fbpx

The procrastinator’s guide to Pittsburgh’s 2020 general election

It’s time — time to bring this “messy” and “unprecedented” pandemic election home. 

If you (understandably) have found yourself confused by the many twists and turns of this year’s mail-in voting push, or if you’ve (understandably) fallen behind on your voter prep this year, we’re here to help. 

First things first. We’ve got answers to your questions about mail-in voting — and in-person voting — in Allegheny County. And here’s our guide to dressing your “naked ballot.” 

As for everything else … 

In this guide, we’ll quickly lay out the races, the candidates, their positions, the police accountability question on Pittsburgh ballots, and more. (Note: We’re only focusing on contested races this time around, for our sanity and yours. We’re also focusing on local and statewide races that get less coverage overall.)  

We welcome your feedback, as always.  

And with that, let’s dig in on the better-late-than-never procrastinator’s guide to the 2020 Pittsburgh general election. 

*Names are as they’ll appear on ballots.


Voter FAQ


Who votes in this? Registered voters in Pittsburgh and the suburbs of Jefferson Hills, McKeesport, Monroeville, Plum, and more

Background: Thirteen-term incumbent Democrat Mike Doyle beat a progressive challenger in June’s primary and is now facing Luke Edison Negron, a Pennsylvania Air National Guardsman and somewhat rare Republican challenger in this reliably blue district. The contrast between them is stark: Doyle is pro-abortion rights, though he supported the Hyde Amendment up until a year ago. Negron calls abortion “logically, medically, and morally a dark shadow over the American legacy.”

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Michael Doyle (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: “Protecting and improving Obamacare,” “100 percent clean energy economy” by 2050, economic recovery from COVID-19, supports an assault weapons ban and universal background checks (More here
  • Quotable: “This is probably not the time to send a freshman member to Congress, given all that’s on our plate right now.” (WTAE)
  • Notable endorsements: The Sierra Club, Squirrel Hill’s 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee

🔴 Republican 

🗳 Luke Edison Negron 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Anti-abortion, pro-term limits, “Guns are not the problem,” flat-taxer, supports regulating internet porn (More here
  • Quotable: “Career politicians and Washington insiders have sold out the citizens who they are meant to represent.” (Ballotpedia
  • Notable endorsements: National Right to Life Committee, Republican Committee of Allegheny County

Who votes in this? All Pennsylvanians  

What does an attorney general do? An attorney general advises and represents the state legislature and state agencies and serves as the “people’s lawyer,” prosecuting cases on behalf of the commonwealth’s citizens. 

Background: Incumbent Democrat Josh Shapiro has led investigations into the Catholic church, lawsuits against President Donald Trump’s executive orders, and a criminal case against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. He now faces three opponents with criticism of his record and national focus — one who wants to sue China over its handling of COVID-19. They are: Republican and Allegheny County-based attorney Heather Heidelbaugh, Libertarian and Doylestown-based attorney Daniel Wassmer, and Green Party candidate and Allegheny County-based attorney Richard L. Weiss. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Josh Shapiro (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Combating the opioid crisis, protecting consumer rights and civil rights, and promoting affordable health care (More here
  • Quotable: “We must keep our communities safe by collaborating effectively across law enforcement, reforming our criminal justice system to ensure equal enforcement, taking crime guns off our streets, and much more.” (League of Women Voters
  • Notable endorsements: NARAL Pro-Choice America, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers of America 

🔴 Republican 

🗳 Heather Heidelbaugh 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Combating the opioid crisis, suing China over COVID-19, combating government waste and fraud, clamping down on “special interest groups” (More here
  • Quotable: “Pennsylvanians have [all] paid a high price in their health and economic well-being due to the Coronavirus. The Chinese government’s stonewalling and lack of transparency has caused real harm to all of us. They need to be held accountable for their actions.” (Heather Heidelbaugh’s website
  • Notable endorsements: Susan B. Anthony List’s Candidate Fund PAC, Republican Committee of Allegheny County, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey 

