Saturday, February 24, 2007

Developing Trends in the Mayoral Election

During the early portion of this past week, Pittsburgh City Councilmember and mayoral candidate William Peduto issued a challenge to incumbent Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Mr. Peduto publicly called for a series of at least eight televised debates with Master Ravenstahl, to be held during the run-up to the May 15th Democratic primary election. Yesterday, KDKA television reported, in a story headlined "Ravenstahl Answers Peduto's Debate Challenges", that the Interim Mayor had responded to this challenge. The story quotes Master Ravenstahl's own remarks, made during an appearance on KDKA Radio's Marty Griffin Show:

I'd be more than happy to participate, uh, in any forum as we move forward throughout the, uh, campaign. I think it's important for people, uh, to understand, uh, the positions of myself and, uh, my opponent.
KDKA reporter Jon Delano also notes that, "Ravenstahl's campaign delivered [a] letter to Peduto's campaign, which commits the mayor to debate Peduto on TV and in the neighborhoods."

All of this sounds great. It sounds like the two candidates are behaving as grownups and agreeing to put their views -- unedited, unspun, and unpolished -- before the voters in a long series of relatively open discussions. This is really good news. Or at least, it seems like really good news. Until, that is, you take the time examine the rest of KDKA's televised report.

In what is fast becoming yet another disturbing behavioral pattern, Master Ravenstahl echoes the general sentiment that the public wants to hear, but fails to provide anything at all in the way of specifics. Once again, he says things which make it appear like he is completely in line with Mr. Peduto's position, but fails to take any actions that are congruent with those comments. Because, when you watch the rest of the report, you find out that Luke Ravenstahl has refused to agree to a specific date and time for any of these debates, despite being given multiple opportunities to do so. Indeed, he seems to be doing everything possible to avoid a public debate with his opponent:
But five organizations working together, including the League of Young Voters, say Ravenstahl has not been easy to schedule.

Nish Suvarnakar says a number of groups wanted a February 28th evening debate. Peduto accepted but Ravenstahl declined.

“I don't know if he was dodging us or not. I really, I'm not sure if it was just a matter of scheduling. We told him that if the time wasn't going to work, we would change the day,” said Suvarnakar.
If you actually watch the report, instead of just reading the text that appears on KDKA's website, you see that what Mr. Suvarnakar really said was, "we were completely rebuffed on that one" by the Ravenstahl campaign.

Meanwhile, over at the Burgh Report, in the comments to a post discussing the latest City Paper article about Councilmember Peduto, a person calling themselves "Demcat" noted the following:
Here's my take on debates/Mayoral Forums... I've invited both to take part in a Mayoral Forum in Sq. Hill. Within 24 hrs., the Peduto camp accepted... I've been dealing with Luke's Campaign for 4 days... My response from Luke's campaign manager. " I'll get back to you." I know the Mayor has his job to do, but 2 to 1 says I never hear from him.
Another comment made in response to this very post, written by someone calling themselves "ndp", related the following:
I can verify that interim Mayor Ravenstahl is more difficult to schedule than Bill Peduto. The business-related non-profit that I am a member of has been trying to schedule both Peduto and Ravenstahl to speak to the membership; Peduto was receptive and agreeable; Ravenstahl has not responded - it's been over two months of continued requests.
I'm not saying that we are quite to this point just yet, but if this "duck and cover" behavior continues for much longer, it's going to be time for someone to put on a chicken suit and begin showing up at all of Interim Mayor Ravenstahl's public appearances. The Ravenstahl campaign could, at the very least, propose their own list of dates and times for these debates to take place. Mr. Peduto certainly seems to be neither reticent nor fearful of debating the interim mayor, and I'm betting that the Ravenstahl campaign would quickly receive an affirmative response. Probably in less than twenty-four hours.

In other news, a discussion over at the Pittsburgh Comet examines the seemingly counter-intuitive idea that Mr. Peduto's support is growing among conservatives. He even managed to charm Fred Honzberger, of all people, into agreeing with an expansion of the federal government's role in investigating the convention center's structural problems. How is it possible that Mr. Peduto, who is described over at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents as, "... the true progressive in this race, ... who actually seems to value women and gays for more than our ability to contribute to campaigns", could enjoy more conservative appeal than Master Ravenstahl, who apparently holds noticably right-wing views concerning such hot-button liberal issues as contraception and abortion?

As a fairly conservative individual myself, perhaps I can shed some light on this conundrum. Simply put, character counts. And Luke Ravenstahl doesn't seem to have much in the way of appealing character traits. I don't particularly feel that I can trust him. I don't believe that he is, or ever will be, a good steward of my tax dollars. I am not at all convinced that he has the backbone needed to take on the city's most obvious and critical financial problems, such as our ballooning and unfunded pension obligations.

