'Settling family business,' Jesse White style

Published by Janice Crompton on .

Jesse White (John Heller/Post-Gazette)Jesse White (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

Former state representative and current district justice candidate Jesse White of Cecil has filed a flurry of civil lawsuits against a host of his enemies today, alleging defamation and commercial disparagement.

In non-lawyer speak, that means Mr. White, 36, a lawyer, is suing his enemies and blaming them for the loss of his legislative seat and clients.

"Today I settled all family business so don't tell me that you're innocent," Mr. White announced of his Facebook page, quoting character Michael Corleone in "The Godfather."

Among those targeted is KDKA's Marty Griffin for a segment called the "ABJ (Anybody but Jesse) Hour," in the days before the May 20, 2014 primary election.

Mr. White won that contest against fellow Democrat Tom Casciola, but it didn't stop him from adding Mr. Casciola's name to his litigious list.

Mr. Casciola was sued, along with local daily newspaper The Observer-Reporter in Washington and community group Concerned Citizens of the 46th District for a headline declaring him "guilty" in a civil trial over accusations that he defamed a local Democratic committeeman.

Mr. White lost the general election to Republican newcomer Jason Ortitay. He faced a tough re-election battle, in part, due to accusations that he targeted his enemies on social media, impersonating some and calling others names.

Also sued today was lawyer Charles Kurowski, who represented Mr. White's mother, Sharlene Watazychyn. She sued her son in Februrary, alleging that he stole her identity and opened a credit card account in her name. Ms. Watazychyn said Mr. White racked up nearly $30,000 in debt and that she discovered the card when she attempted to refinance a mortgage. Mr. White vigorously denied those charges and said police had already investigated his mother's claims and found no evidence of a crime.

In each of the lawsuits, Mr. White is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

On his Facebook page, Mr. White said he felt the time was right to take a stand.

"The truth about my actions has been washed away by an ugly rhetoric that bears little resemblance to reality," he said. "The lies have been repeated so many times that people began to accept them as truth, which seriously damaged my reputation in the community I am proud to call my home. Today I finally begin to fight back."

View a copy of the lawsuits at:


Toomey still way up in $$$

Published by James O'Toole on .

Sen. Pat Toomey (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)Sen. Pat Toomey (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

Sen. Pat Toomey continues to enjoy a commanding financial position as his re-election year approaches.

The freshman Republican reported raising more than $2 million in the first quarter of the year, giving him $7.2 million in cash on hand as of April 1. The latest report for his 2010 opponent and would-be 2016 challenger, retired Admiral Joe Sestak, had yet to appear on the Federal Election Commission web site by Tuesday, but the Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari reported that the Democrat would report new receipts of 312,000, bringing his cash total to about $1.7 million at the end of March. Asked about the new numbers, Danielle Lynch, a spokeswoman for Mr. Sestak, said simply, "We're were we want to be.'' 

Another Democrat, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who announced his plans to enter the race last week, didn't raise any senate dollars in the first quarter so he wasn't required to file a report. He and Mr. Sestak are the only announced Democratic challengers so far, but folks in their party are waiting to see whether Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro enters the race, a decision that's expectd in the next several weeks.

Mr. Toomey is ahead of the fundraising pace of the last two Pennsylvania incumbents to defend their seats at this point in the election cycle -- Sen. Bob Casey and the late Sen. Arlen Specter. Still, sharing the ballot with the presidential candidates in a state that hasn't voted for a Republican president since 1988, he figures to face a tough race whoever ends up the Democratic nominee.  From a financial perspective, however, he's in good shape so far in what is certain to be one of the most closely watched Senate contests of the cycle.  


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

City Council incumbent Ricky Burgess speaks during a candidate forum at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library on Thursday, April 16, 2015. In the background are opponents, from left, Andre Young, Judith Ginyard and Twanda Carlisle. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)City Council incumbent Ricky Burgess speaks during a candidate forum at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library on Thursday, April 16, 2015. In the background are opponents, from left, Andre Young, Judith Ginyard and Twanda Carlisle. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

1) After watching a debate dissolve into a shouting match between candidate Judith K. Ginyard and a member of the audience, incumbent City Councilor Ricky V. Burgess said on Monday he was out of the debating business for the remainder of the primary election campaign. Ms. Ginyard, along with Andre Young and Twanda Carlisle, is running for the Democratic nomination for the East End Pittsburgh City Council seat held by Mr. Burgess.

