Corey O’Connor, a son of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor, is running for the city council seat once held by his father.
The decision he announced last night has the potential to create a rift in the ranks of the late mayor’s allies. That’s because the 5th District city council seat he seeks is now held by Doug Shields, the former council president who was a longtime aide to the elder O’Connor. Mr. Shields had planned to relinquish the seat, and had encouraged Corry O’Connor to run for it, because he had planned to run instead for a district judge seat.
Mr. Shields’ plans were undercut, however, by the prospect that the judicial seat that was the target of his ambitions will be eliminated in a belt-tightening move by the state’s courts. In that case, Mr. Shields said he would run for re-election even if challenged by Mr. O’Connor. Chris Zurawsky, the president of the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club has also signaled his interest in the council race.
“I have a pasison for this city and I believe I can help make it a greater, even more livable place to live,’’ Mr. O’Connor said in an interview.. “My ideads are that we need some new energy and new resources down in city hall. I believe I have a ability to get people to work together.
In an interview earlier Wednesday, before Mr. O’Connor’s announcement, Mr. Shields said that his plans remained up in the air. Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, the president judge of Common Pleas Court, recommended the elimination of the East End judicial district along with two others in the county, but the final decision on the court structure rests with the state Supreme Court, which has yet to issue a final order on Ms. McDaniel’s recommendation.
“I was no secret that I had stated my intention to seek the magistrate seat held by Judge Firestone,’’ Mr. Shields said last night. “I’m anxiously waiting any kind of determination from the Supreme Court. If we do not hear, I’ll run for the city council seat.’’
Technically, the candidates have until early March to file for offices on the May ballot. But the financial and practical demands of a campaign demand a much earlier decision. Candidates seeking the endorsement of the county’s Democratic committee members have only until Feb. 3 to declare their intentions to their party colleagues. Mr. Shields said that if the Supreme Court did not clarify the situation by then, he would seek re-election to his current seat.
Under Judge McDaniel’s recommendation, the eliminated seat, which now covers the city of Pittsburgh’s 14th and 7th wards, in Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, would be merged with an existing judicial district that covers the 15th and 31st wards, including parts of Greenfield, Hazelwood and Lincoln Place. Mr. Shields said he had decided not to challenge the incumbent judge, James Hanley, in the merged district.
“He’s a good man; I know him,’’ Mr. Shields said.
In an interview earlier this week, Mr. O’Connor had sounded impatient with the incumbent’s indecision on his plans.
“The councilman was the one who encouraged me to run for the seat,’’ he said. “When a friend gives his word and encourages me to run I take him at his word,’’ he said.
Mr. O’Connior said he and Mr. Shields had discussed their potentially conflicting ambitions in a meeting late last week. He said he had not spoken to the councilman again before making his announcement. In addition to the name recognition he inherited form his father, he will have the benefit of the campaign funds left over from the late mayor’s last bid for office.
Mr. O’Connor, 26, is a graduate of Central Catholic High School and Duquesne University. He has taken a leave from the staff position he’s held in the office of Rep. Mike Doyle to pursue the race.