Nobody knows South Hills politics -- and its parking lots -- like the City Paper's Chris Potter. Today he writes about a new alliance between Pgh councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and a 2009 council opponent Anthony Coghill in their support of Erin Molchany for the 22nd District state House seat formerly held by Chelsa Wagner. As usual, its about 19th ward kingmaker Pete Wagner (Chelsa's dad) and his competing support for House hopeful Marty Schmutzer, but there's more to it than that, Chris writes:
As you probably have heard, we're in the midst of a protracted battle over redrawing the lines of state legislative districts. And there's been some kvetching about how the GOP-led legislative redistricting runs roughshod over the North Hills, divvying up communities between districts to serve political ends. What's gotten less attention is how redistricting could affect Wagner's own political fiefdom.
The 19th is a sprawling district; while centered on Beechview, it also encompasses portions of Brookline and Mt. Washington. Previously, it has been contained solely within the 22nd legislative district, where it was joined by the outlying suburbs of Baldwin, Whitehall and Castle Shannon. But the redistricting plan carves the 19th into three separate legislative districts. One chunk of the 19th will end up in the 27th district, where it will be lumped in with the city's western neighborhoods and the adjoining suburbs of Green Tree, Crafton, Ingram, McKees Rocks and Thornburg. Another chunk will be fused with portions of the city's South Side, Mt. Oliver, Brentwood and portion of Baldwin. The third part of the 19th will be merged into district 42, joining Dormont, Castle Shannon, and parts of Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon.
Now there's an obvious question here: How much sense does it make to split up Beechview and Brookline, and pair them up with suburbs? What possible rationale could explain divvying up two working-class city neighborhoods that way?
One suspicion, popular in some South Hills circles, is that these lines were drawn precisely to dilute Wagner's influence, by spreading it across three separate districts. It's no accident that when I interviewed Schmotzer himself a few weeks ago, he said that if elected, he'd do everything he could to preserve the district -- and the integrity of political wards and boundaries.