2) State Attorney General Kathleen Kane should perhaps plan on spending a ton of time in court, for reasons other than her day job requires it. On the heels of being forced to explain to a Montgomery County judge about the dismissal of one of her closest aides, Ms. Kane has been sued by a former agent in her office, who says the AG made false statements about his role in a sting operation that targeted Philly-area lawmakers – you know, the investigation that was abandoned by Ms. Kane that has since netted several arrests.

3) Koch Brothers aren't yet ready to officially endorse a candidate, but one half of the Republican dream team seemed to indicate a preference for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a New York fundraising event on Monday. The specific wording is in dispute – a spokeswoman said David Koch said he believed that Mr. Walker would be the Republican nominee while some in the audience told the New York Times that Mr. Koch said he hoped Mr. Walker would be the nominee – but the gist is that the brothers, among the most powerful conservative political figures in the country, appear to have a early favorite in the crowded Republican field. And Koch Brothers money would be a huge boost to Mr. Walker.

4) Pennsylvania's conservatives like Mr. Walker too.

5) When we want something healthy, we'll make it. Otherwise, we want the original Original Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.


14th Ward Dems back Fitzgerald, but not his slate

Published by Chris Potter on .

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, left, and challenger Mark Patrick Flaherty speak April 16, 2015, during their appearances in front of the Post-Gazette's editorial board. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, left, and challenger Mark Patrick Flaherty speak April 16, 2015, during their appearances in front of the Post-Gazette's editorial board. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)

They don't call themselves "independent" for nothing: The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club backed Rich Fitzgerald this weekend, but it didn't endorse his political agenda. Instead, it backed Chelsa Wagner for county controller over Mr. Fitzgerald's own choice, Mark Patrick Flaherty, while also preferring incumbent Democratic county councilor Barbara Daly Danko over Caroline Mitchell, who Mr. Fitzgerald is supporting.

The vote came Sunday afternoon, after a Saturday-night event at which candidates or their surrogates were able to address club members.

Both Ms. Danko and Ms. Wagner "have had long-time support from us, and I think that was reflected in the vote," said Kathie Smith, president of the club.

Another factor may also have been at work, Ms. Smith added: "I think the vote is a rebuke of the county executive trying to interfere in other races for unknown reasons. I just think county council and county controller need to be independent."

As the Post-Gazette first reported in March, Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Flaherty are both being backed by a new political committee, Better Jobs, Better Future. It's being run by political consultant Mike Mikus, who managed Mr. Fitzgerald's first run for county executive and is working on Mr. Flaherty's campaign this year. Ms. Wagner has sought to make an issue of the controller's independence throughout her campaign, arguing that Mr. Fitzgerald wants a "lapdog" in the office.

Mr. Mikus declined comment.

The club represents Democrats in the 14th ward, which covers Squirrel Hill and adjoining East End neighborhoods, and its endorsement is among the more prominent in local politics. The club itself boasts that its endorsement can confer a 6 percent advantage among voters in the 14th Ward -- the city's largest -- over candidates without the endorsement. (Though nobody's foolproof: The club backed then-Treasurer Rob McCord for governor last year.)

Mr. Fitzgerald, who lives in the 14th Ward, is running unopposed. He and two other unchallenged incumbents, county treasurer John Weinstein and District Attorney Stephen Zappala, were endorsed. Ms. Smith said that if a candidate garners less than 50 percent of the vote, the club would have made no endorsement. It's not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald was in any danger of failing to meet that threshold: Ms. Smith said the Club doesn't release vote totals.

But Mr. Fitzgerald also wasn't able to swing club members toward his pick for state Supreme Court. He backs Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Kevin Dougherty for one of three spots available on the high court, and spoke on Judge Dougherty's behalf before club members. The Club instead backed three current Superior Court judges: Allegheny County's David Wecht and Christine Donohue as well as Philadelphia's Anne Lazarus.

