WTAE has cancelled its scheduled end-of-the-month mayoral debate because Republican candidate Josh Wander couldn’t guarantee he would be back in the country.
Justin Antoninotti, WTAE news director, says Republican candidate Josh Wander had originally accepted the invitation for the televised debate sponsored by the station and the League of Women Voters. In late September, however, reports surfaced that Wander and his family were traveling abroad for his job as a security consultant.
In a Sept. 26 Post-Gazette story, Wander said he was still a candidate despite his travels and planned to return for four scheduled candidate events. But Antoninotti says “the Republican candidate couldn’t confirm that he would be available so we made the decision to cancel the debate.”
Wander was challenging Democratic nominee Bill Peduto and Independent candidate Les Ludwig. Ludwig previously told City Paper that Wander’s continued presence on the ballot for the Nov. 5 General Election was a “farce.”
As for Peduto, his campaign spokeswoman Sonya Toler says his campaign strategies won’t change regardless of who else is campaigning.
“Bill is still out there making appearances and knocking on doors,” Toler says. “Nothing has changed from our end.”
We’ve reached out to Wander and will update with any response.
UPDATE: Josh Wander responded to our queries on Twitter about whether he would be attending any of the upcoming debates. "I am trying to make it back in time" he tweeted. And in a direct message about the WTAE debate Wander said, "I offered the network to either do the debate remotely or to send a proxy if I could not be there in person." The station, however, declined.
The mayoral forums begin this week starting at 10 a.m. Monday at the Lincoln Place Presbyterian Church basement, 1202 Muldowney Avenue
Les Ludwig has run for mayor before -- as a write-in candidate. Voters wrote him off instead. But the Squirrel Hill resident is hoping to change all of that. On the November ballot this year, Ludwig's name will appear on the ballot as an Independent candidate, challenging presumptive front-runner Democratic nominee Bill Peduto. And while you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that Ludwig has any shot of defeating Peduto, the 80-year-old candidate believes it can happen.
"I'm gradually beginning to think from what people tell me that I'm not that much of an underdog as you might consider," Ludwig says. "I needed 895 signatures to get on the ballot, and I went out and got 1600.
"Of those people who signed they either signed because they said they didn't like Bill Peduto or they signed because they wanted someone as mayor who was independent because they are sick and tired of the politics."
He says his campaign will be entirely self-funded; he will take no contributions. By contrast, he says, Peduto took more than a million dollars in campaign donations: "Sooner or later he'll have to pay back the people who gave him that money."
A funny thing happened last week during our cover shoot with Sheraden resident and mayoral candidate AJ Richardson — he lost his tattoos.
Our photographer Heather Mull shot this week’s cover in the studio of fellow photographer Jason Snyder. Mull’s photo appears on the cover and in the top, right picture. But Snyder used a photography process known as Wet Plate Collodion photography which creates an image known as a tintype.
We’ve all seen the giant antique cameras in movies where the 1800’s-era photographer sticks his head under a cover and takes the picture. Well, that’s the process that Snyder used in the above left photo of Richardson, knowing that the tattoos wouldn’t show up in the print because, as Snyder says, “the UV light just bounces off of the outer layer of skin.”
Richardson, who was a great sport for posing for this week's cover photo in the first place, tells CP he was amazed to see the photo and, since a lot has been made about his numerous facial tattoos, thought folks would be interested to see what a tat-less AJ Richardson looks like. We agree.
In days to come, pundits and politicos will be doing all kinds of analysis of yesterday's mayoral primary, looking for big-picture trends and story lines in Bill Peduto's triumph over Jack Wagner. But if you want to start getting a feel for how this race played out, you can do so by starting small -- looking at results in just two city wards, the 14th and the 19th.
These are two of the city's biggest, most vote-heavy, wards. And they represent two poles of the city's electorate, or at least the white portions of it.
