The procrastinator’s guide to Pittsburgh’s Nov. 5 municipal election

Updated: 3:47 p.m. Oct. 30 

Voters will hit the polls in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Nov. 5 for the 2019 municipal election — and this time everyone’s invited to the party.

That means you can vote regardless of political affiliation or with no political affiliation at all. (Independents, we’re lookin’ at you.) 

But before you vote, brush up on the candidates with this, the latest installment in our procrastinator’s guide series. (And brush up year-round by reading local news outlets like WESA, City Paper, PublicSource, Post-Gazette, TribLive — actually, just read them all and subscribe to our newsletter while you’re at it.) 

First things first:

It’s too late to register if you haven’t already. 

It’s not too late, however, to confidently strut into your polling place knowing you’ve at least seen the names that will be on your ballot. 

And that’s where we come in. 

In this article, we will attempt to quickly lay out the races, the candidates, their positions, and the issues. (Note: We’re only focusing on contested races this time around.)

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us here to say what you liked about this guide or what you’d like us to change for next time. 

And now, without further ado, we give you the 2019 Pittsburgh Municipal Election.


Voter FAQ


Independent candidate Lisa Middleman, left, and incumbent Democrat Stephen Zappala Jr.

Allegheny County District Attorney

Who votes in this? All county residents

Background: Closely watched in a year of high-profile criminal cases and mounting calls for police reform, the race for Allegheny County District Attorney will pit 20-year Democratic incumbent Stephen A. Zappala Jr. against independent challenger Lisa Middleman.  

Zappala has faced calls for his ouster leading up to and following the March acquittal of an East Pittsburgh police officer in the shooting death of unarmed black teen Antwon Rose II. Middleman, a longtime public defender, has promised to be a change agent and a more progressive top cop. 

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Stephen A. Zappala Jr. (Incumbent) 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Cash bail reform, running on what he calls a proven record of holding police accountable and working to reduce incarceration rates through diversionary courts (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Party, Steel City Stonewall Democrats

Note: Zappala received enough write-in votes in the May primary to also appear as the Republican candidate on Tuesday’s ballot.

⚪️ Independent

🗳 Lisa Middleman 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Expungement of charges not sustained by a conviction or guilty plea, withholding criminal charges where the lead charge is possession of marijuana, using discretion to “only bring charges that further public safety or rehabilitative goals” (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: State Representative Sara Innamorato, Alliance for Police Accountability’s independent expenditure PAC, Pittsburgh NORML

Recommended reading: 

— Following unjust jailing of four teens, DA-candidate Lisa Middleman calls for change (Pittsburgh City Paper)

— ‘It Was 30 Years Ago:’ DA Candidate Lisa Middleman Clarifies Removing Black Jurors From Graffiti Case (KDKA-TV)


Republican Matt Drozd, left, and incumbent Democrat Rich Fitzgerald.

Allegheny County Executive

Who votes in this? All county residents

Background: Incumbent Democrat Rich Fitzgerald is seeking a third and final term in office. His opponent is Matt Drozd, a Republican challenger and former county council member. 

Fitzgerald has long presented himself as fiscally responsible and someone who’s presided over much of Pittsburgh’s recent economic resurgence. He’s also been a vocal champion of Pittsburgh’s growing tech sector. Drozd, who bills himself as “a fiscally conservative moderate,” says he would bring to the role a new vision and a willingness to challenge the status quo.  

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Rich Fitzgerald (Incumbent) 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Boosting economic development and job creation, fiscal responsibility, making public transit more “reliable, sustainable, equitable, and accessible” (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Steel City Stonewall Democrats

🔴 Republican

🗳 Matt Drozd

Connect: Website | Facebook

Priorities include: Lowering taxes to keep people in Allegheny County, more investment in county infrastructure, eliminating wasteful spending of our hard-earned tax dollars – via vote411.org

Recommended reading: 

— County Executive Fitzgerald, opponent Drozd, participate in voter forum (TribLive

— Rich Fitzgerald Marches And Matt Drozd Waves As November Election Season Kicks Off (KDKA-TV)


Republican Brooke Nadonley, left, and incumbent Democrat Chelsa Wagner.

Allegheny County Controller

Who votes in this? All county residents

Background: This race features County Controller Chelsa Wagner, the Democratic incumbent, and a Republican challenger in gun rights activist and local Republican committeeperson Brooke Nadonley. Nadonley, best known for helping lead the charge to have Mayor Bill Peduto removed from office following the passage of new citywide gun control rules this year, secured a spot on the ballot with a successful write-in campaign during the May primary.