Ms. Smith said that the endorsed judges "have strong progressive credentials, and they were familiar to club members. I think people didn't know Judge Dougherty."

The Club also endorsed City Controller Michael Lamb over his challenger, City Councilor Natalia Rudiak.

In city council action, the Club backed District 5 incumbent Corey O'Connor over challenger Kimberly Kaplan. But it made no endorsement in the City Council District 9 race: A portion of that district, currently represented by Ricky Burgess, lies within the 14th ward. Ms. Smith said that in a multi-candidate field, a candidate had to earn at least 40 percent to win the endorsement, and three candidates -- Mr. Burgess, businessman Andre Young and real-estate broker Judith Ginyard -- "divided the votes almost equally."

The full press release, complete with endorsements in other judicial races, is below.


Danko wins endorsement for County Council District 11

The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club has endorsed two Allegheny County incumbents facing strenuous challenges. Both County Controller Chelsa Wagner and County Council member Barbara Daly Danko for District 11 were given the Club's support for a second term.

At its annual endorsement meeting today the club also selected Lynda Wrenn to represent District 4 on the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education.

Incumbent City Controller Michael Lamb won the Club's endorsement over challenger Natalia Rudiak.

Corey O'Connor was endorsed for City Council District 5.

For the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, the club backed three candidates for three vacancies:

Jennifer Staley McCrady, Rosemary Crawford, and Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough.

The endorsement election followed a provocative program Saturday April 18 featuring Linda Tirado, a former diner cook who has become a fresh, outspoken voice for the rights of low-wage workers and the author of Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America at Colfax School.

With more than 18,000 registered Democrats, the 14th Ward is the largest ward in the City of Pittsburgh and second largest in the state. The Ward is located in Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, North Point Breeze, Regent Square, Park Place, and Swisshelm Park.

The Club, which is not affiliated with the Democratic Committee of Allegheny County, is the oldest independent Democratic club in the country and has made annual candidate endorsements for 51 years. Its endorsements are printed in a Voters' Guide and mailed to Democratic voters in the ward. The endorsements and video of Ms. Tirado's talk are also posted at the club's website:

The Club's open endorsement process allows members to hear candidates present their positions before casting their votes for the office seekers who best match their values. Statistical analysis of Club endorsement votes for the past several years shows that candidates who win the Club's endorsement gain on average a 6% advantage in the 14th Ward over candidates without the endorsement.

Here is the Club's full slate of endorsed candidates:

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court: David Wecht, Christine Donahue, and Anne Lazarus
  • Pennsylvania Superior Court: Alice Beck Dubrow
  • Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court: Michael Wojcik
  • Allegheny County Executive: Rich Fitzgerald
  • Allegheny County Controller: Chelsa Wagner
  • Allegheny County District Attorney: Stephen Zappala
  • Allegheny County Treasurer: John Weinstein
  • Allegheny County Council District 11: Barbara Daly Danko
  • Pittsburgh City Council, District 5: Corey O'Connor
  • Pittsburgh City Council, District 9: No Endorsement (this is a choice Club members have to make)
  • Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, District 4: Lynda Wrenn
  • Allegheny County Common Pleas Court: Jennifer Staley McCrady, Rosemary Crawford, and Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough

Pawlowski running for Senate?

Published by James O'Toole on .

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski ( Mayor Ed Pawlowski (

Our friend Laura Olson of the Allentown Morning Call, along with her colleague, Emily Opilo, report that Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is about to jump into the Democratic race to challenge Sen. Pat Toomey. Mr. Pawlowski had acknowledged earlier that he was considering the race. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his plans. So far, retired Admiral Joe Sestak is the only Democrat who has been campaigning to unseat the freshman Republican in what is likely to be one of the more closely watched Senate contests in the country next year.

Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro has told associates that he is considering a Senate bid as well but hasn't commented on it on the record. Mr. Pawlowski reportedly plans to launch his campaign with a press conference Friday.

Mr. Pawlowski was briefly a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor last year, but dropped from the race in the face of weak fund-raising numbers.