Mr. Peduto, on the other hand, seems to have the kind character that one count on. He may be more socially liberal than Master Ravenstahl, but he is clearly far more fiscally conservative. He appears willing to take on powerful union interests when the situation demands it. And I just feel like I can trust him more than I trust Luke Ravenstahl.

I'm not quite willing to publicly endorse Mr. Peduto just yet. He has a disturbing habit of asking for yet another study, when every important issue facing our city and region has largely been studied to death. His campaign seems overly timid in taking issues to the voters and in reacting to the attacks made by his opponent. And I haven't yet had the chance to dissect all of Mr. Peduto's positions on the issues that are near and dear to my heart. But from a conservative standpoint, there is far more to admire in Bill Peduto than there is in Luke Ravenstahl.

Which brings me to a potentially explosive proposal for the Peduto campaign. In the event that Mr. Peduto fails to secure the Democratic nomination during the May 15th primary, and especially if he loses by a fairly narrow margin, I would strongly encourage him to run as an independent candidate in the general election. There are thousands of Pittsburghers out there who are not registered Democrats. Their voices will not be heard on May 15th. The opportunity for these people to vote for a viable mayoral candidate in the general election has long been denied, and there is an enormous amount of pent-up demand. As an independent who has broken free from the Democratic machine, and who has already demonstrated a certain degree of city-wide support, Mr. Peduto would present an almost irresistible opportunity for this long-silenced minority. If Mr. Peduto can attract nearly 50% of the Democrats in the city electorate, and can combine those votes with those of the conservative and independent minority, he can become a mayor completely unburdened by machine politics and free to pursue an agenda that will benefit the city as a whole.

What a fantastic thing that would be.

UPDATE: Despite the fact that I still think that it would be an excellent idea for this city to elect Mr. Peduto as an independent, it would appear that our Commonwealth's byzantine elections laws forbid us to do so. The only way that it could happen would be if he drops out the Democratic primary right now, registers as an independent within the next month or so, never files any kind of petition to run in the primary, and sacrifices a goat on a mountaintop during the next full moon. And state law isn't all that specific about exactly what kind of goat has to be used, so there would likely be a court challenge anyway.

It's crap like this that makes me truly resent living in this backwards-ass state sometimes. It's amazing the lengths that Pennsylvania will go to in it's effort to thwart the will of the voters. It's even more amazing that Connecticut, of all places, does a better job. At least they allowed the voters to elect Joe Leiberman after he lost the Democratic primary last year.


Anonymous said...

I believe the "Caliguiri rule" prevents Peduto for running again in the Fall.

Jonathan Potts said...

I don't know about that rule, but I do believe that Caliguiri did run and win as an independent.

Richmond K. Turner said...

What rule could possibly deny any citizen the right to seek elective office? Please, somebody tell me that there really isn't such a rule! Is it a law, or just an internal party regulation of some kind?

Anonymous said...

I believe that after you run for an office in a party primary, you cannot run a second tim as an independent.

Caliguiri did this to defeat Foerster and they instituted the law forbiding such a run, thus the name.

PghLesbian said...

Excellent post, my dear sir. I found the KDKA report perplexing myself given that Luke hasn't actually committed to specific debates. I'm disheartened (but not surprised) that he's dragging his feet on the event sponsored in part by the Stonewall Democrats, a group that's just gotten a fresh jolt of life and new blood.

Anonymous said...

Good post - the trend of Luke failing to follow through on things is an interesting one. People think he "got rid of Denny", but Denny now works for his campaign; Pgh. Promise is announced, but falls embarassingly short of the initial "promise"; ...where exactly is that ethics board???...; secondary employment program (can't wait to see what it looks like come May 16...)...

Matt H said...

There are other rules in place that don't allow certain people from even running for something unless they quit the job they have.

Hatch Act is one.

I know this doesn't apply to Peduto but I am throwing it out there since someone asked about what rules are out there.

Anonymous said...

the Caliguiri rule prevents Reruns according to

Mark Rauterkus said...

Peduto, should he not win the D's primary, would NOT be able to enter the general election.

You only get "one bite from the apple." That's official court talk.

If Peduto does NOT win, he'll be able to win in 2009. Then Luke will have a record to run against. Peuduto can sit tight until then.

Besides, if Luke wins, then the general election should present a real constrast among candidates for voters. The worst for the city would be to have two Ds running in a primary and again in the general.

ndp said...

I can verify that interim Mayor Ravenstahl is more difficult to schedule than Bill Peduto. The business-related non-profit that I am a member of has been trying to schedule both Peduto and Ravenstahl to speak to the membership; Peduto was receptive and agreeable; Ravenstahl has not responded - it's been over two months of continued requests.

