With fewer than two weeks until Election Day, Pittsburgh City Paper is breaking down key races for city and county council as well as the state Supreme Court and the Court of Common Pleas. If you’re not voting by mail, the polls open at 7 a.m. Nov. 2.

Click to read each race’s guide:
Pittsburgh City Council District 4
Allegheny County Council District 1
Allegheny County Council District 3
Allegheny County Council District 8
Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judicial Elections


Pittsburgh City Council District 4

By Amanda Waltz
awaltz@pghcitypaper.com

Pittsburgh City Council District 4 represents the South Hills neighborhoods of Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, and Overbrook, as well as parts of Mount Washington. It is represented by incumbent Councilor Anthony Coghill (D-Beechview).

Anthony Coghill (Democrat)

Bio: Incumbent candidate. Born and raised in Beechview. Previously worked as constituent liaison for state Sen. Wayne Fontana. Elected as an Allegheny County Democratic Committeeman in 2010 and chairs the committee’s 19th Ward. Lives in Beechview.

Housing: Does not see affordable housing as an issue in his district. In January 2021, expressed concern over a proposal to increase city spending on affordable housing and how that might increase any potential new debt.

Policing: Has defended need for increased police presence. In December 2020, expressed concern about a vote to divert $5.3 million from the police to fund the new Stop the Violence initiative, reportedly citing local sporting events and the city’s hilly terrain as justifications for more policing.

Infrastructure: Says his record shows progress on improving snow removal and winter road maintenance in his district. Points to successes like revitalizing the Las Palmas taco stand on Brookline Boulevard and tearing down dilapidated St. Basil’s school on Brownsville Road. 

Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Allegheny County Labor Council, Pittsburgh Paramedics, Pittsburgh Fire Fighters, Fraternal Order of Pittsburgh Police, state Sens. Jay Costa and Wayne Fontana, Pittsburgh City Councilors Theresa Kail-Smith, Deb Gross, Bruce Kraus, Corey O’Connor and Bobby Wilson, etc.

Connor Mulvaney (Green)

Bio: Brookline resident running as a Green party candidate. Works as a bike technician, and has previously worked as a union baker member of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1776, as well as a cross-country coach. Has served as a community organizer with Re-imagine Beaver County and is active in the South Hills Safe Streets group.

Housing: Wants to enact policies guaranteeing all renters and homeowners protection from “predatory developers and artificial markets.” 

Policing: Believes in reallocating police funding to other city departments focused on addressing community issues, such as addiction, homelessness and traffic enforcement. Pledged to refuse endorsements and contributions from police unions.

Infrastructure: Wants to better the environment and public health of Pittsburgh by investing in less car-reliant infrastructure. Criticized recent cuts to departments such as Mobility and Infrastructure and Public Works that were proposed last year.

Endorsements: Green Party of Pennsylvania, The Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, No Cop Money PA, Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh, Sierra Club Pennsylvania, PA Working Families Party, Socialist Alternative Pittsburgh, etc.

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Allegheny County Council District 1

By Ryan Deto
ryandeto@pghcitypaper.com

Allegheny County Council District 1 covers sections of Western Allegheny County, and some northern suburbs close to the city. Includes Findlay, North Fayette, Moon, Coraopolis, Glen Osborne, Aleppo, Haysville, Glenfield, Kilbuck, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Emsworth, Ross and West View. Incumbent councilor Tom Baker (R-Ross) is not seeking re-election.

Jack Betkowski (Democrat)

Bio: A resident of Ross and a current commissioner on the township board. Retired after a 34-year career with the Federal Reserve of Cleveland. Graduated with a master’s in Business Administration from Robert Morris University. Says serving on County Council would be an opportunity to give back to the community.

Public transportation: Says that District 1 “absolutely” needs improved public transportation. As Ross Township commissioner, says he worked with Port Authority to ensure community considerations were included in the authority’s recently released long range plan, which has proposals for extended light-rail and bus service to District 1 communities.

Paid sick leave: Applauds county’s recently passed paid sick leave law. “Especially in these times where there is widespread skepticism of public health experts, I was pleased that the final version of the ordinance was drafted by the County Health Department, and done in such a way as to better ensure it could survive legal challenges.”

Development: In Ross, supported changes to township’s zoning code to encourage mixed-use development (combination of residential, retail, and services in the same zone). Says county council can provide guidance on best zoning practices to encourage the best development and rules to ensure new buildings don’t exacerbate problems with stormwater runoff.

