A 29-year-old political newcomer was the top vote-getter Tuesday among all candidates from either party in the race for Westmoreland County commissioner.
Gina Cerilli, a former public relations specialist at the county municipal authority and recent law school graduate, secured the Democratic nomination along with Commissioner Ted Kopas, setting the stage for a fall campaign against Republican incumbents Charles Anderson and Tyler Courtney, who held off a primary challenge from Greensburg dentist Ron Gazze and Jason Atwood of Irwin.
In her first run for office, Cerilli capitalized on an organized and well-financed campaign that operated separately from the existing Democratic party structure to gain the top ballot position leading into the fall campaign.
With 304 of 306 precincts reporting, Cerilli finished with 40 percent of the vote; Kopas, 37 percent; and South Greensburg businesswoman Linda Iezzi with 23 percent.
In the Republican primary, Anderson received 36 percent of the vote; Courtney, 29 percent; Atwood, 18 percent; and Gazze, 17 percent.
All results are unofficial until affirmed by the county elections board later this month.
For the fall campaign season, Cerilli and Kopas, who has served as a minority commissioner for the last three years, could unite in an effort to oust the GOP majority.
Kopas, 41, and Cerilli, both of Hempfield, ran separate campaigns in the primary.
“I congratulate Gina on her victory, as well as look forward to working with her to make county government what it can and should be,” Kopas said.
Cerilli declined to commit to work with Kopas or any other candidate in the fall campaign.
“I am humbled and honored for all the support,” Cerilli said. “From the beginning, I said politics was broken and I am willing to work with any elected official, regardless of political party.”
While she may be a newcomer to politics, her name is a familiar one to Westmoreland residents.
Her grandfather, Egidio “Gene” Cerilli, was a force in Westmoreland County and state Democratic Party politics for many years.
Anderson, 72, and Courtney, 47, both of Hempfield, ran as a team in the primary.
“Now that we know what the field is like we’ll prepare a plan and execute it,” Anderson said. “We’ll continue to make sure the county moves forward.”
Courtney said the Republicans will emphasize the same message they pushed in the spring.
“There have been a lot of good things over the last 3 1⁄2 years and we will continue to talk about those successes,” Courtney said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].