On May 17 many will head to the polls to vote in the primary election for the candidate that they feel best represents them. While many are focusing on the Allegheny County Executive race, the race for County Controller is just as hot. The three democratic candidates, Valerie McDonald Roberts, Pa State Rep. Chelsa Wagner, for the 22nd District and George Matta, are campaigning until the end and wanted to let residents know why they should be chosen as the democratic candidate.

MORE THAN NUMBERS—Democratic candidate for Allegheny County Controller Valerie McDonald Roberts lays out her qualifications as rival Democrat George Matta and Republican Bob Howard wait their turns.

The County Controller, which is currently County Executive democratic candidate Mark Patrick Flaherty, is the chief elected fiscal officer of Allegheny County and provides general supervision and control of the county’s fiscal activities. The office’s responsibilities include maintaining the accounting systems if the county and conducting audits of all county expenditures and offices. It is comprised of the Accounting Division, Asset Management and Tax Lien Division, Auditing Division, Weights and Measures Division and the Management Systems Division.

“I am running for County Controller to work for the public as an independent fiscal watchdog for their (the public’s) hard earned tax dollars and to put to good use, for the betterment of the county, my 21 years of experience and accomplishments in government,” said Roberts, the manager of Allegheny County Department of Real Estate. Wagner and Matta, director of Business Development and Community Relations for the Rivers Casino, agree that experience is important and each says that they also have the political, work and educational experience needed and that public service is an important and honorable job. Matta said that he is the only candidate with experience on several levels, by being a former Controller and Mayor for the city of Duquesne, he served as County Clerk of Court, was a small business owner, worked for a fortune 500 company and now a corporation, The Rivers Casino, that is continuing to grow. Roberts has also been a City Council member, a Pittsburgh School Board President and said she has experience in the private industry when she owned and managed a construction business. And along with being a State Representative, Wagner was also an attorney and a Senior Business Analyst.

Although their reasons for running, which is to better the County and its residents, is important so is knowing why having them in office can benefit the residents of Allegheny County, especially the Black community, which are some of the hardest hit communities. “I’ve been the mayor of a town that’s diversified and I understand some of the issues within the Black community especially when it comes to economic development and education,” said Matta. Overseeing the contracts of the County is a big part of this office and Matta continued to say that he is dedicated to making sure that more minority and women owned businesses are given opportunities within the county. Wagner also said she committed to making sure that when it comes to County contracts there is more equity and that minority and women business owners are given contracts, but she also said, “the larger vision for the office is that there needs to be more advocating for community resources. The County Controller should have a vision and be an advocate.”

Wagner also stated that her goals for the job are making sure that contracts are timely paid, which she says is a problem the County is currently facing; that there’s accuracy of the data reported and that there is an advancement of technology within the office, which is key.

Roberts also said that she would benefit the residents because, “there has never been a woman or minority elected to this position…My presence would be a proud moment for Allegheny County. Not only do all children need role models of achievement to motivate them, but I would bring a strong independent voice of the every day man and woman…” She also said, “What distinguishes me from my opponents is that I have never cost or embarrassed any municipality or public entity for mismanagement and indiscretions resulting in civil lawsuits…” Earlier in the race Roberts sent a letter to all democratic committee members reminding them how Matta cost the county more than $400,000 after being sued for making racial remarks to an employee while serving as clerk of courts.

Matta commented on the remarks by saying the criticism that he alluded to racial remarks hurts him terribly and said that the same opponent who is accusing him, also asked him at one time to hire her daughter. He continued that if he were such a bad person, why would she want her daughter to work for him.

While each candidate has various endorsements, it was Wagner who was endorsed by the democratic committee. She said that although she has that endorsement, it is all her endorsements together, which she feels will play a role in winning the primary election.

“Though the Democratic endorsement gives a candidate an edge since they are listed on the Democratic Party slate card distributed at the polls, we have seen time and time again, in a primary. People ultimately vote for the candidate they want and feel is the best for the job, ” Roberts said.

Matta agreed that even though he did not get the endorsement he still has a very good chance of winning.

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