Endorsements: Says he has never accepted any corporate or special interest PAC contributions and won’t be held hostage to the demands of outside interest groups in order to get their endorsement. “The needs of the residents of Allegheny County will always come first,” says Betkowski.

Joe Wise (Republican)

Bio: A native of Moon who worked in communications and public relations for years in Washington, D.C., including for former U.S. Rep. Austin J. Murphy. Returned to Moon in 2006 and now serves on board of Moon Township supervisors.

Public transportation: Touts his experience saving Moon taxpayers money through fiscally responsible spending. Did not respond to questions about public transit policies.

Paid sick leave: Campaign website says he wants to bring county council “back to basics.” Did not respond to questions about paid sick leave policies.

Development: Campaign website says he is most proud of his efforts in Moon to “help secure the development of the Hilton Garden Inn complex on University Boulevard, formerly one of the area’s most visibly blighted properties, and the reconstruction of several important roadways, including the $9.5 million Robert Harper Interchange.”

Endorsements: Lodge #91 of the Allegheny County Fraternal Order of Police.

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Allegheny County Council District 3

By Ryan Deto
ryandeto@pghcitypaper.com

Allegheny County Council District 3 emcompasses some North Hills suburbs and Allegheny River towns including Reserve, Millvale, Shaler, Etna, Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, O’Hara, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Indiana and West Deer. Councilor Anita Prizio is the incumbent.

Anita Prizio (Democrat)

Bio: Former O’Hara town supervisor and current Allegheny County Councilor. Served as a delegate for former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016. Works as an outreach specialist for Steel Valley Authority, the Swissvale agency that provides layoff-aversion services to small and medium-sized Pennsylvania manufacturers. Lives in O’Hara.

Fracking: Proposed legislation with other progressives to ban natural-gas drilling, aka fracking, within Allegheny County-controlled parks. Led the creation of a public database of all fracking sites in the county. Wants county to transition to 100% renewable energy, and when fracking does occur, wants additional oversight.

Jobs: Until recently, owned her family’s engine parts business, and says her experience as a small business owner gives her the knowledge on how government policies can help or hurt business. Wants to increase county funding to apprenticeships and community college, as well as better public transit to help those without cars access more jobs.

Flood control: Advocates for a regional flood policy so that District 3 towns in floodplains don’t bear disproportionate costs to manage floods. Wants to explore coordination and supports grantseeking to fund flood-control infrastructure, without raising fees on Allegheny County residents.

Endorsements: State Rep. Sara Innamorato, Allegheny County Councilors Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett, The Sierra Club of Allegheny County, Clean Water Action, Working Families PA, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, SEIU 32BJ, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, etc.

Meredith Dolan (Republican)

Bio: Graduated from Ohio University and worked as staff for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Volunteers with North Hills Community Outreach. Lives in Fox Chapel. Works for Illinois-based media startup Freedom Fries, a company named after the GOP-led push to rename French fries during the Iraq War. The company runs an aggregation site focused on right-wing cultural issues like the “transgender discussion” and “big tech censorship.”

Fracking: Says additional environmental regulations will cost the county jobs. Criticized Prizio, saying her focus on climate change and green infrastructure is a tenet of the socialist platform, according to WESA.

Jobs: Opposed to any tax hikes, but said she wants to ensure police are well-funded. Says her main focus if elected would be balanced budgets and says she would look for places to shrink county spending.

Flood control: While working in Washington, D.C., says she gained experience on measures to fund wastewater treatment, transportation and other infrastructure. Says she will participate in regular meetings with local elected officials to provide a consistent, accurate assessment of community needs.

Endorsements: Campaign committee consists of Allegheny County Councilors Sam DeMarco, Cindy Kirk, and Tom Baker; former U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, state Sen. Devlin Robinson, state Reps. Lori Mizgorski, Rob Mercuri, Carrie DelRosso, Natalie Mihalek, Valerie Gaydos, etc.

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Allegheny County Council District 8

By Jason Phox
info@pghcitypaper.com

Allegheny County Council District 8 consists of Braddock, Braddock Hills, Chalfant, East McKeesport, East Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Monroeville, North Braddock, Pitcairn, Plum, Rankin, Swissvale, Trafford, Turtle Creek, Wall, Whitaker and Wilmerding. Incumbent councilor Paul Zavarella (D-Plum) is not seeking re-election.

Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis (Democrat)

Bio: Working in the nonprofit field for 20 years, Naccarati-Chapkis serves as executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment. Works closely with communities, elected officials, government agencies, nonprofits, foundations, and corporations. Has spoken at national, state, and local conferences. Grew up in Wilkins and lives in Plum.

