The November general elections could provide a chance for Pittsburgh’s conservative criminal justice advocates and public officials to make a stand against progressives elected by voters, Bolts reports. The GOP is hoping law-and-order messaging can deliver its candidates long awaited wins this fall. Allegheny County voters have recently supported progressive options. After coasting to reelection for decades with barely any opposition, District Attorney Stephen Zappala lost the May Democratic primary against Matt Dugan, the county’s chief public defender. Zappala is now running as a Republican in a rematch against Dugan. Meanwhile, the county government agreed to a controversial contract this fall to reopen a youth detention center, even though the center’s fate had been a major issue in the open race for county executive.
Local critics fault Rich Fitzgerald for the agreement to reopen a controversial youth detention center. Fitzgerald is the term-limited outgoing executive and a moderate Democrat. They say he potentially tied the hands of Sara Innamorato, a progressive state representative, won the Democratic nomination to replace Fitzgerald in May, beating two centrist opponents who favored reopening the center. Innamorato now faces Republican Joe Rockey, who is looking to stall criminal justice reforms. Rob Perkins, president of the progressive Allegheny Lawyers Initiative for Justice, told Bolts on the night of this year’s primary election that the Dugan and Innamorato wins tell him “that more people from a broader swath of communities are starting to grasp that the criminal justice system is unfair, full of waste, and too often inhumane.” This county of more than one million is very segregated along racial lines, and Black residents are vastly more likely than white residents to be arrested and sentenced to prison.