Everything is connected in Pittsburgh politics.
My full story today on the Democratic committee's nomination of Marty Schmotzer for Chelsa Wagner's vacant 22nd House seat notes he has the support of 19th Ward chair Pete Wagner, Chelsa's father. The nomination has to be ratified by the party's statewide executive committee, whereupon Chelsa's aunt Eileen Wagner sits. As does Schmotzer himself -- "I sure will," he said, when I asked if he'd be voting to ratify himself.
The connections go deeper. Schmotzer's opponent Erin Molchany is pressuring the committee to reject his nomination, saying that his 1997 firing by then county Clerk of Courts Joyce Lee Itkin after taking (then repaying) $50,000 in taxpayer funds should disqualify him from the job. Typically the statewide committee leaves election choices to local Democrats, but the Molchany camp makes the case that the executive board has acted on its own before, deciding in 1993 to nominate Barbara Burns to an open House seat over Don Walko.
Walko -- who was then a Democratic ward leader, and later won the House seat before becoming a county judge -- called the process "immoral." But Burns had an ace up her sleeve in getting the committee's nod: she had the support of House Majority Leader Ivan Itkin. Itkin would run a losing campaign for governor against incumbent Tom Ridge the year after Schmotzer was fired from his wife's office.
UPDATE: Below is an email another Schmotzer supporter -- Auditor General Jack Wagner -- is sending around to state committee members:
Dear State Committee Executive Board Member,
My name is Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania State Auditor General. I am writing to you today on behalf of myself and my sister-in-law, Eileen Wagner, Allegheny County Democratic Committee Member and also Pennsylvania State Committee Executive Board Member.
We are asking for your support for Martin Schmotzer for the Special Election of Pennsylvania State Representative - District 22. We want you to know that we 100% support Marty because he is a family man and a solid individual with a strong work ethic who will represent the 22nd district well. Martin was an outstanding elected official for 10 years for the Baldwin Whitehall School Board.
Marty overwhelmingly received the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee for both the full 2 year term (60%) and also this very important Special Election (67%).
We offer our support to Marty and hope you will as well.
Jack Wagner - PA State Auditor General
Eileen Wagner - PA State Committee Executive Board