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Chelsa Wagner (Incumbent) 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Improving fiscal oversight and auditing functions at the county level, “ensuring tax-exempt ‘nonprofits’ are accountable to their workers, our taxpayers, and all County residents (…) Promoting cleaner and safer air and water while protecting and creating jobs” – via vote411.org (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Steel City Stonewall Democrats

🔴 Republican

🗳 Brooke Nadonley

Priorities include: Note: Nadonley did not respond to an email seeking comment and does not have a web presence for her campaign.

Notable endorsements: Republican Committee of Allegheny County

Recommended reading: 

— Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner to stand trial in Detroit (WTAE

— Gun rights advocates trying to push Pittsburgh’s mayor out of office (WPXI)


From left: Independent candidate Malcolm Jarrett, Independent candidate Chris Rosselot, and Democratic candidate Bobby Wilson.

City Council District 1 

Who votes in this? Residents of Allegheny Center, Allegheny West, Brighton Heights, Deutschtown (East Allegheny), Marshall-Shadeland, parts of the Mexican War Streets, Spring Hill, Spring Garden, and Troy Hill

Background: Longtime incumbent Darlene Harris was ousted in the Democratic primary by challenger Bobby Wilson. Now, Wilson is facing two independent candidates on the ballot Tuesday: Socialist Workers Party candidate Malcolm Jarrett and former aide to Sen. Bob Casey Chris Rosselot. 

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Bobby Wilson 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities: Says he wants equitable and inclusive growth for Pittsburgh; supports public ownership of PWSA; wants to recapture much-needed transportation resources for District 1 (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: Mayor Bill Peduto; SEIU 32BJ; Clean Water Action; Planned Parenthood 

⚪️ Independent

🗳 Malcolm Jarrett 

Priorities include: “… supports amnesty for all undocumented workers and is a strong advocate for unions (…) views his campaign as a small step in a much larger revolution in which working people rise up and take over the country’s entire political system.” – via WESA 

⚪️ Independent 

🗳 Chris Rosselot 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Wanting more cops on the beat in the North Side, ensuring longtime residents aren’t displaced by new development, more capital improvements in the district (more priorities here

Recommended reading: 

Meet your City Council District 1 candidates (The Northside Chronicle

— Meet The District 1 Candidates Running For Pittsburgh City Council (90.5 WESA


Incumbent Democrat Bruce Kraus, left, and Independent challenger Jacob Nixon.

City Council District 3 

Who votes in this? Residents of Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Central Oakland, Knoxville, Mt. Oliver, Oakcliffe, South Side Flats, South Side Slopes, South Oakland, and St. Clair

Background: Seeking a fourth term in office, Council President Bruce Kraus will face Jacob Nixon on Tuesday. Nixon is a construction worker who says he’s running as an “Independent/Democrat.”

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Bruce Kraus (Incumbent) 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Supported local gun-control push; helped usher in citywide ban on conversion therapy for minors; wants the city to end pension fund investments in fossil fuels and for all city operations to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 (more priorities here

Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee; Planned Parenthood; United Mine Workers; Clean Water Action

⚪️ Independent

🗳 Jacob Nixon 

Connect: Website | Facebook

Priorities include: More business-friendly parking enforcement, providing more funding to help residents make home improvements, supports a citywide incentive program for small businesses to spur capital investment in fixed improvements (more priorities here

Recommended reading: 

— Oakland resident seeks to unseat City Council president (The Pitt News

— Parking, guns issues as two try to topple City Council president (Post-Gazette)


From left: Incumbent Democrat Ricky Burgess, Independent candidate Barbara Daniels, Independent candidate Randall Taylor, and Independent candidate DeNeice Welch.

City Council District 9 

Who votes in this? Residents of East Hills, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, and Point Breeze North

Background: Incumbent Democrat Ricky Burgess beat four challengers in the May Democratic Primary, and he’s now facing three new ones on Tuesday, each a locally grown community figure running for office as an Independent. 

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Ricky Burgess (Incumbent) 

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Violence-prevention efforts, supported Pittsburgh’s gun-control bills; helped craft legislation that would require city officials and developers to report on their efforts to consider and engage low-income residents and racial minorities

Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee

⚪️ Independent 

🗳 Barbara Daniels

Connect: Facebook

Priorities include: Affordable housing, public safety and jobs, and responsible residential and commercial development – via vote411.org

⚪️ Independent 

🗳 Randall Taylor

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: “Ending school-to-prison pipeline, confronting the opioid crisis, reforming our unjust bail system, ending mass incarceration, fighting for public safety with restorative justice and community-focused solutions” – via randallforcouncil.com

Notable endorsements: Democratic Socialists of America – Pittsburgh Chapter

⚪️ Independent 

🗳 DeNeice Welch

Connect: Website 

Priorities include: Equitable development, encouraging home ownership, and establishing rent controlled units, police accountability – via vote411.org

Recommended reading: 

Who Is The Real Independent In City Council District 9? (90.5 WESA

— Burgess tops crowded field to retain District 9 Council seat (New Pittsburgh Courier)


Republican candidate Kirk Rys, left, and Democrat Devon Taliaferro.

