What's with all this closing-out-the-public stuff? First we had Tom Corbett, and now RMU is hosting the first major Allegheny County executive debate of the season, but making it faculty and students only.
At any rate, Robert Morris University is holding a 8 p.m. forum with all three exec candidates tonight, which Jim O'Toole previews here. It will be the first time we've seen Republican D. Raja on a countywide stage, and Jim's story underlines how he may have to play some catch-up rhetorically with fellow Republican Chuck McCullough and Dems Rich Fitzgerald and Mark Patrick Flaherty, who have years of county gov experience under the belt.
Jim talks to the latter trio on transit issues and the related subject of the county drink tax, but Raja's people acknowledge they haven't had time to go deep on policy:
"Right now he's focusing on getting his name out there. ... He's still got a ways to go," Mark Harris, Mr. Raja's campaign manager, said of the newcomer to countywide office. "If there are questions on the Port Authority, he will certainly deal with them."
Need more evidence for why the race really gets going now? "Getting his name out there" also means, we imagine, raising money (for Raja and the other 3 candidates). We get our first glimpse at this year's fundraising on Tuesday when the required Sixth Tuesday Pre-Primary reports are filed with the county elections office late in the game; not until May 6. (Tuesday's reports are only for statewides, such as the appellate judge races.)
This weekend also starts the beginning of possible TV advertising. Sunday begins the 45-day primary timeclock when stations have to offer campaigns their lowest ad rates.