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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.

14th WARD DEMOCRATIC CLUB BACKS WAGNER FOR COUNTY CONTROLLER

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:

http://www.pgh14widc.org

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

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Pawlowski running for Senate?

Published by James O'Toole on .

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (allentownmayor.com)Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski (allentownmayor.com)

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. 

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio smiles during his  announcement he is running for the Republican nomination, at a rally at the Freedom Tower, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)Florida Sen. Marco Rubio smiles during his announcement he is running for the Republican nomination, at a rally at the Freedom Tower, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

1) Here is your official Early Returns Presidential Campaign Welcome to Sen. Marco Rubio, the third Republican to officially declare his intentions. Unlike his other two campaign counterparts -- Rand Paul, who can't seem to make it through an interview without storming out of the room, and Ted Cruz, whose entire purpose may be to steer the GOP side of the campaign to the rightMr. Rubio might be a legitimate candidate.

2) Hillary Clinton is keeping herself in the news with small-time appearances, as she cruises around Iowa in her Scooby van. And because she's largely keeping us media folks at arm's length, she hasn't really had to deal with the question of "What's up with Bill de Blasio?" The New York mayor and the manager of Ms. Clinton's United State Senate campaign, said he's not ready to endorse his former boss. But while NYC tabloids are freaking out, it appears that this may not be the huge deal it was earlier this week.

3) No matter what you think of Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner accepting cost-of-living pay increases – Mark Patrick Flaherty, Ms. Wagner's opponent for the post's Democratic nomination, is trying to make a campaign issue about it, while Ms. Wagner says the raises are a gender-equity issue – you shouldn't be pleased by stats collected at fivethirtyeight.com that show Pennsylvania is at the bottom of the barrel in the United States when it comes to gender-based pay disparity.

4) If Tonya Stack, wife of Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, doesn't like you, she apparently won't hesitate to make her feelings clear.

 Carol Pascuzzi, cheesemonger at Penn Mac since 1984, weighs a piece of cheese for a customer. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette) Carol Pascuzzi, cheesemonger at Penn Mac since 1984, weighs a piece of cheese for a customer. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

5) Goodbye, Dearheart. We'll miss you.

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Perry on Politics: Clinton's motivation should be clear

Published by Mike Pound on .

 then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves as the arrives at Lusaka International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2011. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves as the arrives at Lusaka International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2011. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

By James M. Perry

So it's official. Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for president.

And both Dan Balz in the Washington Post and Amy Chozick in the New York Times, among others, want to know why she's running.

That question strikes me as faintly sexist. Why shouldn't she run for president? Why are Jeb Bush and Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and all the rest running for president? Has anyone seriously asked them about that?

Why do people run for president? Sometimes it's for a very good reason. George Washington ran for President to create a working Federal government. Abraham Lincoln ran to save the Union and free the slaves. Franklin D. Roosevelt ran to end the disastrous Great Depression. Ronald Reagan ran to cut the blooming size of the Federal government.

Surely, though, people run for president because they have powerful egos and think they would do a good job in the White House. They just don't think they should admit that.

I'm certain that Ms. Clinton has a powerful ego and wants to be the country's first female president. But she also seems eminently qualified to seek the presidency. She lived side by side with Bill Clinton, her husband, for eight years in the White House. She was at his side when he was governor of Arkansas. She turned up in New York and won a seat in the U.S. Senate. She narrowly lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama and then served in his administration as his secretary of State.

No one can match her resume.

The question – why are you running? – was an easy one for Washington, Lincoln, and the others (though I'm not sure anyone had the temerity to pose it). They were faced with an overarching problem and everyone knew it. We face a myriad of problems today – terrorism, income inequality, climate change – so answering the question becomes more complicated.

Ms. Clinton, in her videotaped announcement, said she's running to fight for everyday families so "they can get ahead and stay ahead" (as hers surely has). But, Amy Chozick insists in the Times, "Long before any ballots are cast, however, she faces enormous pressure to explain, in compelling terms, why she wants the job and is best suited to hold it."

It seems to me that all the other candidates face "enormous pressure" to do the same.

Roger Mudd famously asked Ted Kennedy why he wanted to run for president against Jimmy Carter in 1980. We all knew the answer to that, or thought we did. Mr. Kennedy believed Carter was a loser and it was time to replace him with a winning Kennedy. But he couldn't say that, and so his answer was muddled. It cost him dearly.

There's nothing muddled about Hillary Clinton. She's smart and ambitious and there's no reason she shouldn't run for president. We need to stop asking her why and start asking what she would do in the White House.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Attorney General Kathleen Kane (John Heller/Post-Gazette)

1) James Barker, a top aide to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, was, um, reorganized, according to Ms. Kane's spokeswoman, and the fact that he lost his job this week definitely had nothing to do with the fact that he testified against Kane in the grand jury investigation of grand jury leaks.

2) And speaking of Ms. Kane's spokeswoman Carolyn Myers: she quit this week, meaning that job is open for the 387th time since Ms. Kane took office. At this point, qualifications include speaking in nearly complete sentences.

3) Chelsa Wagner's idea to funnel a late payment of car-rental taxes towards restoring Port Authority bus routes is drawing criticism from – surprise! – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who says restricting the $2.1 million windfall would be a mistake when the authority has other needs; the authority also wonders about the wisdom of using a one-time payment to restore long-term bus routes.

4) A survey of political insiders by Politico shows something we've suspected – don't underestimate Marco Rubio as a Republican presidential candidate. The U.S. senator from Florida is conservative enough to satisfy most on the right, but he also has avoided being viewed as an extremist, like declared candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

5) Get the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Machine warmed up – Hillary Clinton is expected to formally announce her presidential candidacy this weekend.

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