Fitzgerald Elected Allegheny County Executive
After defeating Republican D. Raja in Tuesday's election, the former Democratic county council president looks ahead to priorities once in office.
Mass transit, Marcellus Shale, property taxes, the airport, and the county budget will all be on Democrat Rich Fitzgerald’s radar when he takes over as Allegheny County executive in January.
Fitzgerald, 52, of Squirrel Hill, defeated Republican D. Raja, 46, of Mt. Lebanon by a nearly 2-1 margin in Tuesday’s general election.
Fitzgerald celebrated the win with hundreds of supporters at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Many wore green T-shirts with the words, “Welcome to Fitzburgh” on the front.
Afterwards, he talked to Patch about his first priorities when taking office.
“We’ve got a lot of challenges, transit, stopping the reassessment of our county only, being able to utilize Marcellus Shale in a way that could be productive for our citizens by putting people to work but not hurting the environment,” he said.
During the campaign, Fitzgerald promised that, if elected, he would not send out the new certified assessment numbers early next year, unless the Legislature adopted statewide standards for valuing properties.
Fitzgerald also touted the benefits of Marcellus shale drilling on land surrounding Pittsburgh International Airport during a breakfast forum at the Pittsburgh Airport Holiday Inn in mid-October. He said Marcellus shale drilling on county property around the airport complex could serve as an economic boon for the surrounding communities.
Fitzgerald also addressed the airport’s slow decline in the number of daily flights and destinations. “It’s got to be more helpful to our business community by providing flights from Pittsburgh to other major cities around the country and around the world,” he said Tuesday.
Fitzgerald was quick to recognize his family’s efforts during the campaign. His wife, Cathy, and eight children flanked him during his victory speech.
“My oldest is 25 and my youngest is 15,” he said. “While the public gets to see us working together in a public campaign, we’ve been working together on a lot of things. It’s always been about our kids, involved in their education, their activities; we’re very, very supportive of each other.
And Fitzgerald said he would use that philosophy in running Allegheny County.
“We’ve always tried to impress upon our kids that, wherever you are, or whomever you work for, make the organization better for you being there,” he said. “And now I guess we want to traffic another organization better, county government.”
Raja told supporters at the Radisson Hotel in Green Tree Tuesday night, “This is not the party we planned, but I love the company. Although we did not reach our goal, the county is better off with our debate.”
He also issued a challenge to Fitzgerald.
“We saw a tough and aggressive side of the man who will run Allegheny County,” Raja said. “I hope he will use that same energy to run the government. Despite the relentless and vicious attacks, we are all Pittsburghers and we will reach new heights together.”
Raja, like any Republican in Allegheny County, faced an uphill battle where Democrats outnumber the GOP by a better than 2-1 margin. “We had a huge Democratic disadvantage,” Raja said. “I was hoping more people would cross party lines.”
Raja thanked all of his supporters, his family and the Indian community.
“Now is the time to stay active in politics,” he said. “Stay involved so the same dream is available for all of Allegheny County’s children.”
As for Raja's future, he told the crowd that gathered for him, "I'm not going away."
He later told Patch that it was a "long and exhausting race." He plans to spend time with his family and get back to his business.
Becky Emmers and Sarah Beth Martin contributed to this report.