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Four Western PA Counties Go Red

Republicans continue their rise in the west. 

A series of traditional Democratic counties in western Pennsylvania, which have been trending red for years, officially flipped to Republican controlled commissioners in four races on Tuesday night. 

In Washington County, GOP Vice Chair Diana Irey Vaughan secured a spot on the board for a seventh term and was the highest vote getter with 28% of the vote, but will be joined by Republican committeeman Nick Sherman on the board after his third place finish, besting Democrat Harlan Shober. 

In the race for control of the Armstrong County Commissioner, Don Myers, a Republican first time candidate, registered the most votes to land a spot on the board. Incumbent GOP Commissioner Jason Renshaw finished closely behind Myers to earn another term on the board and flip control to the Republican Party. 

Republicans celebrated flipping two key races in Greene County by winning control of the commissioners and District Attorney’s office. Mike Belding led the way with 29.6% of the vote, while Betsy Rohanna McClure received 28.5% in the commissioner race, ousting Vice Chair Dave Coder, who only registered 19.2% of the vote. Both GOP candidates outpaced Democratic County Commissioner Chair Blair Zimmerman, who captured 22.5% of the vote. The new county district attorney will be Republican David Russo who garnered 37% of the vote in the competitive three-way race to succeed longtime Democratic DA Marjorie Fox, who decided not to seek another term

Although this wait wasn’t long, but Republicans also regained control of the Westmoreland Commissioner Board after losing it in 2015. Sean Kertes and Doug Chew, both Republican newcomers, were the top two vote getters in the race, securing a spot on the board. Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Ted Kopas finished in fourth place and will not receive another term, while Gina Cerilli will be the lone Democrat on the board. 

While Democrats have long maintained a registration edge in this region and held positions in local elected office, these counties voted for President Donald Trump by wide margins in 2016. Trump captured 73.7% of the vote in Armstrong County over Sec. Hillary Clinton. Trump received 68% of the vote in Greene County, while he pulled in 63.5% of the vote in Westmoreland County. The closest of the bunch for the 2016 presidential election was Washington County where Trump received 60% of the vote and beat Clinton by 25 points. 

The shift in the state’s political scene is evident as Republicans pick up seats in western Pennsylvania, while Democrats flipped historically GOP held positions in the Philadelphia suburbs.

17 Responses

  1. Tom Ato has a point to make. The culture of working-class Western PA was the same when it supported Democrats as now when it supports Republicans.

    The difference is that its hardhat-wearing, metal-bashing, coal-cracking culture was *functional* back in Democrat days. But it isn’t anymore. And all the tariffs in the world won’t bring it back. It is not a culture with an economic future.

    Perhaps Western PA can discover a new economic adaptation that works for the 21st century. Quite likely, though, in the near future that will entail young people moving away to where tomorrow’s jobs are. Capitalism does not guarantee eternal growth for every town, every county, every region.

  2. For one, I am glad to see coverage of western PA elections. Generally, PA media seemed to have focused only on party shifts in southeast PA and virtually ignored partisan shifts in the western part of the state. Thanks Politics PA. Pennsylvania certainly is diverse and Politics PA is trying to give us the complete picture.

  3. I will tell you why Western PA Counties turned Red – the Republicans make it a point to get their candidates to these counties. The Democrats did not – their excuse – they are too small. That is BS. Until the Democratic Party changes their mindset, the Democrats will continue to lose. Trump won Pennsylvania becasue he visited the small towns and counties in Western PA. Hillary went to Pittsburgh. She did go to Johnstown, but you had to be invited to see her. At one time Cambria County was Blue – it’s Red now. Wake up Harrisburg – you want to win the House and Senate – start with the Rural Counties. Democratic Party – don’t ignore the down ballot and work with all 67 Counties not just he white collar counties!

  4. At least the article doesn’t quote Terry Madonna and his partisan spin on politics.Soon he will be “polling” how strong Biden is in Pa. Maybe the Trump people keep quiet because of the abuse and intolerance they become subject to. Stay tuned.

  5. There are some educated, modern communities in and near Pittsburgh, but most of southwestern Pennsylvania is still desolate Appalachia — slack-jawed, superstitious, backward, intolerant, half-educated, devastated by bright flight — in which people stick with dying industries and shambling towns against all evidence.

    1. Of course, these “slack-jawed” folks were perfectly fine people when they were voting Democrat for decades. Now that some are voting Republican they are scum of the Earth…

    2. Trump will win Pa in 2020 because the Dems have done jack shit to fix their Western PA problem. Inviting Pelosi to Philadelphia and then have her wag her finger at any one who dare not support Biden shows their inability to compromise. they would rather lose with people they think they can control than win with people they can’t control.

    3. Ignorant, elitist comments like this are the big reason all these counties are turning blue to red. As they say, when your opponent is digging a hole for himself, just let him keep digging!

  6. Only real surprise regarding the Western PA counties to me was Beaver. Thought Dems would hold on to more of those seats there considering that Casey and Wolf both won the county last fall. Looks like Allegheny and Erie are the only two blue counties left.

  7. All because Trump is rescuing coal miners and owners with big contracts in Ukraine. In 2020, make America grate again!

  • Does the NYC Verdict Make You More or Less Likely to Vote For Trump in 2024?

    • Less Likely (36%)
    • More Likely (34%)
    • Makes No Difference (30%)

    Total Voters: 112

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