Smitty said...

my suggestion to those who are registered Independents is to switch their registration to Democrat so that they can partake in this primary election.Joining the GOP may mean you'll have no one to vote for in the primary...and certainly not a winner in November.

Anonymous said...

The primary is all that matters in this town. That's why Luke supporters keep saying "give him a chance, it's only been 6 months". And as for the theory that '09 is "Bill's year", i.e. he will be able to run against Luke's record at that time, hogwash. Whoever wins in May '07 is in for the duration. '09 will just be a formality.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Hogwash looks like this: The primary is all that matters in this town.

Hogwash also thinks like this: '09 will just be a formality.

Don't put a turd into our shared well and call it an air-freshener.

The future looks brighter when we agree to 'think again' and choose to use all the limbs of our body politic.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that I don't wish the general election meant something, I'm just calling it likes I sees it: May is all that matters. Luke knows it. Bill knows it. The only way November or '09 matter is if the unthinkable happens - and even if the unthinkable does happen, it will likely go unreported or be the subject of "it really doesn't matter" whitewashing.

Mark Rauterkus said...

You call it like you see it -- but only one with hogwash in the head would claim to be able to see the future. Or, one who wants to extend the hogwash status quo.

The rules are such that the winner of the general election takes the office. That's a fact that is on the side of the people -- and reality.

The 'done deal mentality' has been much like a cancer that has been killing this region. You can be a part of it if you wish. But you'll be standing in hogwash by choice. You'll be wishing the next generation to play in your hogwash as well. It stinks.

We can fix Pittsburgh as soon as we take hogwash thinking and call it what it is.

Self reliance matters. This element of general elections picking the one to rule is a foothold on the truth and self-determination.

Politics is about the future, not the past.

In every election in the past, thge the general election picked the mayor. Duhh....

Often, the D candidate was better. But, as we've been talking -- not with Caliguiri.

Furthermore, IMHO, it will be easy to find a better canididate than what comes out of the D primary in 2007. And that person won't be poisoned by hogwash thinking.

Maria said...

Luke already has a record to run against including nearly two years on City Council.

His Council record was extremely unremarkable which is why he had such difficulty answering Letterman's query as to why he deserved to be Mayor. The best he could come up with was that he had been chosen Council President -- he couldn't come up with anything that he had actually done while on Council.

That's why he needs -- to quote the P-G -- "steal" ideas from Peduto now that he's Mayor.

His record as Mayor is one of corruption, punishing whistle blowers, and all around bad judgment that has cost this City monies that it can ill afford to pay.

This "give the kid a chance" crap should be answered with one word:


He's had a chance and he's blown it.

Anonymous said...

Peduto has turned his back on the democratic party. Peduto should not be running as a Democrat. That is why Peduto will NEVER get the Democratic Party ENDORSEMENT. The majority of "average" working folks are willing to vote for a less experienced Mayor because Peduto has nothing in common with the average working FAMILY. What has Peduto ever done for our City's elderly population other than allow them to be taxed out of their homes? If Peduto ever wants to be Mayor, Shadyside will have to seperate itself from the City. Then Mayor Peduto can be king of Shadyside and have Starbucks and the other BOX Stores come into the City OF SHADYSIDE and build new chain stores with TIFS and pay employees 7 bucks an hour with no benefits. While he takes large campaign contributions from people that move good paying jobs in healthcare to India. How long has Peduto been on Council? Peduto is part of the problem not the solution. Peduto along with alot of other elected officials have FAILED at representing the needs of the City of Pittsburgh.

Jonathan Potts said...

Wow, where to begin with all this? Mark, the bottom line is that we do not have a functional two-party system in this town, and while it's tempting to blame state election laws (which certainly ensure that third parties don't have a shot) the bottom line is the Republican Party does not make a serious effort to field candidates either for mayor or for city council. A Republican or Independent who wants a meaningful vote would be wise to register as a Democrat. Or they should pressure the city's Republican committee to begin a real grass-roots effort to be competitive.

Although I too have criticized Peduto for being out of touch with much of the city, I'm hard pressed to think of anything that Ravenstahl has done for the average "working folks" of this city. How has Peduto taxed senior citizens out of their homes? Other than the EMS tax. I believe taxes in the city have remained steady since he has been in office. Ravenstahl opposed Act 47, which while far from perfect, represents an attempt to get the city's finances in order. (And curb the power of the city's public employee unions.) Nor have I heard Ravenstahl complain about all the TIFs that have been handed out like candy for retail and residential development in the city. He wants to continue these policies, from what I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that people mistake Ravenstahl for the "regular guy" and not Peduto. Peduto isn't running on his daddy's name, and he comes from the average working class background. Peduto, who is from the South Hills, worked and fought to attain the status he has, unlike Luke who has been handled by the dem machinary from day 1, not because he shows any promise of greatness, but in order to further the machine's own agenda.

