Commissioner Gina Cerilli wants Westmoreland County Democratic Committee to fill vacancies, help her Congressional bid |
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Rich Cholodofsky
Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, in a 2016 Tribune-Review file photo.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli wants a judge to force the local Democratic party to fill more than 70 vacant committee posts with people who can help select a candidate to run for the congressional seat abandoned by U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.

On Friday, Cerilli asked for a court order mandating that Westmoreland County Democratic Chairwoman Lorraine Petrosky fill vacancies on the county committee. No hearing date has been scheduled.

Cerilli accused Petrosky of “dereliction of duty” for leaving committee seats vacant rather than filling the slots with delegates who would support Cerilli’s bid to win the party nomination.

Democratic committee members from the 18th Congressional District, which includes communities in Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington and Greene counties, will gather Nov. 19 in Washington for a public meeting to choose the party’s candidate in the March 13 special election to complete the remainder of Murphy’s term.

State Democratic leaders said the party expects about 500 committee members to participate in next month’s nomination meeting.

Cerilli, a first-term commissioner from Hempfield, announced this month she will run to replace Murphy, a Republican, who resigned last week amid a scandal that involved allegations of an extramarital affair and that he reportedly asked his mistress to get an abortion.

Cerilli, the lone Democrat from Westmoreland County seeking Murphy’s seat, accused Petrosky of deliberately blocking her effort to secure a spot on the ballot.

“I’m just asking that she do her duty,” Cerilli said. “She is refusing to appoint anyone on the committee on my behalf.”

Cerilli said the vacancies will leave her at a substantial disadvantage at the Democratic meeting next month.

“It is important I get as many folks from Westmoreland County as I can, and she is blocking me,” Cerilli said.

Petrosky said there are nearly 390 committee spots from Westmoreland County in the 18th District. About 75 are vacant.

Local party rules state those vacancies had to be filled by Oct. 23 in order to participate in next month’s nomination meeting.

Petrosky initially referred questions to attorney David Millstein but later said that Cerilli did not follow local party rules when she submitted names of potential committee members rather than formal applications and recommendations from local party chairpersons.

More than 70 applications were received a day after the deadline, Petrosky said.

She said party officials attempted to vet some of the names but were able to fill only about nine vacancies before the deadline.

“We want people who are going to be there for more than a day. We did our due diligence,” Petrosky said. “I’m not going to stack the committee for her.”

In addition to Cerilli, former Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, retired Veterans Affairs official Pam Iovino, former assistant U.S. Attorney Conor Lamb, all of Mt. Lebanon, and emergency physician Bob Solomon of Oakdale have said they will seek the Democratic nomination.

Republicans are scheduled to meet Nov. 11 in Canonsburg to select from a slate of candidates that includes state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler of Jefferson Hills, state Rep. Rick Saccone of Elizabeth, state Sen. Kim Ward of Hempfield and state Rep. Jason Ortitay of Bridgeville.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].

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