Election 2017

First-time candidate Emily Marburger just became Bellevue’s mayor-elect

“I’m almost grateful that [Trump] was elected. He’s teeing up people like me to effect change,” Marburger said.

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MJ Slaby / The Incline
MJ Slaby

Updated, 12:30 a.m. Nov. 8

Standing on the steps of the Bellevue Borough Building, the candidates for mayor and their supporters waited. They’d been outside, in the rain, sleet and cold, answering questions and handing out postcards for 13 hours — and it was time for the results.

Not long after results of the two polling places in that building were posted, the candidates started getting texts with the results of other locations. It was clear that Emily Marburger, a first-time candidate spurred to action by her disappointment in the 2016 presidential election, had won.

From his spot at the top of the stairs, her opponent, Tom Fodi — a Bellevue council member and self-described “political independent”— turned to walk the steps to Marburger and shake her hand.

“I’m just going to say I look forward to working with you as our next mayor,” he said.

Marburger’s victory ended a highly-publicized mayoral race in the borough north of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River with just more than 8,000 people.

The Democrat won with nearly 58 percent of the vote, per unofficial results. More than 1,500 votes were cast in the mayoral race — about 400 more votes than in the May primary for the same race.

It was a validating end, showing there is value in wanting to make progressive change for Bellevue, Marburger said.

“I’m almost grateful that [Trump] was elected,” she said, adding that while she thinks Trump is doing an abysmal job, “he’s teeing up people like me to effect change.”

The race for Bellevue mayor was contested from the start. Three candidates vied for the Democratic ticket in May while no one ran as a Republican.

Marburger won the May primary with 47 percent of the vote, per official results, and Fodi, who came in second with 36 percent, secured a write-in nomination for the Republican ticket.

Current Bellevue Mayor Paul A. Cusick came in third in the primary — with 17 percent — and was one of more than ten incumbent mayors in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties who lost in the primary, TribLive reported.

Marburger, 29, campaigned on her status as a “lifelong Democrat,” progressive ideals and her work experience, including time in banking at Fifth Third Bank. She garnered support from women across the country through the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, and today, women from across the country reiterated that support on her Facebook page. Her candidacy was also noticed by Bustle and Salon in coverage of millennial candidates.

Meanwhile Fodi, 34, a current Bellevue council member and Pastor of The Hills Church stressed his commitment to the community over the issues that separate national political parties. He previously told The Incline that being mayor of Bellevue is about serving the community, not national politics. Fodi has run as a Republican in multiple elections including a 2014 attempt for the Pa. House and his current Bellevue council seat where he also won the Democratic write-in.

Fodi still has two years on his council term remaining and said tonight that he’ll continue to serve his community through that role and work with Marburger and newly elected council members.

Marburger and Fodi spent all of Election Day less than a block apart at different polling places. By the afternoon, voting was slow, but steady, and turnout picked up after work, before dwindling at the end.

Voters came to the polls saying they wanted something new for Bellevue.

“New blood, someone young, innovative,” said voter Linda Vybiral, who asked candidates and poll workers for their pitches before entering her polling place.

In a borough like Bellevue, the role of mayor is largely about managing police and funds. But it’s also about change and development — something the candidates and voters stressed as they talked about wanting to see small business growth, especially in the main corridor on Lincoln Avenue.

Marburger said her first step toward that goal is to fill empty storefronts with things that people in Bellevue want — like tacos, a place for gaming and a performance venue — while preserving the diversity of the borough.

At her victory party, supporters said they were cautiously optimistic about a change in politics.

Right now, there is no “Democratic bench” of candidates that can move up to bigger elections, and winning smaller elections like this one are how to build that, said Steven Kloock, a Marburger supporter. He added that Marburger’s candidacy is a “silver lining” to Trump’s election.

Grassroots change will start with communities like Bellevue first, added Laura Pollanen. She said the growth then works its way up to bigger races.

“That’s real change,” she said.

More municipal mayors

Allegheny County

  • Aspinwall — Ted Sheerer (R) won with 61 percent of the vote over David C. Brown (D).
  • Avalon — Tom Lloyd (D) won 58 percent of the vote over Brigitte M. Jackson (R).
  • Ben Avon — Melanie J. Hughes-Holcomb (D) won with 59 percent of the vote over Robert Barry Jones (R).
  • Brackenridge — Thomas L. Kish (D) won with 70 percent of the vote over Ronald R. Crawford (Independent).
  • BraddockJohn Fetterman won his fourth term in uncontested race.
  • Bridgeville — Betty L. Copeland (D) won in a close race with 51 percent of the vote over Pasquale B. DeBlasio (R).
  • Carnegie — Stacie L. Riley (D/R) won her first term in an uncontested race to become the borough’s first female mayor.
  • Dravonsburg — Kevin R. McKelvey (D) won with 51 percent of the vote over Michael R. Palcsey (R).
  • Duquesne — Nickole Nesby (D), motivated to run by her family, won a first term in an uncontested race.
  • Emsworth — Amy Sue Lillie (D) won with 70 percent of the vote over Joseph D. Michael, a 22-year-old Republican candidate.
  • Homestead — Democrat Betty Esper, 84, won re-election after becoming the borough’s first female mayor.
  • Ingram — Sharon Stetz (D) won with 56 percent of the vote over Hellena B. Twigg (R).
  • Monroeville — Nicholas J. Gresock (D) won with 69 percent over Chad M. Stubenbort (R).
  • Oakmont — Christopher Adam Whaley (R) won with 55 percent of the vote over Joe McAndrew (D).
  • Plum — Harry R. Schlegel (R) won with 52 percent of the vote over David A. Vento (D).
  • Rosslyn Farms — James G Stover (R) won with 55 percent of the vote over William Sargent (D).
  • Tarentum — Eric Carter (D) won with 55 percent of the vote over Carl J. Magnetta (R).
  • Trafford — Brian Lindbloom (R) won with 55 percent of the vote over Edward M. Llewellyn (D).
  • Turtle Creek — Kristine Kelley Kelley (D), who ran to fight the opioid epidemic, won a second term in an uncontested race.
  • West Mifflin — Chris Kelly (D) won with 74 percent of the vote over John E. Koczka (R).
  • Whitehall — Jim Nowalk (D) won with 73 percent of the vote over Juile A. Mancine (R).
  • WilkinsburgBorough council member Marita Garrett (D/R) won her first term as mayor in uncontested race.

Westmoreland County

  • Monessen — A judge ordered that up to 307 absentee ballots be impounded and uncounted until a hearing this week in the race for mayor, TribLive reportedDemocrat Matthew Shorraw, 26, won the May primary, and incumbent Louis Mavrakis launched a write-in campaign after losing the May primary.

Want some more? Explore other Election 2017 stories.

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