Pennsylvania Perspective Special Edition: Pennsylvania Primary & Special Elections Update

May 17, 2023

Information current as of 2:45 pm on May 17, 2023

On Tuesday, May 16, there were several important races that determined the future political direction of cities, counties, and the Commonwealth. Most notably, Democrats retained control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives following last night’s special elections. Former State Representative and City Councilmember Cherelle Parker won the Democratic Primary to become Philadelphia’s next mayor. Also, Sara Innamorato has won the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County Executive. Below is a run-down of election results.

State Races

State House

Two special elections in the State House have — once again — determined that Democrats will maintain their control of the chamber, which they recently reclaimed for the first time in more than a decade. Over the course of the campaigns, Pennsylvania Democrats spent more than $1 million in hopes of defending their narrow majority. The races have earned national attention, with President Joe Biden endorsing Democrat Heather Boyd for District 163 state representative. The two special elections preserved the status quo in the House.

  • District 108: Republican Michael Stender, Jr. has defeated Democrat Trevor Finn and Libertarian Elijah Scretching in the special election to fill the vacancy left by now-State Senator Lynda Schlegel Culver. Stender will now represent Montour County and parts of Northumberland County in Central Pennsylvania.
  • District 163: Democrat Heather Boyd has defeated Republican Katie Ford in the special election to fill the vacancy left by former State Representative Mike Zabel, who resigned in March due to allegations of sexual harassment. Boyd will not represent Delaware County.

County Races

Allegheny County

Allegheny is the Commonwealth’s second largest county by population, meaning the outcomes of its elections have far-reaching impacts.

  • Executive: State Representative Sara Innamorato has won the Democratic nomination among a crowded field of candidates for Allegheny County Executive. She is likely to win the General Election, which will make her the first woman to hold the office since the position was created in 2000.
  • County Council At-Large: Allegheny County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam has defeated Joanna Doven in the Democratic primary race for County Council at large.
  • County Council District 2: Todd Hamer has won his uncontested Democratic primary for District 2. He will face off against incumbent District 2 Councilmember Suzanne Filiaggi in November.
  • County Council District 5: Dan Grzybek has won the uncontested Democratic primary for District 5. He will face off against Republican Mike Embrescia to succeed current District 5 Councilmember Tom Duerr, who is not seeking reelection, in November.
  • County Council District 10: Incumbent Councilmember DeWitt Walton has eked out a win against Democratic challengers Carlos Thomas and Eric Smith.
  • County Council District 11: Incumbent Councilmember Paul Klein will likely hold onto his seat after defeating Democratic challenger Dennis McDermott.
  • County Council District 13: Democratic newcomer David Bonaroti has won his uncontested primary to succeed current District 13 Councilmember Olivia Bennett, who is not seeking reelection.
  • District Attorney: Matt Dugan has defeated Stephen Zappala for the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County district attorney.
  • Controller: Incumbent Corey O’Connor has defeated challenger Darwin Leuba for the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County Controller. He will be running unopposed in November.
  • Treasurer: Erica Rocchi Brusselars has defeated current Pittsburgh City Councilmember Anthony Coghill for the Democratic nomination for Allegheny County Treasurer. She will be running unopposed in November.

Montgomery County

With five Democratic candidates in the running, the campaign field for two available seats on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners is the largest in history — and comes amid party growing pains. Furthermore, on the Republican side, incumbent Joe Gale — who also ran unsuccessfully for Pennsylvania governor in 2022 — has become an increasingly polarizing figure even within his own party due to his Trumpian politics. All three seats on the Board were on the ballot.

  • Commissioner: Jamila Winder and Neil Makhija have won the Democratic primary for Board of Commissioners, while Tom DiBello and Liz Ferry defeated Republican incumbent Joe Gale. Democrats are favored to maintain control of the Board in November.

Westmoreland County

The Republican primary for Westmoreland County commissioner was an exact rematch of the 2019 primary — and ended up with the same result.

  • Commissioner At-Large: Incumbent Westmoreland County Commissioners Sean Kertes and Doug Chew have been selected as the Republican nominees for the General Election ballot. Democrats Ted Kopas and Sydney Hovis ran unopposed on the Democratic ticket. Three of the four will be selected for the Board in November.

