The late Barbara Daly Danko
The Allegheny County Democratic chairwoman is urging the party's committee members to support Caroline Mitchell, a candidate for the party's nomination in county council District 11, over Barbara Daly Danko, the recently deceased candidate who won the party's endorsement earlier this year, and whose name will still appear on Tuesday's primary ballot.
The unusual message from Nancy Patton Mills, the party leader, counters the wishes of some Democrats in the district who are urging a posthumous vote for the woman who held the seat until her death from cancer two weeks ago. Earlier in the week, the leaders of the 14th ward Democratic organization and the separate 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club wrote a letter urging a vote for Ms. Danko. If successful, a Danko election would place the nomination in he hands of the district's elected and appointed committee members. Their vote would supplant the normal primary process and its winner would appear on the November ballot. No Republican has filed for the seat, although it is possible that someone could secure the GOP nomination through a write-in vote.
In their letter to fellow Democrats, Kathie Smith, the club president and Sam Hens-Greco, the 14th ward chair, characterized a vote for Ms. Danko as a tribute to the candidate. But it was also clear that the move was an effort to thwart the wishes of county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who had once been an ally of Ms. Danko, but who embraced the candidacy of her challenger after he and Danko clashed on issues including the extent that gas drilling should be permitted on county land.
The letter from Ms. Mills, a close ally of Mr. Fitzgerald, represented a last-minute effort to turn aside a move that, if successful, would inevitably be viewed as a rebuff to Mr. Fitzgerald in a district that he once represented on council.
In the letter she states that, "If Barbara wins the primary, her successor would be picked by the Democratic committee people in her district rather than the Democratic electorate. There are only 223 committee people in the district, but there are 35,247 eligible Democratic voters,'' she wrote. "I recommend that the voters have the opportunity to pick the successor and avoid a special nominating election after the primary election.''
While Ms. Danko's name remains on party slate cards, the chair noted that Ms. Mitchell's campaign members would now be calling on the party workers, who voted overwhelmingly for the late incumbent in a February endorsement vote, and asking them to pass out her campaign literature. The pro-Danko activists’ effort is potentially influential in that Squirrel Hill’s 14th Ward is the largest in the council district. But the seat also includes a variety of other East End neighborhoods, and extends beyond the city limits to Munhall, Homestead and West Homestead.