Early returns contain few surprises

Published by Mike Pound on .

Chelsa Wagner speaks to the media before voting at the Westinghouse Shelter in North Point Breeze. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)Chelsa Wagner speaks to the media before voting at the Westinghouse Shelter in North Point Breeze. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)

Not quite half of the Allegheny County votes are tallied, but that's enough to take an early look at what's going on on the Democratic side of our chosen races.

So far, the tightest race is between Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and her challenger, Mark Patrick Flaherty; Ms. Wagner has a 6-point lead on Mr. Flaherty so far.

The city controller's race isn't nearly as close. Incumbent Michael Lamb has a lead of about 35 points over his challenger, city councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. And so far, Ms. Rudiak's colleagues on council all have healthy leads over their challengers.

Finally, the late Barbara Daly Danko has a 20-point lead over challenger Caroline Mitchell in the Allegheny County Council District 11 race. Remember, if Ms. Danko wins the primary, the local Democratic organization retains the right to nominate her replacement.

We're starting to get results in from neighboring counties as well -- looking good, Butler County -- so we'll see about checking on some updates there.


Primary Day: We're in the home stretch

Published by Mike Pound on .

A sign urging people to vote for the late Barbara Daly Danko for Allegheny County Council stands outside the Darlington Street entrance to the Jewish Community Center which is being used as a polling place for the primary elections, May 19, 2015. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)A sign urging people to vote for the late Barbara Daly Danko for Allegheny County Council stands outside the Darlington Street entrance to the Jewish Community Center which is being used as a polling place for the primary elections, May 19, 2015. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

You've got a little more than an hour to vote -- if you haven't done so already -- and we've got a little bit more time than that to prepare for, ahem, tonight's early returns.

We already have a plan in place, though. We'll be watching the returns and when we get 'em, we'll post results for these races:

  • Allegheny County controller
  • Pittsburgh controller
  • Pittsburgh City Council's contested races
  • (As you might have gathered from the photo) Allegheny County Council District 11

If we have time, we'd love to be able to mention county commissioner races elsewhere in the region, like, say, in Butler County where 10 – TEN — Republicans are seeking nominations for two seats.

And, yes, we'll be curious to see whether Jesse White can further his political career by winning a nomination as a district judge in Washington County.

If you haven't voted yet, there's still time – and then kick back with your iPad and watch for the early returns with Early Returns.


Breakfast Sausage: 1 thing to do today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Voters leave a polling place in Sheraden in 2013. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)Voters leave a polling place in Sheraden in 2013. (Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette)

Your friends at Early Returns will have many things -- more than five, we'd guess -- for you to read later today, but for now, we have just one thing for you to consider: Vote.

Sure, we already have 92 Republicans jockeying for early position in the 2016 presidential race, but it's not hard to make the case that your local municipal election -- like the one that just got underway this morning -- is far more important. After all, these are the folks who educate your kids, hire your cops, pave your roads and set your taxes. You'd want to have a say in those things, right?


The polls are open until 8 p.m., boys and girls; make sure you get out there and vote today.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

1) We'll find out for sure if the Lindsey Graham Comedy Caravan will join the Republican presidential campaign full time on June 1. In the meantime, we'll get to enjoy samples of the down-home humor of the South Carolina senator, including jokes about killing Americans with drones. Hysterical, right?

2) If you were happy when the state Senate overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana bill last week, you couldn't have been pleased with state Rep. Matt Baker, the chairman of the House Health Committee who flatly said on Friday the Senate bill wouldn't show up before his committee anytime soon. And then there's the notion that no one really wants medical marijuana to go anywhere in Pennsylvania anyway.

3) In an op-ed you shouldn't miss, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay says accountability in his department and others across the country starts at the top ... and that's where reforms should begin as well.

4) With apologies to the folks running for controller at the county and city levels, the most interesting race in tomorrow's primary election is for Allegheny County Council district 11, where the late incumbent Barbara Daly Danko remains on the ballot, much to the chagrin of county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who supports Ms. Danko's opponent, Caroline Mitchell. The Democratic committee representing Ms. Danko's East End district is urging voters there to re-nominate Ms. Danko, which would then give the committee the ability to name a replacement candidate of its own.

5) As you perhaps have noted, Pennsylvania holds a municipal primary election tomorrow, and if you're in need of information about local candidates – or perhaps some guidance from the P-G's editorial board – you can find an index of election coverage here and a roundup of endorsements here.


Dems spar over deceased candidate

Published by James O'Toole on .

The late Barbara Daly DankoThe 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.