Public transportation: Seeks to improve access to public transportation. Also intends to help combat urban renewal that has displaced older, low-income residents from urban areas to distant suburbs, where there is less access to public transportation and health services.

Environment: Aims to improve environmental health for county residents, especially in low-income areas. Has spoken against a proposed fracking waste injection well in Plum. Says the county must work on a holistic plan to address climate change. Supports council’s effort to reduce emissions at industrial facilities.

Policing: Says she would need more information before supporting an investigation into Allegheny County Jail’s alleged abuse against inmates, and would rely on the county’s Jail Oversight Board to lead any inquiry. Daughter of former Wilkins police chief.

Endorsements: Pittsburgh Hub of the Sunrise Movement, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Women for the Future Pittsburgh, Young Democrats of Allegheny County, state Rep. Brandon Markosek, state Sen. Jim Brewster.

Eric Casteel (Republican)

Bio: Casteel grew up outside of the small town of Hopwood in Fayette County and has lived in Plum since 1991. For 38 years, he has worked in the tech field with software development and cyber security architecture. Volunteers for religious organizations that serve meals to the homeless and conduct international mission trips. 

Public transportation: Doesn’t mention transit funding in campaign materials. Says primary goal is to fund law enforcement and emergency services and develop budgets that prioritize public safety, infrastructure and necessary services in District 8.  

Environment: Before working at his current job at Westinghouse, Casteel ran companies that focused on renewable energy. He believes municipalities need more economic development funds to help improve their environmental issues. 

Policing: If elected, he would prioritize law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical services. In addition, Casteel says he would be open to investigating the county jail for mistreatment of individuals.

Endorsements: Firearm Owners Against Crime (FOAC), LIFEPAC, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court

By Ryan Deto
ryandeto@pghcitypaper.com

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the state’s highest court and has made many important decisions over the last several years. A ruling by the court in 2018 struck down the state’s partisan-gerrymandered Congressional districts. In 2020, the court also rejected a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law. Five Democrats and two Republicans currently make up the court.

Maria McLaughlin (Democrat)

Bio: A West Philadelphia native who graduated from Penn State University and Delaware Law School at Widener University. Served on Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas and has experience in family law and children’s rights. Has been seated on Pennsylvania’s Superior Court since 2017. Highly recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Voting rights: Endorsed by The Philadelphia Inquirer in part because of recent actions taken by Republicans in an attempt to gain access to Pennsylvania voters’ private information, including driver’s license and partial social security numbers. The paper’s editorial board says she is the better choice in protecting voters’ privacy rights.

Guns & criminal justice: The PA Working Families Party made their first-ever judicial endorsements this year, backing McLaughin with an emphasis on criminal justice reform.

In 2021, wrote opinion denying appeal for a man seeking a shorter sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a case where defendant’s 4-year-old stepdaughter accidentally shot herself with the defendant’s gun.

Women’s rights: In a dissenting opinion, said a sexual assault conviction shouldn’t have been thrown out since accused recorded the “encounter with the victim in case there was any question of the voluntariness of the intercourse.” Endorsed by Planned Parenthood PAC.

Endorsements: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb and Mike Doyle, Allegheny County Exec. Rich Fitzgerald, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Clean Water Action, SEIU, United Mine Workers, AFL-CIO of PA, Teamsters, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, PA State Correctional Officers, PA National Organization for Women, etc.

Kevin Brobson (Republican)

Bio: A native of Lycoming County who graduated from Lycoming College and Widener University School of Law. Has experience in private practice law in commercial litigation. Served as Commonwealth Court Judge since 2010, and was elected President Judge of that court in 2020. Highly recommended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Voting rights: Brobson wrote an opinion in a 2020 ruling that thousands of mail-in ballots shouldn’t be counted in a Pittsburgh-area state senate race because they lacked handwritten dates. That decision was reversed by the state Supreme Court, citing unnecessary voter disenfranchisement. A federal, Trump-appointed judge upheld the state Supreme Court ruling. He also ruled against Pa.’s partisan-gerrymander lawsuit.

Guns & criminal justice: Handed down past rulings supporting pro-gun groups from suing municipalities’ efforts in passing gun-reform laws. In 2020, froze a new state policy requiring gun stores to report sales of “ghost guns.” Police say these assembled guns have seen increased use, and have been used in recent killings.

Women’s rights: Endorsed by anti-abortion Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation PAC.

