CP Illustration: Lucy Chen
Anthony DeLuca (left) and Patrick Sweeney (right) are both competing for an open seat in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
A candidate for Allegheny County's open common pleas court seat is accusing an opponent of misrepresenting support from two key labor groups ahead of the upcoming primary contest.
Patrick Sweeney, a public defender, says private practice attorney Anthony DeLuca wrongly claims the endorsements of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the United Steelworkers on his website when the organizations have instead backed his campaign. Both candidates are cross-filed as Republicans and Democrats ahead of the May 16 Primary Election.
Sweeney's campaign manager suggested the error — which was originally reproduced in Pittsburgh City Paper's Election Guide
— calls into question DeLuca's qualifications for the vacant judicial seat.
"We are disappointed that Mr. Deluca [sic] has decided to misrepresent some of Patrick's endorsements as his own," Alex Rose, Sweeney's campaign manager, writes in a statement to Pittsburgh City Paper
. "Honesty is an important trait for any elected official, but this is especially true for a judicial candidate. The people rely on their judges to be fair and beyond reproach. We call on Mr. Deluca [sic] to make this right and stop claiming these endorsements."
DeLuca's team in turn called Sweeney's claims "spurious," noting that DeLuca has been endorsed by the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, which affiliates with USW and PFT.
"DeLuca for Judge received the endorsement of the Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council on their first ballot with broad support from all sectors of the member organizations," says Nick Bonesso, Sweeney's manager. "We mention on our website that we received this endorsement and listed all of the members of the Labor Council."
"We congratulate Mr. Sweeney for receiving the PFT endorsement, however, it does not change the fact that both the PFT and USW are member organizations of the Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council," the statement continues. "We proudly stand by the Labor Council endorsement, as well as the endorsements of the SEIU Healthcare and SEIU 668, the Pittsburgh Firefighters, the Laborers District Council, the Teamsters Joint Council and many other individual unions."
Bonesso says DeLuca had a separate conversation with Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President of the Pittsburgh Federaton of Teachers, who told him he could claim their support by extension of the AFLC backing because the educators would not issue their own endorsement this year.
Espositi-Visgitis confirmed this account, adding that there had been internal communication breakdowns that led her to this conclusion, although the union later endorsed Sweeney.
“At the time I spoke to candidate DeLuca, I was under the impression that the committee was not going to be doing formal endorsements of the judicial races,” she tells City Paper
. “In my opinion all three candidates were excellent."
A USW spokesperson confirmed the organization's endorsement of Sweeney but declined to comment further. AFLC did not return a request for comment by the time of publishing.
DeLuca and Sweeney are facing off in a three-way contest alongside Andy Szefi, who was appointed to fill the seat by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf last year but must now win the election to remain in office.
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas oversees a broad range of civil and criminal cases. Its elected judges preside for 10-year terms over one of three divisions and can renew their terms without contest if a majority of voters opt to retain them.