The 14th ward, which is centered on Squirrel Hill, is Peduto Country, a bastion of college-educated liberalism. The 19th, which includes working-class Beechview and its environs, is the Wagner family's stomping grounds. (Jack Wagner lives in Beechview, and his brother Pete chairs the Democratic Party's 19th ward committee.) Given that turnout was so low yesterday -- in the mid-20s countywide -- this election was always going to turn on who did the best job of rallying their base, starting with the voters in their own backyards.
So how did the candidates do? Not surprisingly, they each won their own homeground. But Wagner's performance was much less impressive.
According to my sleep-deprived calculations, based on unofficial election returns, in Ward 19 Wagner beat Peduto by roughly 2,900 to 1,750; he got roughly one-and-a-half votes for every vote Peduto got. But in Ward 14, Peduto's home turf, Peduto beat Wagner by 5,700 to 1,400, give or take. That's more than four votes for every one Wagner got.
With one week to go before the May 21 mayoral primary, the money trail is becoming increasingly convoluted — as reflected by financial activity involving the campaigns of the race's two frontrunners.
For starters, a contractor whose work on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's home has become the subject of stories in the Post-Gazette appears to be a financial supporter of Jack Wagner.
According to a P-G story last week, William J. Rogers runs a firm, R&B Contracting and Excavation, that has done more than $2 million in work for the city since 2010 ... while operating another firm, Allstate Development, that has carried out renovation work at Ravenstahl's Fineview home. The Post-Gazette raised questions about the propriety of such an arrangement, though Ravenstahl's attorney has denied that there was anything improper about it.
Rogers, meanwhile, appears to be backing Wagner — whose close ties to other Ravenstahl loyalists have already raised eyebrows.
Wagner campaign-finance records show three contributions totaling $5,000 between April 17 and April 22 made by a William J. Rogers, all with the same home address. None of those contributions identify Rogers by his ties to either Allstate or R&B. But two $500 contributions identify Rogers' employer as Ace Energy Services, a firm that "specializ[es] in primary and secondary oilfield containment throughout the Marcellus and Utica [natural-gas drilling] regions," and that uses the same West Mifflin business address as one provided on the website of R&B Contracting and Excavation. Another $4,000 contribution used the same home address, but listed Rogers' business address as a Downtown law firm. This appears to be a clerical error on the Wagner campaign's part; the firm employs a lawyer with a similar name, but that lawyer told City Paper he has not made any contributions to Wagner.
Rogers has not returned a phone call left with a receptionist at R&B, who said that was the best number to reach him.
Finance records suggest that the Wagner campaign received the contributions before the Post-Gazette published its story. JJ Abbot, a Wagner spokesman, said Wagner has received contributions from a variety of sources, and while Abbott said he was unsure about the circumstances behind Rogers' contributions, "There's no relationship" between Rogers and Wagner.
Wagner's chief rival, City Councilor Bill Peduto, expressed little surprise about the contributions. "You'll find that there are numerous big money people with ties to the mayor who are supporting the Wagner campaign," he says. Rogers "is just one of them."
Meanwhile, some intriguing contribution patterns are arising on Peduto's side of the ledger as well.
There's been a long-running debate about whether young voters can make a difference in a Pittsburgh election -- see here, for example, and here and the comments here. But there's evidence that mayoral candidate Jack Wagner, at least, is taking young voters plenty seriously.
The proof: his new ad, which features his daughter, Sara. In a release, the campaign says the spot "highlights Jack's perspective of being a father to college-aged kids and having a deep understanding of the issues facing young adults."
Sure enough, it launches with Sara Wagner asserting that her dad "knows what's important to young people like me. He's evolved a lot on social issues, and I'm really proud of him." It then proceeds to more familiar claims, like Wagner's ability to work with everyone in city government.
As we've noted here previously, on LGBT issues especially, Wagner has come a long way since his city council days. And at debates, he routinely makes a point of emphasizing the importance of sensitivity to the "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community." (I don't think I've ever heard him use the acronym, now that I think of it.)
