Primary 2011/South: Voters tell incumbent officials to leave
May 19, 2011 9:30 AM
D. Raja's campaign staff works the numbers on election night, when he won the primary vote for the Republican candidate for Allegheny County Executive. The candidate shares some private time with his daughters Isana, 9, and Omisa, 7. In the background is Zack Wallen, Mark Harris and Mike Devanney.
Democratic candidate for Allegheny County Executive Mark Patrick Flaherty is accompanied by his wife, Anne, and daughter, Deirdre, as he arrives to vote at the Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon Tuesday morning. Rich Fitzgerald of Squirrel Hill gained the Democratic nomination in this week's primary.
Voters selected nominees for local offices in Tuesday's election. Here are the unofficial results:
West Mifflin Area
The four incumbents running for re-election to the West Mifflin Area school board were swept out of office by a tide of voters who are apparently ready for a change on the board.
Primary election results
Below are links to local county websites and results from Tuesday's primary election:
It appears that board President Kathy Bracco and school directors Ned Mervos, Albert Graham and Diana Olasz all lost their seats in Tuesday's primary. School Director Richard Fialkovich, whose term is also up at the end of the year, did not run for re-election.
The five candidates who appear to have won seats on the board are: Judith Andzelik, Richard Crux, Harry Fast, Ronald Rubinsak and Daniel McDonald. The five ran together on the same slate.
"We did a bang-up job," Mr. Rubinsak said. "Our sign was out there as a group. We were committed to change. That was our slogan and we stuck by it all the way in the campaign."
Mr. Rubinsak said the five candidates "walked the district together" passing out 4,000 pieces of literature and knocking on doors and talking to voters. "The biggest message was that they wanted new people, they were not satisfied with what was happening and our financial status and debt is a big thing," Mr. Rubinsak said.
In March, the board approved eliminating 52 jobs in the district for the 2011-12 school year as the result of a $3.1 million deficit. On top of that deficit, the district faces the loss of $1.2 million in state funding.
Mrs. Bracco said she disagreed that the vote totals indicate the community wanted a change in leadership. "I think that was the message offered by the opposition. But I think the community was badly misinformed," Mrs. Bracco said.
She blamed the successful candidates and their supporters on the board for the misinformation along with the Post-Gazette. She was particularly offended by a story in February that outlined $9,294 in meals that former Superintendent Patrick Risha charged the district during his three years as superintendent. Mr. Risha died of a heart attack in October.
Mrs. Bracco said the newspaper chose to write that story rather than focusing on programs and improvements that Mr. Risha and the board implemented during his tenure.
Mrs. Bracco said she wished the new school directors "a lot of luck" and hopes "they do the right thing for the community and the schools because that's what it's all about."
In the McKeesport Area school board race, incumbents Joseph Chiaverini Sr. and James Brown lost their seats according to unofficial returns, and it appears there will be seven candidates running for five seats in the general election.
Incumbent Joe Lopretto and Mary Jane Keller won both Democratic and Republican nominations.
Others who garnered Democratic nominations were incumbents Christopher Halaszynski and Steven Kondrosky along with newcomer Terri Kisan. Winning Republican nominations were Scott Smith and Ken Peoples.
Democrat John Bendel will face Republican Thomas Michael Brown for the Ward 1 seat that D. Raja will vacate on the Mt. Lebanon commission.
For the Ward 3 seat, incumbent Joseph J. DeIuliis defeated Elaine T. Gillen for the Republican nomination and will face Democratic nominee Kristen Linfante in the fall.
Kelly Fraasch won the Democratic nomination and will face Republican William L. Hoon in the race for the Ward 5 commission seat, which incumbent Dan Miller did not seek.
On the Mt. Lebanon school board, new candidates James Edmund Cannon, William Cooper and Scott D. Goldman will be on the ballot with incumbents Elaine Cappucci, Larry Lebowitz and Ed Kubit in the fall.