Luke is an inarticulate, superficial, average kid of questionable conscience. He's as deep and interesting as his current website - 4th rate politician, at best. Peduto is thoughtful, forward-thinking and a person of conscience. Peduto is the good guy here, Luke is just a goof who got lucky.

Matt H said...

Luke is running on his daddy's name?

Are you kidding me?

That's the 1st time this campaign I have heard something like that.

Gimme a break.

Mark Rauterkus said...


On this count, I'm on the side of the state law. State law and the facts are on my side in this thread. You don't take the office until you win the general election. Fact. That's the bottom line.

I'm not here to fix BLAME. Facts are different.

As a side note, we don't have a functional two-party system as the MSM likes to think within the box: Ds vs. Rs.

I agree that there are many Rs and others who desire governmental paychecks. They do and should register as "D" to more easily win an election. Examples: Onorato is Roddey's and Honz-Man's sweetheart and very-much Republican-ish in his big-government ways. Fontana was another R (historical fact) that wanted office and became a D.

It is easy to be a candidate in the D side, wait your turn, sustain status quo, then win an elected seat. It is an easy way if you can stand chin deep in hogwash throughout.

I have plenty to say about the City's GOP -- but -- for now let's just say that IMHO there is a different two-party landscape in the region. On one side there are Ds sporting huge fractions. And then there is everyone else on the other side.

Furthermore, I'd say that the greatest solidarity in the community today is against the status-quo Ds. (Clean Sweep, etc.)

Bottom line: To win a seat, one must win a general election. BTW, a "special election" is the same as a general election.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Maria raised a great point when she posted: "Luke already has a record to run against including nearly two years on City Council."

Sure. Luke has a 'record' with me. Luke has a 'record' with 'political junkies.'

However, getting Luke's record into the limelight so the majority of the D primary voters see it, absorb it, and cast an informed vote against it to the benefit of one other candidate presents a mega feat. I'd bet upon the camel going through the eye of a needle first.

Furthermore, an education of smear against Luke's legacy in public office is one task. But, to get the benefit of that endeavor to land in Peduto's tally is another.

IMHO, doing the first does not insure the second. Furthermore, doing the first might work against Peduto as his tenure has been LONGER than Luke's.

Peduto's short-term best advantage / strategy might be built on a hunch where less than 6,000 vote in the D's primary. Perhaps more will arrive at the polls on May 15, 2007, ready to vote for or against Hillary (or Obama) than either Luke or Bill.

Petuto's best long-term advantage is 2009, IMHO. Peduto has to make strides to grow his camp through this race and for months to come.

The Jackal said...

Why are there no Republicans running? Is this because we are having a "special" election due to the death of a Democratic mayor or is it just the case of the Republican party being a lost cause here in Pittsburgh?

Richmond K. Turner said...

I ran into the last Republican candidte for mayor, Joe Weinroth, a few weeks ago in Giant Eagle. From what he said, I'm reasonably certain that he will run again. But with brutal honesty, a huge majority of the people in this city would vote a straight party-line ticket to elect Adolf Hitler as the Democratic mayor, even if he were running against Jesus as the Republican candidate.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Joe Weinroth really wants to run for a seat on the bench, I think.

The Republicans should NOT run for Mayor nor County Executive at this time for a number of reasons.

1. The city and county chairmen don't speak to one another. Mr. Glancey is at the RCAC and I'm not impressed. It is your friends that can hurt you the most.

2. G.W.Bush has the nation in an expensive war without an end in sight. The costs are high in terms of off-budget dollars, outsourced corporate contractors -- and most of all -- the dangers and death of our people.

3. The loss of freedom at home has been huge. Justice for those sitting in prisons without due process, travel restrictions, and a ton of other burdens is a kiss of death for a R candidate.

4. Mr. Roddey says it can't be done. So there. He has a defeated attitude. He shares that everywhere he goes.

4a. And, Mr. Roddey's past sins -- such as with PAT -- are now in the pipeline. Onorato has been just able to keep the course with the boat afoat. Hence, the legacy of what the Rs offered in the past is not any different to what we've already got.

4b. Roddey and the Rs are happy with Onorato. They'd be happy too with status quo in city hall as well.

4c. The Rs are more interested in a congressional race in 2008.

4d. Swann's showing in the city and county didn't plant any seeds for the future. Nothing is ready to be harvested. The rut of fruitlessness is theirs.

4e. Even Dave Fawcett, R at large on county council is slated to retire.

5. The Rs might champion resources for a run here an there -- in a focused way. But this cycle is going to be one where they had better sit out (for Mayor & ACE).