It's a cute spot, ending with a self-consciously dorky father-daughter fist-bump. But I can't help but feel it speaks to a certain unease about younger voters within Wagnerland: Polls consistently show Wagner lagging with that portion of the electorate. And in its own way, the spot may mark a sort of coming-of-age for one portion of the city's electorate: All the sudden, even sixty-something politicians are catering to younger voters as if they were septuagenarians at the Bingo hall. Mazel tov!
See the ad below:
The Jake Wheatley for Mayor campaign is on the air with its first commercial…sort of.
The new ad, called "Fairness," is an online-only advertisement that will be targeted to individuals based on their Internet usage says Wheatley spokesman Daren Berringer.
The press release announcing the ad uses words like "attitudinal criteria" to explain the technology. But basically, the campaign is using a marketing company that tracks Internet information to find out where a person lives, targeting those in the city, and identifies likely voters through their web activity: Have they, for example, taken a political survey?
The commercial will then be shown to targeted individuals through video advertisements sold on websites across the web. Berringer says it allows the campaign -- which collected about $62,000 in donations -- to better direct its message.
"If we're going to be spending money on advertising this gives us a much better reassurance that the ad is reaching its audience," says Berringer, who anticipates the ad getting about 400,000 views between now and the end of the election. "If we buy a TV ad at midnight and no one is awake to watch it, what good was it?
"Even if we had more money to spend on advertising, we would do this regardless."
Adds Wheatley in the campaign press release: "We're optimizing our reach and spending our resources wisely."
The ad features Wheatley, a former marine and current state Rep., standing on Frankstown Ave. in Homewood.
"[F]or Pittsburgh to be successful, we have to end the politics as usual and move our city toward innovative ideas that will unite is and bring about economic fairness," Wheatley says in the spot.
You can view the full ad here.
Want to know where the city's mayoral candidates standing on improving Pittsburgh's accessibility for biking and walking? Improving citywide data on crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists? Planning bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?
Now you can find out.
BikePGH, the city's bicycling advocacy group, has posted questionnaires completed by Democratic mayoral candidates Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson, Jack Wagner and Jake Wheatley, and Republican candidate Josh Wander, online as part of its #bikewalkvote campaign.
"This year, we wanted to clearly show the candidates that these issues are not only utterly important for the lives, safety and health of our citizens, but that they are also hugely popular," BikePGH wrote on its website. "However, the infrastructure making sure that these workers stay safe is seriously lacking and disconnected."
BikePGH will post questionnaires from the city council candidates next week.
Like other papers, we get a lot of unsolicited letters to the editor, in which folks unburden themselves on issues of the day. We tend not to run these, largely because they're often sent to other media outlets too, who are able to print them sooner. But this one was too good to pass up.
It comes courtesy of the Rev. Thomas Smith, a minister of the Monumental Baptist Church and a founder of the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly, which was established a decade ago in an effort to put the concerns of black voters on the political agenda. (In some ways, Sala Udin's newfangled Black Political Conventionis a reprise of that effort.) Smith takes a look at each of the four candidates, and to some extent finds them all wanting. AJ Richardson isn't viable, Jack Wagner is too close to unions and other entrenched interests, and while Jake Wheatley's campaign is a "noble undertaking," he has a has too little visibility outside the neighborhoods he represents as a state representative -- and black voters don't get behind a candidate just because he's black. Smith seems sympathetic to Peduto, though he doesn't make an endorsement. In any case, his assessment of the candidates' strengths and weaknesses is worth a look.
The full text of letter below:
This week, we wrote about where the three major Democratic candidates for mayor stood on social issues from LGBT rights to women's issues. Today, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC announced its endorsements for local primary races and special elections. (The organization also publishes a voters' guide on the candidates that is not yet published.)
Here are their local endorsements:
— For the special election for House District 42 (replacing Matt Smith, who was recently elected to Senate): Democrat Dan Miller.
— Pittsburgh Democratic Mayoral Primary: City Councilor Bill Peduto.
— Pittsburgh Democratic City Council Primary District 4: incumbent Natalia Rudiak
Other groups focused on social issues have released their slates as well — which we noted, in part, this week. But their full slates can be found online: LGBT groups Steel City Stonewall Democrats and Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh.
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