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Westmoreland’s political focus shifts to county races in 2023


With the books closed on the 2022 election, Westmoreland County political leaders are ready to focus on local races heading into 2023 with control of most key courthouse offices at stake.

Republicans will attempt to continue the party’s stranglehold on local politics as the calendar flips with races for county commissioner, controller, sheriff, treasurer and register of wills on tap in 2023.

The GOP regained a majority of the board of commissioners in 2019 after a four-year hiatus, with the elections of Sean Kertes and Doug Chew. Both first-time candidates, they finished as the top two vote-getters in a year that also saw incumbent Democrat Gina Cerilli Thrasher reelected to a second term.

All three commissioners are expected to run for reelection, although none has formally announced a bid.

Meanwhile, Republican incumbents — including Controller Jeffrey Balzer, Treasurer Jared Squires, Register of Wills Sherry Magretti Hamilton and Sheriff James Albert — also could seek a return to their offices. Albert, a longtime district judge in Greensburg, was elected in 2019 as a Democrat but switched his registration to Republican less than a year into his term.

“I’m not aware of anyone’s intention to not seek another term,” said Bill Bretz, chairman of Westmoreland County’s Republican Committee.

Democratic officials see 2023 as an opportunity to grow the party that for decades held political power in the county but recently saw its influence wane. The party lays claim to just one countywide elected office and accounts for 38% of registered voters.

Nearly half of registered voters in the county, 49%, are Republicans, according to the most recent statistics published by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

“We have work to do,” said Democratic Party Chairwoman Michelle McFall.

The party is expected to turn to Thrasher as its standard-bearer in 2023. The lone elected Democrat at the courthouse, Thrasher previously said she would seek a third term.

In 2019, she forged a shift to the center and headed a slate of candidates she dubbed “moderate Democrats.” The group saw modest success with her reelection and Albert’s victory, while other Democrats on the ballot ran separate, unsuccessful campaigns.

“We can’t afford a split like that again, and we will follow Gina’s message. The goal is to get every Democrat to vote,” McFall said.

Republicans hold every other elected courthouse office after the party swept out longtime Democratic incumbents John Peck from the District Attorney’s Office and Ken Bacha as the county coroner in 2021.

Now, Republicans are looking to hold on.

“When you hold all the offices, you are obviously on defense,” Bretz said. “The struggle is, when you are in the majority, you have to do right by the citizens and earn their trust. I think we’ve done that. Now, we have to maintain our momentum.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich by email at rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .





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