GOP Storms Westmoreland Courthouse

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Republicans authored a historic shift in Westmoreland County government on Tuesday.

Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney secured a majority on the board of commissioners for the first time since 1956.

It also appears that Republicans swept all five row offices, defeating four longtime incumbents, according to unofficial election results.

Two-term incumbent Controller Carmen Pedicone, potentially the last Democrat standing, lost by 262 votes to write-in candidate Jeff Balzer.

“We worked so hard for this. It’s just going to be a great victory. I am so happy, you don’t even know,” said Chairwoman Elaine Gowaty of the county Republican Committee. “I think the voters of Westmoreland have spoken in this election.”

Incumbent Anderson, 68, of Hempfield, and Courtney, 43, a Hempfield businessman, will take control of the three-person board of commissioners.

They will be joined by Democratic incumbent Ted Kopas, who finished third. His running mate, Mt. Pleasant Mayor Gerald Lucia, did not make the cut. He finished a close fourth, far ahead of Greensburg dentist Ron Gazze, an Independent.

With all 306 precincts reporting: Anderson had 27 percent of the vote; with Courtney at 24 percent; Kopas at 23 percent and Lucia at 21 percent. Gazze received 5 percent.

All results are unofficial until verified by the county election bureau.

“It’s a new day for Westmoreland County, and now the heavy lifting begins,” Anderson said last night from the Republican’s raucous victory party at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.

“It was a monumental task. We were able to stick together through all the adversity,” Courtney said.

Kopas was appointed to office by county judges in June 2010 after the resignation of Tom Ceraso. Kopas previously worked for eight years as the chief of staff to Commissioner Tom Balya, who will retire in December after 16 years in office.

Kopas declined to call his win a victory for the Democrats.

“This certainly is not the result I expected,” Kopas said. “I accept the results and I congratulate the Republicans on a very good night for them.”

Lucia, 66, has been mayor of Mt. Pleasant Borough for 32 years. He conceded shortly before 11 p.m.

“I believe the Democrats held control for 60 years and it’s sort of over now,” Lucia said.

Although Democrats have held the majority for almost six decades, Republican commissioners have tried to capitalize during the Democrats’ political feuds.

Commissioner Ted Simon teamed up with Pirates great Bill Mazeroski in the 1987 Democratic primary, forsaking incumbent Richard Vidmer of Hempfield. Mazeroski failed to get the nomination.

Vidmer and Simon were elected, along with the late Terry Marolt, a Republican from Ligonier. Vidmer teamed up with Marolt to run county government, leaving Simon out of the loop.

From about 2000 until 2002, Republican P. Scott Conner and Balya formed an alliance, to the detriment of Ceraso.

The Kopas-Lucia team spent the last several months telling voters they favored keeping in place much of the government structure created under the Balya administration.

Anderson campaigned against the Democrats’ “deficit spending,” saying the $318 million county budget had to be balanced by removing $11 million from a $23 million surplus. Kopas said that many of the budget issues fall beyond the commissioners’ control.

Anderson was appointed as commissioner in late 2008 after Kim Ward was elected to the state Senate. He voted against the 2011 budget because spending cuts were not made.

Courtney, a self-employed businessman and financial adviser, was making his first run at a political office.

The Republicans said they favored assessing impact fees on Marcellus shale wells in the county. The Democrats said they opposed the fees proposed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

During the campaign, the Democrats attacked Courtney’s business background. Comcast refused a request by the Republicans to remove television ads targeting Courtney, which the party described as untruthful.

The Republicans’ campaign compared Kopas and Lucia to President Obama, who lost in Westmoreland County by a landslide in 2008.

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