For the first time this century, Republicans are poised to regain a majority on the Washington County board of commissioners.
GOP committeeman Nick Sherman, 40, of North Strabane Township, defeated Democrat Harlan Shober for the third seat on the board. Commission Vice Chairman Diana Irey Vaughan, the sole Republican on the three-member board since 2000, was elected to a seventh four-year term and Commission Chairman Larry Maggi will, for the first time since joining the board in 2004, will be the lone Democrat.
At a victory party Irey Vaughan’s campaign threw at the high-roller restaurant, Bistecca, at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Sherman appeared to be trotting to a win, according to unofficial results.
“I’m just overwhelmed by the response of the voters,” Irey Vaughan said. “They got the message that Nick and I wanted to get out, and it resonated. We have a lot of work to do in Washington County and we’re ready to serve.”
Sherman said it’s important to “breathe life” into the Mon Valley.
“My concern is what’s going to happen in the Valley. But I went to Ringgold School District, and I worked hard on going door-to-door-to-door,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in places like Monongahela and Charleroi, and spent a lot of time meeting people because I want my campaign to reflect how I’ll be as a commissioner.”
Sherman made a bid as a GOP commissioner candidate in 2015, but he finished out of the running, third in a three-way race among Irey Vaughan and Mike McCormick of Peters Township.
Last May, he and Irey Vaughan bested Jason White in the Republican primary.
“This has been a phenomenal experience, getting to meet people and shake their hands and listen to their concerns,” Sherman said. “It’s humbling. I’m excited. If we prevail tonight, it would be my honor to serve as county commissioner.”
Washington County bucked a larger national trend that appeared to be going against the GOP.
“If you look at what’s going on across the nation, you’ll see a lot of Republicans are not doing as well as expected,” Irey Vaughan said. “And the fact that Republicans are garnering more votes than expected in Washington County sends a message that our county is becoming more conservative and that the messages of change that the individual candidates, and both snick Sherman and I have discussed with the voters are resonating. Our voters are looking for a little bit more.”
Shober, 74, of Chartiers Township, eschewed a large gathering, and, after the clock struck 8 p.m., the hour of polls’ closure, he was collecting campaign signs before heading for home, the same place he spent election night four years ago.
“All I have is my family and a few friends,” he said of those with whom he’d be monitoring election returns. “I’ve been through all the emotions. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning and I’ll be same guy, win or lose.”
As the Republicans partied at Bistecca, Shober’s running mate, Maggi, 69, of Buffalo Township, held a victory gathering at the opposite end of Racetrack Road, at Napoli Restaurant and Lounge, 2112 Park Place Drive.
“Things are changing in Washington County,” Maggi said. “Things are changing, and there were a lot of factors that figured into it. We’re changing and we’re going to move forward and make government work.”
Irey Vaughan also toppled Maggi as a first-place finisher.
With 179 of 180 precincts reporting, the totals were 28% for Irey Vaughan, 25.8% for Maggi, 24.3% for Sherman and 21.3% for Shober.
Voters could choose up to two candidates in the commissioners’ race, with the three top vote-getters taking office in January. Not counted in the totals were approximately 1,200 absentee ballots.
Irey Vaughan will be moving to Cecil Township next month, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a vestige of the Mon Valley on the board of commissioners. Irey Vaughan, formerly of Carroll Township, will be leaving Nottingham, which has no riverfront but is part of the Ringgold School District. Sherman, however, is a Ringgold High grad who formerly lived in Finleyville.
The commissioners were scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. in a regular agenda-setting session that precedes their meeting on the first Thursday of the month.
Staff writer Karen Mansfield contributed to this report.