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Democratic Party endorsement reveals party split that will continue through primary

Democratic Party endorsement reveals party split that will continue through primary
Democratic Party endorsement reveals party split that will continue through primary 02:34

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Allegheny County Democratic Party has endorsed Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein for county executive and public defender Matt Dugan for district attorney, upsetting incumbent Stephen Zappala.

As KDKA-TV political editor Jon Delano explains, the endorsement reveals a split in the party that will continue through the May primary.

Sam Hens-Greco, Allegheny County Democratic chair, says the vote by 1,400 committee people means just one thing.

"This was the recognition that this was the candidate that the committee has come behind to support," says Hens-Greco.

With 38.6% of the vote, Weinstein defeated state Rep. Sara Innamorato, a liberal Democrat with 32.4% who was endorsed by Mayor Ed Gainey and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, a self-described pragmatic progressive, who had 27.7% of the vote.

Weinstein, a moderate Democrat, says he won because he works well with everyone.

"I have progressives that are supporting me. I have ultra-conservatives that are supporting me, and I have moderates that are supporting me because they understand about leadership and about the ability to govern," says Weinstein.

Both Innamorato and Lamb are staying in the primary race.

Innamorato said in a statement, "I've been unapologetically progressive, collaborative, and effective. While we narrowly missed getting the endorsement, the margins signaled that a large swath of the Democratic party is ready and excited for the type of leadership and experience I would bring to the county executive's office."

Lamb said in a statement, "I am disappointed the Allegheny County Democratic Party has endorsed a candidate whose campaign is propped up by a handful of Republican donors. …  I know the people of Allegheny County will not stand for a return to the days of corrupt pay-to-play politics." 

For district attorney, Zappala, who does not like politics and didn't campaign much for the endorsement, was handily defeated for that endorsement by Dugan, who comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The final result was 58.6% for Dugan to 41.4% for Zappala.

"We bring a message of change to the criminal justice system, to how we think about its scope and purpose," says Dugan.

Zappala said in a statement: "The political insiders and activists don't pick the nominee – voters do. … I've implemented real reform and I'm the only one in this race who will fight to keep Pittsburgh from turning into Philadelphia."

Obviously, the Democratic Party endorsement has not resolved anything – and this primary battle among the candidates is likely to be loud and cantankerous. The primary is in 10 weeks.

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