✴️ Libertarian 

🗳 Daniel Wassmer

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Criminal justice and police reform, decriminalizing marijuana — and other drugs, stopping “legalized extortion against our competitive big tech firms” by politicians (More here, via League of Women Voters
  • Quotable: “Whether it be prostitution, or personal drug use for whatever reason, it is not the business of government to determine how people should or should not live their lives.” (Wassmer4pa website
  • Notable endorsements: Mr. Vermin Supreme (this guy), Wayne County Libertarians, Bucks County Libertarians

✳️ Green Party 

🗳 Richard L. Weiss 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter 
  • Priorities include: Ending cash bail, decriminalizing drug use and sex work, making more citizen police review boards a reality (More here, via League of Women Voters)
  • Quotable: “My administration will support restorative justice, which is another way of viewing crime and how to respond to it. Restorative justice includes all parties in a collaborative process of apology, changed behavior, repair of the harm, and reintegration of parties with their communities.” (League of Women Voters
  • Notable endorsements: Green Party of Allegheny County, Green Party of Pennsylvania 

 

Who votes in this? All Pennsylvanians

What does an auditor general do? In Pennsylvania, the auditor general’s office acts as a fiscal watchdog, using audits to ensure that state money is spent properly and to combat waste and fraud.

Background: Democrat Eugene DePasquale is stepping down as auditor general to seek congressional office. There are four candidates running to replace him: Democrat and former Philadelphia deputy mayor Nina Ahmad, Republican and Dauphin County Controller Timothy DeFoor, Green Party candidate and retired analytical chemist Olivia Faison, and Libertarian and Upper Providence Township Auditor Jennifer Moore. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Nina Ahmad

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Scrutinizing high health-care costs, auditing big pharma and insurers, calling out the NRA (More here, via League of Women Voters) 
  • Quotable: “I believe our taxpayer dollars should be used as a catalyst for opportunity and innovation, empowering social good, rising to the challenges of the moment, and preparing for our best future using insight and care.” (Nina for PA campaign website
  • Notable endorsements: Barack Obama, She Can Win Political Action Committee 

🔴 Republican 

🗳 Timothy DeFoor

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Auditing COVID-19 relief spending and unemployment benefits, making taxpayer-funded contracts public (More here, via League of Women Voters) 
  • Quotable: “… as Dauphin County controller, I’ve pretty much been consistent in investigating fraud, waste, abuse, recovering it and, if needed, referring those matters to law enforcement for prosecution.” (The Daily Item
  • Notable endorsements: U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, Republican Party of Pennsylvania

✳️ Green Party

🗳 Olivia Faison 

  • Connect: Website
  • Priorities include: Making more Pennsylvania nonprofits, raising climate change awareness, supports reopening schools (More here, via Pennsylvania Capital-Star) 
  • Quotable: “We need another voice. Because this duopoly has not served, that we suffer with now, they have not served the people to me.” (Pennsylvania Capital-Star
  • Notable endorsements: Green Party of Pennsylvania, Green Party of Allegheny County 

✴️ Libertarian 

🗳 Jennifer Moore 

  • Connect: Website
  • Priorities include: Making government finances — and financial decisions — more transparent, making sure federal COVID-19 relief funds were properly spent by the state (More here, via League of Women Voters) 
  • Quotable: “As a Libertarian, I am independent of the politicians who are making financial decisions for the commonwealth. As an auditor, this allows me to be a truly non-partisan fiscal watchdog.” (League of Women Voters) 
  • Notable endorsements: Libertarian Party of Philadelphia, Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania 

Who votes in this? All Pennsylvanians 

What does a treasurer do? You may know Pennsylvania’s treasury for its sardonic, Elon Musk-owning Twitter account. But The Pennsylvania Office of the State Treasurer also “serves as the custodian of billions in commonwealth funds, and is responsible for the receipt and deposit of state monies, investment management and oversight of all withdrawals and deposits from state agencies.” Note: The treasurer is an administrative role and not a policy-making role. 

