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Rich Fitzgerald is running for third term as Allegheny County executive

When Rich Fitzgerald first ran for Allegheny County executive eight years ago, he told voters he wanted Pittsburgh to be a place where young people stayed after graduation.

Now, that’s a reality, he said, and his run for a third and final term — which he announced this week — is based around expanding opportunities for “folks who haven’t enjoyed the fruits” of the county’s investments.

“I think what we see now in Pittsburgh is a real diversity of opportunity, and industries that are growing — whether it be IT, robotics, energy, finance, manufacturing, hospitality or culinary,” said Mr. Fitzgerald, 59. “Across the spectrum, whatever your talents are, you have an opportunity if you have the skills to match the jobs that are there.”

Connecting county residents through education and transportation is Fitzgerald’s main focus this time around, when he’ll likely face a thin field in the May primary and November general elections.

In his two terms as the county’s top elected officeholder, Mr. Fitzgerald has won admiration from the highest ranks of Democratic politics in Pennsylvania. At his announcement party this week, nearly every big name in the party came to show their support, including Gov. Tom Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb.

That support has also garnered him a sizable war chest that he’ll carry into campaign season. As of the end of November, his campaign committee had more than $2.1 million on hand, and had raised upwards of $700,000 year-to-date, according to campaign finance records.

As for the county’s finances, Mr. Fitzgerald said he has worked to stabilize them in his first two terms. He cited growth in the county’s fund balance and its bond rating with Moody’s, the highest its been since 1983.

But to Ross area Republican and former Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd, the incumbent county executive hasn’t been a visionary, and instead “goes along to get along.” Mr. Drozd is exploring a Republican run, and said he is working to line up support and gather petition signatures.

Otherwise, he’s “ready to go,” he said.

“I’m a moderate. I’m a fiscal conservative,” Mr. Drozd said. “I squeeze the almighty tax dollar, and don’t want to put burdens on people who can’t afford it.”

Mr. Fitzgerald faced a Republican challenger in 2011 when he beat D. Raja and won more than 60 percent of the vote. In 2015, he ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, then defeated independent Todd Elliott Koger in the general.

This will be the last time Mr. Fitzgerald campaigns for the seat, as county executives are limited to three terms. In an interview this past December, he said he knew when he ran in 2011 that he wanted to serve three terms, and that the job “wasn’t a stepping stone in any way.”

“I’ve never thought about running [for higher office.] What’s left? Senate or governor. Neither excites me,” he said.

Over his tenure, the county has “developed a reputation of getting things done, and doing them cost-efficiently,” he said.

Chris Huffaker contributed reporting. Julian Routh:, 412-263-1952, Twitter @julianrouth.