Borough council member Drew Lehman lost his seat. Current board member John Maggio earned a Democratic nomination, as did Yvonne A. Costanzo and Valerie Martino. Board president Kimberly Lusardi received a Republican nomination, as did Robert R. Hutchison and James Hodson, husband of current council member Joan Hodson.
Upper St. Clair
Perhaps most astonishing was the last-minute write-in campaign by an Upper St. Clair protest organizer whose frustration over government unresponsiveness convinced her to run for an open at-large township commissioner's seat.
Resident Dorothy Davis said she's "absolutely enthused" that she secured the 10 write-in votes needed to appear on the general election ballot as the Democratic nominee.
The 55-year-old lawyer and resident of the township's Fieldgate development is perhaps best known locally as one of the voices of USC First, a citizen's group that has raised questions and concerns about plans for a big-box retail and residential development at the site of the former Consol Energy corporate headquarters at the corner of Route 19 and Fort Couch Road.
Saying they are most concerned about safety, traffic and school overcrowding, hundreds of residents have turned out to recent township planning commission board meetings to voice their frustration with the proposal and with the process.
Earlier this month, the planning commission voted to delay a decision about amending zoning laws to allow the developer, 1800 Washington Road Associates, to use the 29-acre site for retail and residential development.
Right now, the site is considered a special business district, which can include offices, banking and light retail, such as a pharmacy located within an office building.
Although dozens of residents spoke out against the plan during the last planning commission meeting, the seven-member board was prepared to vote on the issue that night, prompting angry outbursts from the crowd, who said members should first consider the public's position on an issue before taking a vote.
"We might not all agree, but what's important is that we're all heard," Ms. Davis said Tuesday night.
Her frustration with the planning commission, Ms. Davis said, convinced her just days ago to try to enter the race, though whether she succeeded with her impromptu write-in campaign will probably not be official for two to three weeks, according to staff members at the Allegheny County elections division.
There were 62 write-in votes logged by poll workers in the Democratic race. They will be reviewed and certified by the county's Return Board in the coming weeks.
The seat being targeted by Ms. Davis and her supporters is currently occupied by Commissioner Glenn Dandoy, who is seeking a second term as a Republican at-large commissioner.
The seven-member township commission appoints planning commission members, who offer recommendations regarding development proposals.
Residents of the school district sent a clear message in opposition to proposed elementary school consolidation Tuesday.
All five members of the Save Our Schools Coalition -- Lisa Cancelliere and Raeann Lindsey of Castle Shannon; Dave Hommrich and Dan Domalik of Green Tree; and Joe Finucan of Dormont -- prevailed in their primary election bids. Only Ms. Lindsey currently sits on the board.
The SOS coalition formed in response to the board's support for closing Aiken and Myrtle Avenue elementary schools.
Green Tree candidates Mr. Hommrich and Mr. Domalik's victory unseated 16-year incumbent Evelyn Weaver.
Ms. Weaver garnered only 16 percent of the vote, compared to a combined 84 percent that Mr. Hommrich and Mr. Domalik received.
"I can't think of a clearer signal to Keystone Oaks that status quo is not acceptable," Mr. Domalik wrote in an email. "I look forward to the opportunity to improve KO by connecting with our communities and thinking outside the box.
"I'm very grateful for the tremendous support and vote of confidence the voters have given us. Now we will work our hardest to keep their support and trust. I'm optimistic that KO's best days are ahead!"
Mr. Hommrich said the vote demonstrates what happens when a school board loses touch with its residents.
"Two years ago, our school board began a process to close Aiken Elementary school," he wrote in an email.
"This was done despite the board's inability to prove a financial case for the closures. It was also done despite the vocal outcry from a large majority of Green Tree residents. Last night, Green Tree spoke out overwhelmingly in favor of Aiken Elementary. Our win should send a strong message. When a school board stops listening to their residents, they can and will be replaced."
In November, the five SOS Coalition candidates will face off against incumbents Robert Brownlee and Robert Lloyd, both of Dormont, to fill six open seats.
This story was compiled by staff writers Mary Niederberger, Kaitlynn Riely, Janice Crompton and free lance writer Zak Koeske.