Sara Innamorato addresses the crowd at her victory party at Mr. Small's in Millvale. Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource.

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By Charlie Wolfson and Eric Jankiewicz

Sara Innamorato will be Allegheny County’s next executive, the first woman in the post and a departure from the centrist Democratic leaders that have held the office for two decades.

Speaking to her supporters after 11 p.m., Innamorato said she got a call from Republican nominee Joe Rockey, “and I thanked him for running a strong campaign.”

The former state lawmaker prevailed with just 51% of the vote, and portrayed the race as a highly charged contest with bracing highs and historic import.

“Over my time as a state rep and throughout this campaign, I have heard from other people who have struggled with their own addiction or have lost someone too soon to gun violence,” she said. “It’s not easy to share these stories, but we do so because government is best when it’s connected to the struggle of everyday people.”

She described her “North Star” as the “promise of building an Allegheny for all” that “is transparent, responsive and equitable.”

She raised a fraction of Rockey’s campaign haul — “millions of dollars got spent against us trying to divide us,” she told her supporters — but was armored with the backing of most area unions.

“I stand here as the first woman Allegheny County executive. I stand here because of the passion, faith and support of the people who are around me, a lot of them women.”

She said she stands on the shoulders of women elected before her but especially credited her mother.

“My mom, when my family was struggling, she made sure that we had a place to stay,” she said. “​​Your strength gave me the fortitude to share my own story of losing my dad to the opioid epidemic, losing our home and our stability.”

Innamorato will succeed Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who has hit a term limit after 12 years in the post. Republicans made a strong run to replace Fitzgerald with Rockey, and came closer to winning control of county government than at any time since 1999.

With the news, the progressive wing of the local Democratic party reached a new altitude as Innamorato, a 37-year-old from Lawrenceville, captured the county executive’s office in an atypically close election. Supporters were ecstatic at the prospect of a strong ally of both Pittsburgh’s mayor and its major health-care union occupying a position held by a political centrist since 2012.

“People questioned her experience. The best experience you can ever have is lived experience,” Mayor Ed Gainey said at Innamorato’s watch party. “When you have somebody that has had life struggles and get up and come again. When you see somebody that has lost loved ones and get up and come again … that’s the type of leader we need for Allegheny County.”

Matt Yarnell, the president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, in a press release, called it “an historic victory for working people. The right to organize and build worker power among the region’s largest employers was on the ballot this year, and voters made it clear that it is a top priority in Allegheny County.” SEIU Healthcare has been in a lengthy struggle to unionize UPMC.

See the complete story and more election coverage at PublicSource.

Other races in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh

District Attorney: Stephen J. Zappala Jr. (R)

County Controller: Corey O’Connor (D)

County Treasurer: Erica Rocchi Brusselars (D)

County Council District 2: Suzanne Filiaggi  (R)

County Council District 5: Dan Grzybek (D)

County Council District 6: John Palmiere (D)

County Council District 7: Nicholas Futules (D)

County Council District 10: DeWitt Walton (D)

County Council District 11: Paul Klein (D)

County Council District 13: David Bonaroti (D)

County County At-Large: Bethany Hallam (D) and Sam DeMarco (R)

Allegheny County referendum making pay for county council members salary-based passed.  

Pittsburgh City Council

District 1: Bobby Wilson (D)

District 3: Bob Charland (D)

District 5: Barb Warick (D)

District 7: Deb Gross (D)

District 9: Khari Mosely (D)

All Allegheny County election results

All Pennsylvania election results

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