Background: Three of Pennsylvania’s last five treasurers were indicted, so choose wisely. This time, incumbent Democrat Joe Torsella is facing three challengers in his bid for a second term — which comes at a particularly tough time for Pennsylvania’s finances. They are: Republican and Bronze Star recipient Stacy Garrity, Green Party candidate and environmental consultant Timothy Runkle, and Libertarian CPA Joe Soloski. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Joe Torsella (Incumbent)

 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Opening the state’s books more, state-crafted retirement accounts for Pennsylvanians without access at work, a leg up on college savings (More here
  • Quotable: “I think we have a huge crisis of higher education which relates to a crisis of opportunity in Pennsylvania.” (6abc Action News
  • Notable endorsements: United Mine Workers of America, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

🔴 Republican 

🗳 Stacy L. Garrity 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Returning more unclaimed property to Pennsylvania taxpayers, more 529 accounts to help pay for college, cutting waste and hidden fees within Pennsylvania’s taxpayer-funded pension systems (More here
  • Quotable: “Why are they using the PA Treasury social media account for political posts? The Treasurer’s office should be held to a higher standard than this!” (Stacy Garrity on Facebook
  • Notable endorsements: State Senator Douglas Mastriano, Susan B. Anthony List’s Candidate Fund PAC 

✳️ Green Party 

🗳 Timothy Runkle 

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Preparing Pennsylvania for a Green New Deal, addressing corporate loopholes in Pa.’s tax code (More here, via League of Women Voters) 
  • Quotable: “As Pennsylvania state treasurer, you’re an administrative person doing the will of the general assembly… you’ve kind of got your hands tied, other than screaming at those deficiencies in it. Because you see it all come through — you see where the [COVID-19 relief] money goes and who’s getting it. Part of my job would be to put the spotlight on that.” (United Anarchist News Show on Twitch)
  • Notable endorsements: Green Party of Allegheny County, Green Party of Pennsylvania

✴️ Libertarian 

🗳 Joe Soloski 

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Cutting legislator pay and benefits, growing more hemp, eliminating Pennsylvania’s inheritance tax, reducing the corporate net income tax (More here
  • Quotable: “The budget of the Commonwealth has exploded over the past 20 years and the Republicans and Democrats, who have been in power for more than 150 years, are doing little to curb the runaway growth of state government and advocate for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.” (League of Women Voters)
  • Notable endorsements: Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania 

Who votes in this? Residents of Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, Etna, Millvale, a portion of O’Hara Township, portions of Pittsburgh, including Morningside and Upper Lawrenceville, Reserve Township, and portions of Ross and Shaler townships 

Background: Democratic incumbent Sara Innamorato was elected in 2018 in a progressive ouster of the district’s long-standing representative. She faced no primary challenger this year but now faces a Republican challenger in state revenue auditor John Waugh. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Sara Innamorato (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website | Twitter
  • Priorities include: Universal health care, living wages, environmental justice, housing as a human right (More here
  • Quotable: “[Democrats are] presently united in the hatred of one man: Donald Trump. That glue will not hold.” (Holly Otterbein on Twitter
  • Notable endorsements: Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Allegheny-Fayette County Labor Council, Planned Parenthood, Allegheny County Democratic Committee 

🔴 Republican 

🗳John Waugh

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Term limits, “backing the blue,” making insulin cheaper but not “free,” opening Pa.’s wine and liquor market to private sellers (More here
  • Quotable: “This is just the first step in shutting down our state and economy yet again. Even more frightening is that this is stripping away more of our rights and freedoms. WOLF ISSUES NEW EDICT …” (John Waugh for State Representative on Facebook
  • Notable endorsements: Sean Parnell, Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge 91, ChamberPAC 

Who votes in this? Residents of Squirrel Hill, Oakland, Point Breeze, Regent Square, Greenfield, and Shadyside 

Background: Twenty-one-year Democratic incumbent Dan Frankel is facing Green Party challenger Jay Ting Walker, who’s running to Frankel’s left on issues like fracking. Frankel has been at the forefront of Pennsylvania’s push for gun law reform, tougher hate crime laws, and greater civil rights protections in recent years. 

