The retired financial executive hoping to be only the second Republican elected as Allegheny County executive since the post was created nearly two decades ago started his general election pitch to voters Wednesday.

Joe Rockey, of Ohio Township, said at a news conference in Downtown Pittsburgh that he views his opponent, state Rep. Sara Innamorato, as too extreme and that he can win over Democrats with his self-proclaimed moderate views.

“I believe that what the people of Allegheny County want, is they want someone who is in the middle, who has their values and is focused on their future,” he said.

The stakes are high for the Nov. 7 general election, given that the executive can play a major role in setting the county government’s agenda on issues such as air quality, property taxes and the county jail; proposes the county’s $1 billion budget; and fills seats on boards and commissions. The current county executive is Rich Fitzgerald, a term-limited Democrat who will complete his third and final term at the end of this year.

Rockey, a philanthropist who’s taking his first shot at elected office after working at PNC Financial Services for more than two decades, discussed his policy platform in more detail Wednesday. He favors an expansion in natural gas production as a “vehicle for creating jobs.”

“Not just in the extraction of those resources but also in the use of those resources,” he said, contrasting with Innamorato, who supports a fracking ban.

He committed to meeting during his first year in office with 100 companies around the country and pitching them on the region.

“Job No. 1 for the Allegheny County executive is to grow the economy,” he said. “It is my responsibility to sell the story of Allegheny County.”

The next county executive will inherit a property tax system in dire straits. Most properties were last reassessed in 2012, and a judge issued a ruling last fall that significantly altered the way a property’s current market value gets converted into the “base year” value used to calculate taxes.

Many municipalities could soon find themselves facing financial headwinds due to large numbers of tax appeals filed by owners of large properties, including office towers and shopping malls, due to changing conditions in the commercial real estate market.

While Innamorato pitches a full reassessment of all properties, Rockey said he would not conduct a reassessment and instead would adjust values already on the books.

“What I support is that we fix the mistakes we’ve made over the last half-dozen years that have caused us to get into a place where there’s inequities in how property taxes are assessed for the citizens of Allegheny County,” he said.

Changing political tides in Allegheny County could make it tough for Rockey to win in November.

Democrats have made large gains in voter registration over the past few years, generally in more affluent suburbs and among disaffected Republicans, part of a larger trend of many communities across the country shifting toward the party during the Trump presidency.

For example, Rockey’s own Ohio Township voted by nearly 20 points for Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election, but the municipality helped send President Joe Biden to the White House in 2020 with a five-point margin of victory. More recently, it elected Democratic Rep. Arvind Venkat to a competitive state House seat last fall by five points.

Rockey said he plans to campaign throughout the county and show voters that he “can be the executive leader they need for their future.” He’s also working to attract political heavyweights to his side and has been in discussions with the building trades union, which often hold more conservative political views than other labor organizations, about potentially securing their endorsement.

“I believe I am an ideal candidate to represent the building trades because I am about growth,” he said. “… They will have to make their decision, but I am talking to them, and I believe they will see the value of a Rockey campaign.”

Rockey’s candidacy could also benefit from his personal largesse. He has already put $100,000 into his campaign, according to paperwork submitted May 5, and didn’t rule out spending more.

“Those decisions haven’t been made,” he said.

The race for county executive could potentially be affected by another office on the ballot — district attorney.

Six-term incumbent Steve Zappala Jr. lost Tuesday’s Democratic primary to challenger Matt Dugan but could still run in November thanks to a wave of tens of thousands of write-in votes to get Zappala on the Republican party line. It’s unclear whether Zappala would accept the Republican line and face off again with Dugan, but the more conservative incumbent district attorney could draw more of his supporters than usual.

Rockey said he has met Zappala in the past, but there has been no “joint strategy or anything” between the two campaigns.

“I think anyone who’s running who represents the middle helps me because I represent the middle,” he said. “If that brings more people from the middle into the election and actually coming out to vote, that will benefit me.”

Jon, a copy editor and reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and working as a co-editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Reach him at

Jon Moss

Jon, a copy editor and reporter at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and working as a co-editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Reach him at