Municipal Races


Now is a crucial political moment in Philadelphia. Not only will voters be electing the city’s milestone 100th mayor come November, but City Council, too, is undergoing a seismic shift in both leadership and makeup. Current Council President Darrell Clarke is not seeking another term, and there are several vacant at-large seats up for grabs. With 89% of the city’s divisions reported election results, here is what we know so far:

  • Mayor: Cherelle Parker has won the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor. With Democrats having a seven-to-one voter registration edge on Republicans in the city, Cherelle Parker is expected to win the General Election in November, making her the first woman — as well as the first African-American woman — to serve as mayor. This is a significant win for the political establishment; Parker was backed by the majority of Democratic wards, elected officials, and notable labor unions. She carried Black and brown voters by large margins, and her campaign message focused on reducing crime.
  • City Council At-Large: Incumbent Councilmembers At-Large Isaiah Thomas and Katherine Gilmore Richardson have secured their spots on the November General Election ballot, as has Rue Landau, who would become the first openly LGBTQ+ member of City Council if elected. While Nina Ahmad also gave a victory speech last night and is currently on track to be the fourth highest vote getter of the night, she has not yet been officially declared a victor. Nor has incumbent Councilmember At-Large Jim Harrity, who currently occupies the fifth slot. Only the top five vote-getters in the Democratic at-large race move on to the General Election in November. All five of the top candidates have earned the support of the Democratic Party. Again, their success is a victory for the political establishment in a race where political insiders were determining the potency of the current progressive movement in city politics. Notably, Working Families Party candidates Councilmember Kendra Brooks and newcomer Nicolas O’Rourke will compete in November against Republicans for the two at-large Council seats reserved for minority political parties.
  • City Council District 7: The race for the 7th District has not been called yet. Currently, Councilmember Quetcy Lozada leads challenger Andrés Celin by approximately 1,600 votes.
  • City Council District 8: The race for the 8th District is still close. Currently, Councilmember Cindy Bass leads challenger Seth Anderson-Oberman by 290 votes.
  • City Council District 9: Incumbent Councilmember Anthony Phillips has successfully staved off two Democratic challengers, winning more than half of the votes cast in his district.
  • City Controller: Christy Brady leads Alexandra Hunt and John Thomas in the race for the Democratic nomination for City Controller, though the race has not yet been called. Brady is no stranger to the role, having served most recently as acting controller before stepping down to run for the office officially.
  • Register of Wills: John Sabatina, Jr. currently leads incumbent Register of Wills Tracey Gordon by 2% in a four-way race.
  • Sheriff: Sheriff Rochelle Bilal currently leads challenger Michael Untermeyer by a little less than 3% in a three-way race.


The City of Pittsburgh will have several fresh faces on its City Council and in its Controller’s Office due to several recent retirements and resignations. Many of these positions have been held by the same person for more than a decade.

  • Controller: Current Deputy Controller Rachael Heisler will likely succeed outgoing Controller Michael Lamb, who has served in the role since 2008.
  • City Council District 1: Councilmember Bobby Wilson will likely be maintaining his seat after defeating challenger Steven Oberst.
  • City Council District 3: Bob Charland has won his uncontested Democratic primary to succeed his boss, District 1 Councilmember Bruce Kraus.
  • City Council District 5: Councilmember Barb Warwick has soundly fended off a challenge from Lita Brillman and will not face a Republican opponent in November.
  • City Council District 7: Councilmember Deb Gross has defeated Jordan Botta and will not face a Republican opponent in November.
  • City Council District 9: Khari Mosley has defeated Khadijah Harris in Democratic primary to replace outgoing District 9 Councilmember Ricky Burgess.
  • Public Schools Board District 2: Incumbent Devon Taliaferro has defeated challenger Ron Sofo and will likely continue to represent District 2 for a second term.

Upper Darby

Current Upper Darby Mayor Barbarann Keffer is not seeking reelection, making the executive office in Pennsylvania’s sixth-largest municipality up for grabs.

  • Mayor: Ed Brown has defeated Laura Wentz for Upper Darby’s Democratic mayoral nomination, meaning he will be facing current Republican and Council President Brian Burke in November.


Heading into Tuesday, incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland had garnered support from leading Democrats in the region — including Philadelphia Democratic Party Chair Bob Brady — as well as backlash for several perceived controversies and scandals within his administration, including the City’s recent declaration of bankruptcy.

  • Mayor: A winner has not yet been declared in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Chester, though City Councilmember Stefan Roots declared victory over incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and real estate broker Pat Worrell.


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