🔵 Democrat

🗳 Dan Frankel (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website
  • Priorities include: Gun reform, renewable energy, abortion rights, strengthened hate crime laws, addressing health disparities (More here
  • Quotable: “Public health initiatives have been successful in the past. Gun violence should be a public health issue and addressed in the same way.” (90.5 WESA
  • Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Planned Parenthood Action Fund  

✳️ Green Party

🗳 Jay Ting Walker

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Banning fracking, making college free, reforming the police, single-payer health care (More here
  • Quotable: “Let’s bring activism to the State House.” (Jay Ting Walker’s website
  • Notable endorsements: Green Party of Allegheny County, Green Party of Pennsylvania, Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh  

Who votes in this? Registered voters in Baldwin, Brentwood, Mount Oliver, and South Side 

Background: A messy Democratic primary that included pro-Trump statements from the Allegheny County Democratic Committee’s chosen candidate ended with another candidate, progressive Jessica Benham, clinching the Democratic party’s nomination to replace outgoing state Rep. Harry Readshaw III. Now, Benham faces a Republican opponent in Brentwood Councilman A.J. Doyle. 

🔵 Democrat 

🗳 Jessica Benham 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Green energy investments, fixing Pennsylvania’s unemployment system, single-payer health care (More here
  • Quotable: “‘Anytime a Pennsylvanian seeks medical care, they should pay nothing at the point of access. […] It may mean that wealthier people may need to pay more, and I am aware of the barriers to accomplish that. But we need systemic change.’” (Pittsburgh City Paper
  • Notable endorsements: EMILY’s List, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council, Working Families Party 

🔴 Republican 

🗳 AJ Doyle

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Fiscal conservative, public safety and police, pro-labor (More here
  • Quotable: As a councilman in Brentwood, I have fought for funding to equip our officers with the tools and training for success. […] As Representative, you can count on my support for pro law enforcement and first responder legislation.” (AJ Doyle for State Representative on Facebook)
  • Notable endorsements: Republican Committee of Allegheny County, Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge 91 

🗳 Voters in Pittsburgh will be asked whether to expand the powers of the city’s Citizen Police Review Board, an independent agency that investigates citizen complaints about improper police conduct. The ballot question comes after a summer of protest against police brutality in Pittsburgh and cities nationwide. 

The ballot question asks voters if they agree or disagree with the following: Pittsburgh’s review board should have the power to force city officers to cooperate in probes, the review board should be able to conduct performance audits of the police bureau, and there should be more checks and balances on the removal of board members.

Learn more here


👀 Area races to watch 

🗳 Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb looks to keep his seat against a challenge from Trump-backed Republican and fellow military vet Sean Parnell. Read more about the race with national significance here

🗳 The “most competitive race in the region” has incumbent Republican Rep. Lori Mizgorski looking to fend off a challenge from Democratic nominee Lissa Geiger Shulman for Pennsylvania’s 30th House District seat.

🗳 Who will replace former Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai in the North Hills’s 28th House District? Democrat Emily Skopov and Republican Rob Mercuri are vying for the vacant seat.

🗳 Ten-year Democratic State Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport is facing a challenge from a New Kensington-based attorney and Republican in Nicole Ziccarelli. More here.


Updated Oct. 13 to better reflect state Rep. Dan Frankel’s top policy priorities.


This election guide was brought to you by Incline Insiders. Want to see more coverage like this? Support our work by becoming an Incline Insider today.