Voters were ready for change in the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office, with Democrat James Albert taking a decisive victory over incumbent Republican Jonathan Held in Tuesday’s general election based on unofficial results.

With all 305 precincts reporting, Albert, a retired district judge from New Alexandria, had secured 53% (43,197) of the vote compared to 46.81% (38,147) for Held. Write-in votes and absentee ballots are not included in unofficial tallies.

Held, 45, of Hempfield Township secured the GOP nomination over Steve Felder, a corporal in the sheriff’s department and head of the union representing sheriff’s deputies, retired Greensburg police officer Eugene Zulisky and Samuel D. Pilato in the primary.

Albert, 69, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Held sought another term as sheriff even as his potential retrial looms on allegations he forced on-duty sheriff’s department staff to perform tasks for his 2015 re-election campaign.

Senior Cambria County Court of Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany determined prosecutors did present sufficient evidence to support having a jury consider the conflict of interest and theft charges against Held.

Held is awaiting a second trial on those charges after a three-day trial in December ended in a mistrial after one of the jurors disagreed with the guilty verdict for the conflict of interest and theft charges.

Creany rejected a motion from defense attorney Ryan Tutera seeking to have Held acquitted and block prosecutors from retrying the case.

Tutera has since appealed Creany’s ruling on that motion to the state Superior Court.

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