School Board of Directors District 2 

Who votes in this? Residents of Spring Hill, East Allegheny, Polish Hill, Morningside, parts of East Liberty, Spring Garden, Washington’s Landing, Strip District, Highland Park, Fineview, Troy Hill, Lawrenceville, Stanton Heights, parts of Bloomfield 

Background: Democrat Devon Taliaferro and Republican Kirk Rys are vying to replace Regina B. Holley who did not file to run for re-election. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Devon Taliaferro

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: Implementing restorative justice practices, building a diverse community of teachers and administrators, addressing disciplinary actions (more priorities here

🔴 Republican

🗳 Kirk Rys

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Priorities include: “Ensuring that every child, regardless of their place of residence, has access to a high-quality school, responsible and effective use of tax dollars, preparing all students to succeed in a 21st Century economy – via vote411.org (more priorities here)


From left: Democrat Amanda Green-Hawkins, Republican Megan King, Democrat Daniel McCaffery, and Republican Christylee Peck.

State Superior Court

Who votes in this? All Pennsylvania voters

Background: There are two vacant seats on the superior court — a key appeals court with statewide influence — being sought by four candidates who won their respective primaries in May. The top two vote-getters win. 

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Amanda Green-Hawkins

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Notable endorsements: Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC, Pennsylvania Democratic Party

Recommended reading: 

— Q&A: Pa. Superior Court Hopeful Amanda Green-Hawkins (The Legal Intelligencer

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Daniel McCaffery

Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Notable endorsements: Gov. Tom Wolf, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Planned Parenthood PAC

Recommended reading: 

— Q&A: Pa. Superior Court Candidate Daniel McCaffery (The Legal Intelligencer)

🔴 Republican 

🗳 Megan King

Connect: Website | Facebook

Notable endorsements: President Donald Trump, Pennsylvania GOP 

Recommended reading: 

— Q&A: Pennsylvania Superior Court Hopeful Megan McCarthy King (The Legal Intelligencer)

🔴 Republican

🗳 Christylee Peck

Connect: Website | Facebook

Notable endorsements: Firearm Owners Against Crime, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association

Recommended reading: 

— Superior Court Candidate Christylee Peck Answers The Legal’s Questions (The Legal Intelligencer

More recommended reading: 

— Pennsylvania Superior Court: Party-endorsed candidates win spots on fall ballot (Associated Press)

— Pa. Bar Association gives thumbs up, thumbs down to 4 state Superior Court candidates (PennLive)


Marsy’s law ballot question

Who votes in this? All Pennsylvania residents

Background: In this statewide ballot question, voters will decide whether or not to add specific rights for crime victims, a measure known as “Marsy’s Law,” to the Pennsylvania Constitution. But the votes won’t be tallied until a court challenge against the proposal is resolved, a judge has ruled. It’s unclear how long that might take.

👍 Supporters say: This law would ensure crime victims receive information about their rights, notification of criminal proceedings in their cases, and have the right to be present in court, among other things.

👎 Opponents say: The ACLU, for one, has criticized Marsy’s Law for undermining due process and defendant rights, for being poorly drafted, and for being a threat to existing constitutional rights.

Recommended reading: 

Marsy’s Law explained (WITF

— Lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania to invalidate the Marsy’s Law ballot measure on the state’s November ballot (Ballotpedia News)


Parks tax ballot question

Who votes in this? All Pittsburgh residents

Background: Pittsburgh voters are being asked to decide the fate of a proposed 0.5 mill property tax increase that would be earmarked for city parks improvements and maintenance. The hike would translate to $50 for every $100,000 of assessed value on a home and is expected to generate about $10 million in revenue annually.

👍 Supporters say: The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy says the tax is needed to address an annual $13 million gap in parks maintenance funding and $400 million in deferred maintenance projects.

👎 Opponents say: City Controller Michael Lamb and several members of council argue that funding for parks should mostly come from the city’s budget and not a trust fund like the one that would be created if the parks tax is approved. Opponents also note that city parks receive money annually from an existing one percent Allegheny County sales tax.

Recommended reading: 

— Debate Rages Over Proposed Tax Hike To Fund Pittsburgh Parks (Patch

— Pros and cons of parks tax debated at public hearing (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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