Democrats retain control on Allegheny County Council, despite GOP gain of one seat

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Republicans picked up one seat on the 15-member Allegheny County Council following balloting on Tuesday, unofficial results indicate.

The GOP would hold five seats and Democrats 10 starting in January as three new faces join the county’s legislative body. The current make-up is four Republicans and 11 Democrats.

Democrats also control all county row offices, including that of county executive.

In District 3 in the north suburbs, the lead seesawed back and forth all evening between Democrat Mary Gibson and Republican Ed Kress in a very tight race to become the District 3 representative on county council. Mr. Kress maintained his slim lead as the last of the more than 13,000 ballots were counted.

Mr. Kress was making his third run for council. He is in line to succeed Democrat Jim Burn in District 3, which takes in a large swath of the North Hills from the banks of the Allegheny River north to Hampton and West Deer. Mr. Burn, who is chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, did not seek a third term on council.


Republican Tom Baker beat his Democratic opponent, Daniel McClain, and Constitution Party candidate Jim Barr to retain the District 1 council seat for the GOP. Mr. Baker will succeed incumbent Matt Drozd, whom he defeated in the May primary to win the Republican nomination. District 1 extends west to east from Findlay, Moon and North Fayette, past a half dozen Ohio River Valley communities to Ross and West View.

Sue Means, a Republican from Bethel Park, had no Democratic opponent in her race for council’s District 5. She will follow appointed Councilwoman Krista Harris and complete the last two years of the term of Vince Gastgeb, who resigned to take a job with the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

District 5 includes Bethel Park, Bridgeville, Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.

Council incumbents won their re-election races in four other districts.

Voters in the eastern suburbs gave veteran Councilman Charles Martoni another four-year term in office.

Mr. Martoni, a Democrat, defeated Republican Dave Majernik in the race for the District 8 seat. The district is shaped like a fat letter “J,” extending from Edgewood and Swissvale to Monroeville and Plum. Mr. Martoni has served on council since 2000, the year when the commissioner form of government was replaced by a full-time elected executive and 15-member council.

Councilman Bob Macey, a Democrat, beat Republican challenger Kenneth Peoples in a race to represent the 9th District council seat in the southeast corner of the county. Mr. Macey has served on council since 2006.

Two Democrats won re-election with no opposition. Councilman Michael J. Finnerty will serve another term in District 4, which extends from South Fayette to the banks of the Ohio River. Councilman James Ellenbogen will continue to represent residents of Pittsburgh and several South Hills communities, including Dormont and Green Tree.

District 1

Mr. Baker pledged to work with members of both parties when he takes office in January. “I’m not going to be thinking so much as a Republican or a Democrat, but I am someone who wants to get things done,” he said.

Mr. Baker said he plans to take as his political model Republican Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, of Mt. Lebanon. One of the things Ms. Heidelbaugh does is “push to keep the county executive accountable,” Mr. Baker said.

Mr. Baker, 34, is the chief community affairs officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. He lives in Ross and serves on the North Hills School Board. While the county charter appears to forbid serving in two elective offices, Mr. Baker said he hopes to be able to keep his school board seat, but he pledged to follow the advice of county and school board solicitors and would pick the county seat if he has to choose.

District 3

Mr. Kress, 42, of Shaler has served two appointed stints on county council, but lost previous county elections and failed to hold on to his seat. He won a tough GOP primary contest in May, setting up his successful general election battle with Ms. Gibson.

Mr. Kress, a lawyer, is a lifelong resident of Shaler and a graduate of Shaler Area High School.

District 8

Mr. Martoni said his major goal in a new term would be to restore people’s faith in government. A government shutdown in Washington and angry rhetoric at all levels of politics have hurt politicians’ credibility, he said.

He also said he would not seek another term as council president, a move that would allow him more freedom to express his own opinions on county issues.

Mr. Majernik, his GOP opponent, also lost a race for mayor of Plum. Democratic incumbent Richard Hrivnak, who has served in that job since 2006, was re-elected to the post.

Mr. Martoni, 77, is a former mayor of Swissvale, where he lives with his wife, Marianne. He has a full-time job as president of the Boyce campus of Community College of Allegheny County.

District 9

Mr. Macey described his top goals for a new term on council as bringing more economic development to the Monongahela and Youghiogheny valleys and supporting measures to cut crime.

Mr. Macey, 64, lives in West Mifflin.

Until his recent retirement, he worked for Century Heritage Federal Credit Union in West Mifflin as director of business development and community relations. He has four grown children and is divorced.

Under the county charter, the position of council member is a part-time job. The salary is $9,000 per year.

Len Barcousky: or 724-772-0184.

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