Progressive Democrats in Tuesday’s primary united disparate parts of Allegheny County, ranging from wards across Pittsburgh to more affluent suburbs, to build their winning coalitions.

Three candidates — Matt Dugan for district attorney, Bethany Hallam for at-large Allegheny County Council and Sara Innamorato for county executive — tapped into the same core areas while also adding other parts of the county to grow their vote margins.

The core progressive coalition appears to comprise the city of Pittsburgh, which has 32 wards of its own; North Hills communities such as Franklin Park, McCandless and Fox Chapel; and South Hills population centers including Mount Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.

Dugan and Hallam each only faced one opponent and expanded their base by winning places such as Moon, Findlay and Monroeville. Innamorato and Hallam secured additional support in Shaler, Hampton and O’Hara.

None of the three progressive candidates won outlying areas of the county, such as Harrison and North Versailles, which tend to be less populated and more conservative.

It isn’t easy to put together such a wide-ranging coalition, according to Jim Burn, a veteran of Democratic campaigns. He is chair emeritus of the state Democratic party and has at various points served as the mayor of Millvale, an Allegheny County councilor and the county Democratic party chair.

Burn noted that “every municipality, every city ward has its own set of issues, some more in common than others.

“There’s nothing easy about that map,” said Burn, who was an early backer of Innamorato’s first run for state House in 2018. “There’s nothing easy about the ability to bring so many diverse Democrats together.”

The results weren’t necessarily a surprise to some local Democratic leaders. Ben Aikin, who chairs the Mt. Lebanon Democratic Committee, told the Union Progress that they “reflect what I think the general trend has been in Mt. Lebanon for a while.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have been interested in jail reform, affordable housing everywhere, being a more welcoming community and available community to more people,” he said. “There’s been those kinds of trends, especially since [Donald] Trump, of suburbs getting a little more blue.”

Aikin added that the county executive candidates differed in how they sought to win over voters. He said County Treasurer John Weinstein sought to “pull the traditional levers” by meeting with committee members, while other candidates focused more on direct voter engagement.

“Innamorato, we saw a lot of their volunteers knocking doors around here, kind of more of that grassroots,” he said. “[Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb’s] sister lives just a few houses down the street from where I do; they were busy organizing for him. Different approaches, but they were all pretty active here trying to gain support.”

Some areas where Democrats had once been severely outnumbered by Republicans, but have seen a surge of activity in recent years, ended up being key parts of the winning candidates’ coalition.

Democrats have made large gains in voter registration over the past few years in more affluent suburbs and among disaffected Republicans, including in places such as Franklin Park and Upper St. Clair, as part of a larger trend of many communities across the country shifting toward the party during the Trump presidency.

Uday Palled, a Democrat who sits on the Franklin Park Borough Council, told the Union Progress that Innamorato was able to capitalize on voters getting tired of the “same old” and brought a fresh vision for the region.

“I’m hesitant to say that progressives have an upper hand in the North Hills, I still do not see that as the case,” he said. “I think more Democrats are open to embracing it, but the strategy has to shift now that we’re going in the general [election], a little bit.”

Palled added that he thinks Innamorato was better able to connect with voters than some of her opponents in the county executive race, including Weinstein, and that successful retail politics is key for local races.

“With Weinstein and Rich Fitzgerald, it’s awkward. They are stuck in time, they’re stuck in the past,” he said. “When you talk to them, that’s how they are — they don’t connect with voters, especially voters that are younger than them.”

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