Westmoreland sheriff: ‘I have not left the Democratic Party, the Democratic

Declaring that he feels disenfranchised by the Democratic Party, Westmoreland County Sheriff James Albert announced he changed his affiliation to Republican.

“It was a really difficult decision and I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I feel I stand for the ideals of the Republican Party platform more than the Democrats today,” Albert said.

Albert, 70, said he officially changed his party affiliation Monday.

“I’ve been a lifelong Democrat, but a conservative Democrat at that,” he said. “I’m pro-life, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, a lifetime member of the NRA (National Rifle Association) and, today, I feel my ideals are closer to the Republican Party than Democrats.”

Albert was elected county sheriff in 2019.

He is a graduate of Westmoreland County Community College and California State College of Pennsylvania. He worked more than 40 years in law enforcement as a Greensburg police officer, a county detective and a deputy sheriff before serving 26 years as a district judge in Greensburg. He retired as judge in 2016 and announced in 2018 he would run against former Sheriff Jonathan Held.

Since May, Albert said he has watched news accounts of violent riots, “arson, mob rule and attacks against law enforcement.”

“I was saddened and enraged by the murder of David Dorn, a 77-year-old African American retired police captain, who was shot by a pawn shop looter during a protest in St. Louis,” Albert said. “These outrageous, lawless acts have been met with silence, acquiescence and, in some instances, outright support from the local, state and national leadership of the Democratic Party.”

He added that he believes the Republican Party stands for “unwavering support for our law enforcement and first responders.”

“As a lifelong public servant and member of law enforcement, I have not left the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party has left me,” Albert said.

Commissioner Gina Cerilli, a Democrat, admitted she is surprised with the political move. Albert and Cerilli regularly campaigned together in 2019.

“First, if he says one of the reasons he is changing parties is because of violent acts that occurred elsewhere around the country, his reasoning has no bearing on Westmoreland County. And if he is really concerned about the African American community, is that (GOP) truly the party he wants to join?” she asked. “On a national level, the Republican Party is not the party that stands up for the African American community.”

Cerilli said she also is surprised that Albert “would turn his back” on the union support “he sought and enjoyed over the years when he ran for office.”

The Pennsylvania State Democratic Party had no comment on Albert’s move, said spokesman Brendan Welch.

Bill Bretz, new chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Party, said Albert is a welcome addition.

“That’s tremendous news. I’ve known the sheriff for awhile and I’m sure he’s been a traditional Democrat. But as the national party has drifted further to the left, particularly on the lack of support of law enforcement, he decided now was the best time to make the move to join Republicans and we’re seeing a lot of that,” Bretz said.

“I expect some people will be upset, but I’ve always helped people in both parties my entire career. It was a personal decision, not a political decision,” Albert said.

Albert of New Alexandria said he has not decided whether he will run for re-election in 2023.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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