Ticket splitting is alive and well in Allegheny County. 

After an expensive and highly competitive campaign, voters went to the polls Tuesday and delivered varied results, narrowly electing Democrat Sara Innamorato as county executive and Republican nominee Stephen Zappala as district attorney, while siding much more decisively with the Democratic candidate for state Supreme Court.

Turnout was high — the highest in at least the last eight odd-year elections — with two multi-million dollar county races on the ballot in a municipal election unlike any other in recent memory.

Voters delivered a split decision on the two major countywide races, for chief executive and prosecutor. Innamorato ended up with about 10,000 more votes than the Democratic nominee for DA, Matt Dugan. Innamorato carried 18 municipalities that Dugan lost, most of them inner suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Innamorato faced far stronger headwinds than Democratic executive candidates in recent memory, with a well-funded opponent who used a moderate campaign to try to peel off Democratic votes. That strategy almost worked, and Republican Joe Rockey won numerous precincts in the suburbs that Democrats have won in recent cycles. 

Innamorato’s coalition was typical of Democrats here, but margins were much tighter than usual. The city aligned with Mon Valley towns like Duquesne and McKeesport, eastern suburbs like Penn Hills and affluent pockets like Mt. Lebanon and Sewickley. But Rockey prevailed just about everywhere else, running up unusually large margins in outlying areas and carrying places like Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel and Ross, which have supported Democrats at times in recent years. 

Ticket splitting was even more pronounced between county races and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court race. Democratic Supreme Court candidate Daniel McCaffery won about 38,000 more votes in the county than Innamorato. More than 50 municipalities were carried by both McCaffery and Rockey — a diverse collection of communities including Moon, South Fayette, West Mifflin, McCandless and Shaler. Trafford, a tiny municipality only partly in Allegheny County with one voting precinct, was the only place to side with Innamorato and Republican court nominee Carolyn Carluccio.

Ticket splitting has been on the decline nationwide in recent years as politics are more polarized and more and more elections become tied to national movements and figures. 

But local, odd-year elections can move to a different beat than federal ones. Tuesday’s results showed that, at least to some extent, local politics in Allegheny County have not gone completely tribal — thousands of voters crossed party lines and split their ballots between the two major parties. 

Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at charlie@publicsource.org.

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Charlie Wolfson is an enterprise reporter for PublicSource, focusing on local government accountability in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He is also a Report for America corps member. Charlie aims to...