Corbett, a Republican, is the first high-profile politician to weigh in on the race between Zappala and Lisa Middleman, a progressive-minded Independent. Just one day before the general election, Corbett spoke on Marty Griffin’s KDKA radio show, telling Griffin about a letter he sent to Allegheny County Republican Party members about why he is throwing his weight behind Zappala.
“I think it’s important for the people of Allegheny County to know what Steve has done,” said Corbett. He then mentioned Zappala's work creating divisional courts, encouraging body cameras for police officers, and installing surveillance cameras in many communities throughout the county.
Corbett said Zappala was “very innovative” and also mentioned wariness of policies associated with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner (D-Philadelphia). Krasner has proposed and implemented several progressive criminal-justice reforms, and Middleman’s platform mirrors many of Krasner’s initiatives. Krasner has also become a new target for many conservative Republicans in Pennsylvania.
The endorsement from Corbett comes at an awkward time for Zappala. Several Allegheny County Democratic Committee members have been openly supporting Middleman despite committee bylaws stating they must support the Democratic nominee, Zappala.
Former GOP governor in PA endorses the running-on-both-Dem-and-GOP tickets prosecutor in Allegheny County, PA (Pittsburgh). Independent @LisaMiddlemanDA is challenging Zappala as a progressive alternative. Voters need to be aware of who’s backing Zappala: https://t.co/lElRW7nbaF— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) November 4, 2019
This followed Zappala, a longtime Democrat who also cross-filed as the Republican candidate, meeting with a Young Republican group in August and his campaign manager and son attending a speech by President Donald Trump in October. Democratic committee members told Pittsburgh City Paper they don’t think Zappala upholds their values.
“It’s hard for committee members to comprehend how we are not allowed to support a woman running as an Independent who has been a registered Democrat her entire life,” said Ross Democratic committee member and Allegheny County Council nominee Bethany Hallam last week. “Instead, we are forced to support the incumbent whose campaign staff is seen hanging out at a Trump rally and other Republican events, but are nowhere to be seen at numerous Democratic events and candidates’ forums.”
It’s also unclear how much Corbett’s endorsement will sway voters considering he is widely known for being one of Pennsylvania’s least popular governors. Apart from being one of the few incumbent governors in Pennsylvania history to lose re-election, Corbett attracted criticism for his shortcomings in negotiating funding for mass transit and his failure to privatize liquor sales even under a GOP trifecta.
According to polls from Franklin & Marshall College, Corbett never saw job approval ratings above 40 percent, despite the fact that both Gov. Tom Ridge (R-Erie) and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Philadelphia) easily eclipsed that make on several occasions.
Zappala also hasn’t highlighted the Corbett endorsement on his campaign social media pages, instead showcasing a recent endorsement he received from state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia).
Several other high-profile Pennsylvania and Allegheny County politicians, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D-Squirrel Hill), Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York), and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-Braddock), have not endorsed any candidate in the race.
Zappala has received endorsements from the Allegheny County Labor Council and the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, as well as financial backing from labor unions like the Steamfitters and Teamsters. Middleman has been endorsed by several progressive politicians including Summer Lee and Ed Gainey, as well as the Libertarian and Green parties of Allegheny County, and labor unions United Electric Local #667 and SEIU Healthcare.
The election is Tue., Nov. 5.