Lou's List

Somewhat informed observations on politics and life from a wayward journalist.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Primary roundup, part 1: A New Day for Pittsburgh

While the average Pittsburgher was loath to entertain the idea of a fourth mayor in four years--resulting in accidental Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's unopposed Democratic nomination to serve the next two--voters in three City Council districts turned to hotly contested races for those seats to inject some new blood into city government.

The desperation of party machine-backed incumbents in two races showed both as Election Day approached and as their impending losses came into sight yesterday. Media coverage of theft and vandalism targeting supporters of candidate Bruce Kraus* may have given the former South Side Chamber of Commerce president the momentum in District 3, and widespread intimidation of Kraus volunteers yesterday didn't stop the progressive challenger from defeating incumbent Councilman Jeff Koch by about 450 votes.

Machine tactics were similarly sketchy but the result much closer in Council District 7, where School Board member Patrick Dowd* of Highland Park bested incumbent Councilman Len Bodack, Jr. by 81 votes after hand wringing throughout the night. The victory of a politically progressive non-native Pittsburgher over the son of a longtime former state Senator and county Democratic party chairman is a sure sign that change is happening!

In a more expected result, Homewood minister Rev. Ricky Burgess defeated scandal plagued incumbent Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle and six others in Council District 9, though the 50 percent of the vote Burgess received was surprisingly decisive.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris of the North Side was the only incumbent to win a contested race yesterday, easily defeating two opponents, but will have less company in the machine-friendly ranks come January.

The victory of county Prothonotary Michael Lamb* of Mt. Washington in the City Controller's race should also be a boon to sound and progressive government in the city. A professional government administrator with a record of reform, Lamb promises to enliven the office from an inane bookkeeping entity into an active watchdog and policy shop for promoting efficiency. Lamb nearly doubled the total of his nearest challenger in the five-man race, City Council President Doug Shields.

None of these candidates seem likely to face any threat in November.

In the two contested School Board contests held yesterday, one progressive was as good as elected and another will be favored going into November. Heather Arnet* of Highland Park, director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, won both the Democrat and GOP nominations for the seat vacated by Dowd. Meanwhile, neighborhood activist Sherry Hazuda* of Beechview bested incumbent Dan Romaniello of Brookline for the usually decisive Dem nod, but Romaniello managed to snatch the GOP nomination from flesh-and-blood Republican Amy Barrett-Montgomery. If Romaniello can sway enough Democrats away from voting a straight ticket in November, he has a chance to hold on to his seat.

It seems as though business consultant and government reform activist Mark DeSantis of Downtown was likely able to get a sufficient number of write-in votes to claim the GOP nomination to challenge Ravenstahl in November, likely realizing that he will be a distinct longshot but hoping to inject some small government ideals into the dialogue.

All in all this was a day to celebrate for Pittsburgh progressives and much-needed confirmation that with hard work and persistence does come reward. Congratulations to the great progressive candidates who were victorious and everyone who worked on these campaigns!

*= winning candidate endorsed by PA League of Young Voters PAC.