Tara Yokopenic of Unity was elected chairwoman last weekend of the Westmoreland County Democratic Committee.
New leadership of the Westmoreland County Democratic Committee will seek to reverse what has been two decades of election losses and erosion of control the party held over local politics for decades.
Over the weekend, Tara Yokopenic was named as the committee’s new chairwoman, formalizing the job she has performed on an interim basis since January.
“The state of the party is strong and we are not going to back down. We’ll keep fighting,” Yokopenic said Monday.
Committee delegates on Saturday elected Yokopenic, 41, of Unity during a convention held outdoors at Hempfield Park. About 80 committee delegates gathered, including some who remained in their vehicles during the reorganization meeting made necessary by resignations this year of the party’s previous chairwoman and vice chairman.
Yokopenic, an accountant, had served as the party’s treasurer and was elevated to the interim chairwoman’s role when a job change forced the resignation of the previous chairwoman in January. The vice-chair position had been vacant since December.
Committee members elected Scott Graham of Hempfield as the party’s new vice chairman.
They will serve the remaining two years in the leadership terms that expire in mid-2022.
Democrats had been the dominant political party in Westmoreland County for decades. In the early 1990s, Democrats held a nearly 3-to-1 edge in voter registration over Republicans and occupied most elected offices in the county as well as state House and Senate seats.
In 2010, Democrats accounted for 54% of the county’s registered voters. Over the past decade, however, their numbers depleted by about 26,000 while Republican ranks swelled by the same amount.
Democrats now account for 42% of all county voters. They are outnumbered by Republicans 111,191 to 101,852.
Republicans occupy most state elected positions in the county as well as a majority on the county’s board of commissioners and most row office seats at the courthouse.
Yokopenic said the party is gearing up to reverse those trends and will do so by structural changes within the Democratic committee to be enacted following the November general election. She declined to reveal details of the planned changes.
“I don’t want to look to the past. I’m only interested in the future,” Yokopenic said.
She said the committee will focus on educating voters to push the Democratic message and rely on data analysis and voter turnout efforts to improve the party’s election performances. She downplayed differences between moderate and progressive arms of the local party that surfaced last year.
Yokopenic predicted Westmoreland Democrats will help boost the party’s efforts to oust President Trump from the White House in November.
“We’ve never had this contact with our regional committees and their enthusiasm about Vice President Biden. We never had that level with Secretary Clinton or President Obama,” Yokopenic said. “I feel the momentum for Vice President Biden.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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