoped that the council contests, in which all of the incumbents faced challengers, would produce a more pliant legislative branch after years of tense relations on the fifth floor of the City-Council Building. Bruce Kraus, Corey O'Connor, Ricky Burgess, and Patrick Dowd all won in their districts.

In a hotly contested district judge race in the East End, Hugh McGough was the winner, defeating opponents including Doug Shields, who is leaving City Council.

"It's really, really thrilling for me," Mr. McGough said from his campaign party in Shadyside.

Mr. McGough said the win grew out of "persistence and building a network of supporters who watched me over the last two or three election cycles, and were pleased with the type of law practice I developed, and confident I was prepared to handle these new responsibilities."

Sitting Judge Michael F. Marmo and civil litigator Alexander P. Bicket both appeared to capture the Republican and the Democratic nominations for Allegheny County Common Pleas judge Tuesday night, meaning they will likely sail through the general election to occupy the two available seats on the court.

Five of the seven candidates for the Court of Common Pleas were cross-listed on both ballots for the primary, a common practice in judicial races that makes it possible for one person to receive two nominations. Because there are two spots and two candidates going forward, Judge Marmo and Mr. Bicket are almost certain to win the jobs in November.

In statewide appellate court races, Republican Anne Covey has defeated opponent Paul Panepinto. In the Superior Court contest, Republican Vic Stabile has defeated opponent Paula Patrick. In the Democratic contest for Commonwealth Court judge, Barbara Behrend Ernsberger is ahead of Kathryn Boockvar.

Allegheny County Elections Director Mark Wolosik said today that turnout has been low both here and in other parts of the state.

But he said that is not unexpected for a primary ballot that lacks the kind of high-profile race seen in presidential election years.

Mr. Wolosik said earlier today he expected turnout to be about what he projected -- 28 percent, but it turned out to be below 20 percent.

His office had heard of few problems at the polls. Voters in off-year elections are usually the dedicated who already know their polling places and whether they are still registered, he said, a contrast to some presidential years.

The only glitch he had heard of was a polling place opening nearly an hour late in McCandless.

Along with nominations in local races for municipal, school board and some district judge offices, the ballot includes countywide races such as county executive, commissioners in counties except Allegheny, some judges and some row offices. The only statewide races are for nominations to Superior and Commonwealth courts.

For the fastest results and the Early Returns political blog, go to post-gazette.com.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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