Voters on both ends of Pennsylvania are deciding Tuesday who will lead the state’s most populous counties, in races that could help shape how Democrats talk about crime, progressive policy and abortion in the political arena.
The results in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, which is home to Pittsburgh, will set the electoral stage for 2024, when the state will be a presidential battleground state, with candidates taking lessons about how Democrats see crime and the strength of progressives in local races. into the next election cycle.
In Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth largest city, voters will choose a new mayor between Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh.
Parker, 51, a former state legislator and former city councilmember, is favored to win in the heavily Democratic stronghold. Her tough-on-crime and moderate approach resonated with voters in a crowded primary in May.
Oh, 63, also a former city councilmember, has built a broad coalition in public office and emphasized the need for an outsider to address civic problems such as public safety and quality-of-life issues, from faulty streelights to potholes to trash collection.
The candidates are vying to replace Democrat Jim Kenney, who cannot seek reelection due to term limits.
Across the state in western Pennsylvania, voters are choosing between progressive Democrat Sara Innamorato and Republican Joe Rockey for their next Allegheny County executive.
Innamorato, 37, is a former state lawmaker who resigned to pursue local office. Pushing to modernize county government and create a community-driven office, she campaigned on progressive policies like taking a public health approach to public safety, affordable and dignified housing and a revamped workforce. She also has invoked national issues such as abortion and voting rights that can be protected at the local level.
Rockey, 59, is a retired chief risk officer for PNC bank who has touted his business expertise as giving him the ability to manage the budget and workforce. He identified public safety, jobs and taxes as top concerns to voters and rejected letting specific ideologies drive decisions at the county executive level. He’s sought to appeal to moderate voters.
Though Allegheny County leans Democratic, a Republican was narrowly elected to the position when it was first created in 1999.
Voters in the county will also decide between a 25-year incumbent and the county’s chief public defender in a race for district attorney that is a rematch from the May Democratic primary, in which Matt Dugan defeated longtime incumbent Steve Zappala. After a late campaign, Zappala received enough write-in votes in the Republican primary to run as that party’s nominee in the general election.
Dugan, 44, has called for reform of the office and pushed for new leadership. He emphasized diverting low-level, nonviolent offenders to mental health and substance abuse programs rather than cycle them through the criminal justice system. He said that would let prosecutors focus on violent crimes and also help break the cycle of recidivism.
Zappala has criticized those proposals, highlighting his record and career in the office and arguing in favor of prosecuting low-level crimes so they don’t spiral out of control. He said his opponent offers only “empty promises, empty assurances.”