Long lines snaked out of the William Pitt Union last November as more than 1,000 students showed up to cast their votes in the 2018 general election. In this year’s primary, featuring only local candidates, only 15 of 4,695 registered voters trickled into the WPU to vote for the city and county councils, school board and lower-level courts.
Among the most notable results, breakout challenger Bethany Hallam beat incumbent County Council President John DeFazio for an at-large seat on the county council in a tight seven-point race. But Democratic incumbents largely retained their spots in hotly contested races for district attorney and the city and county councils.
The vast majority of candidates enjoyed a smooth ride to their seats, facing no primary challengers nor general election challengers from the opposing party.
Allegheny County District Attorney: Stephen Zappala vs. Turahn Jenkins
District Attorney Stephen Zappala beat challenger Turahn Jenkins, a local defense attorney, by an 18-point margin Tuesday.
Jenkins, the first candidate to challenge Zappala in the primaries since 1999, ran on the platform that Zappala was too lenient on police officers who used excessive force — a sentiment many Pittsburghers have also expressed. The issue recently came to a head when former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, who fatally shot unarmed black teen Antwon Rose, was acquitted in March. Protesters threw their support behind Jenkins, demanding that Zappala be dismissed.
After winning re-election, Zappala said he took note of Jenkins’ criticisms and will try to implement more progressive criminal justice policies in his next term.
“I commend Mr. Jenkins on a well fought-race and a valiant effort to advance the conversation on criminal justice,” Zappala said Tuesday night in a press release. “I am looking forward to getting back to work advancing the agenda that [voters] have insisted upon: further reduction of cash bail, more pathways toward diversion and less incarceration, advocating reform of laws determining justifiable use of force and categorizing violent acts against the LGBTQ+ community as hate crimes.”
City Council District 3: Bruce Kraus vs. Chris Kumanchik vs. Kenneth Wolfe
Incumbent Bruce Kraus, first elected in 2008, won re-election Tuesday with 55% of the vote. He fended off challenges from Pitt student Chris Kumanchik, who won 11% of the vote, and Ken Wolfe, Kraus’ previous chief of staff, who took 34% of the vote.
Wolfe said he threw his name in the race because he was frustrated by the “lack of progress” when he worked for Kraus in 2008 and 2009. Kumanchik ran on a pro-gun platform, opposing Mayor Bill Peduto’s proposed assault weapons ban in Pittsburgh following the Tree of Life shooting.
Kraus, who has been an advocate for public safety in Pittsburgh, supported the legislation as a matter of “moral courage” and said he’ll always take steps to ensure Pittsburghers stay safe.
Democrats County Controller Chelsa Wagner, County Treasurer John Weinstein and City Controller Michael Lamb all won re-election, facing no challengers. Republican County Councilmember at-large Sam DeMarco III also won his primary without any challengers.
In the November general election, the top two vote recipients for county council at-large seats will be elected.