Endorsements: Pa. Auditor General Timothy DeFoor, Pa. Treasurer Stacy Garrity, National Rifle Association, Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Boilermakers Lodge 154, PA Coal PAC, Pa. State Troopers Association, a dozen police unions located throughout Pa., etc.

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Allegheny County Common Pleas Judicial Elections

By Ryan Deto
ryandeto@pghcitypaper.com

With 18 candidates running for 10 open seats on the Common Pleas Court of Allegheny County, this election cycle offers a paramount opportunity to remake the county’s criminal justice system. Common Pleas Judges are responsible for overseeing trials for criminal, civil and family cases and delivering sentencing. Pittsburgh City Paper has highlighted three categories for this year’s judicial candidates: legal, reform, and LGBTQ. 

Legal rankings come from the Allegheny County Bar Association and have four different results: highly recommended, recommended, not recommended at this time (which means candidates could be recommended later, but aren’t currently) and unqualified. 

A criminal justice reform coalition (formed from police-reform, progressive, and Black-led advocacy groups) provided endorsements for candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to equitable justice.

Lastly, two of the largest LGBTQ political organizations — Steel City Stonewall Democrats and the Gertrude Stein Club of Greater Pittsburgh — handed out endorsements for several judge candidates this year. The Gertrude Stein Club of Greater Pittsburgh’s endorsements below were during the primary election season.

Voters will be able to select up to 10 of the following candidates on the ballot. They are placed in the order they will appear on the general election ballot. 

Chelsa Wagner, Democratic (Point Breeze)

Served as Allegheny County Controller since 2012. Before that, served as a state representative. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Not recommended at this time 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Endorsed (primary election)

Sabrina Korbel, Democrat/Republican (Ross)

Legal Director of the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh since 2002.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly Recommended
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Endorsed (primary election)

Wrenna Watson, Democratic (Hill District)

Serves as a Magistrate Judge in Pittsburgh Municipal Court and Chair of Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Lisa Middleman, Democratic/Republican (Franklin Park)

Public defender who previously ran as a progressive independent for Allegheny County District Attorney.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Endorsed (primary election)

Nicola Henry-Taylor, Democratic (Ross)

Private attorney working in family and criminal courts. Attended Duquesne University Law School.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly Recommended  
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Endorsed (primary election)

Elliot Howsie, Democratic (Churchill)

Incumbent Common Pleas Judge through appointment. Former director of Allegheny County’s public defender office.  

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Tiffany Sizemore, Democratic (Churchill)

Clinical law professor at Duquesne University. Experience working as a public defender. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Bruce Beemer, Democratic/Republican (Bradford Woods)

Incumbent Common Pleas Judge through appointment. Former Inspector General of Pa. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly recommended
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Jessel Costa, Democratic (South Side)

Worked as prosecuting attorney and public defender. Worked for former Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Unqualified  
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh —- Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Tom Caulfield, Democratic (Forest Hills)

Served as a Magisterial District Judge since 2010. Before that, worked as a public defender.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Joseph Patrick Murphy, Republican (Pine)

Private practice lawyer for 20 years and has served as an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Arbitrator.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Not recommended at this time
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Anthony DeLuca, Republican (Mt. Lebanon)

Former law clerk and Assistant District Attorney. Experience working as criminal defense attorney.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly Recommended   
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Daniel J. Konieczka, Jr., Republican (Shaler)

Served as Magisterial District Judge since 2018, with experience as a prosecuting and defense attorney. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Highly Recommended
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

William Bill Caye, Republican (South Fayette)

Private attorney, has taught at Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Chuck Porter, Republican (Shaler)

Trial lawyer. Worked in the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office.  

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended  
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Mark Patrick Flaherty, Republican (Mt. Lebanon)

Former Allegheny County Controller. Practiced law for 20 years in the areas of tax, finance, corporations, government.

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Not recommended at this time
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Rick Hosking, Republican (Upper St. Clair)

Trial lawyer and certified mediator with experience in class actions, business torts, insurance coverage, and more. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Recommended 
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Richard L. Weiss, Green (Bethel Park)

Worked as attorney for the federal government and internationally for development projects. 

  • Allegheny County Bar Association rating — Not rated
  • Criminal Justice Reform coalition — Not endorsed
  • Steel City Stonewall Dems/Gertrude Stein Club of Pittsburgh — Not Endorsed/Not Endorsed (primary election)

Illustrations by Lucy Chen for Pittsburgh City Paper.

Update (10/25/21): This story was updated to clarify that the Gertrude Stein Club of Greater Pittsburgh’s endorsements were from the primary election season. The organization did not endorse any candidates for the general election.

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