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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kevin Acklin testing the waters as an independent

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2009 at 11:53 AM

As you may have read elsewhere already, Kevin Acklin is considering a challenge to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as an Independent.

Emphasis on "considering": Acklin says he's still in the testing-the-waters stage.

But he did send out a press release late last night announcing that he'd changed his party registration to Independent. He has run for county council as a Republican in the past, and has contributed sizable sums to such GOP stalwarts as Melissa Hart, Tim Murphy, and Rick Santorum.

So, is he running as an indepedent because there's no hope of winning as a Republican?

Acklin tells me the answer is no: "I think Pittsburghers are ready for an independent campaign, and I want this to be about Pittsburgh rather than partisan politics. To run under the partisan banner wouldn't allow me to run the kind of campaign I want -- a campaign where everyone could get excited and involved."

Which, to a cynic like me, sounds like he's running as an independent because there's no hope of winning as a Republican. 

But Acklin promises to liven up any campaign he does get into. When asked about whether the independent candidacy of Franco "Dok" Harris would undermine his own run, for example, Acklin said the following:

"Well, I did think of knocking out one of my front teeth and renaming myself Jack Lambert...  But it's an interesting race. We have one candidate who is the son of a former Steeler, and an incumbent who wants to be a Steeler." 

(Acklin has some football credentials of his own, apparently: He says he played as a defensive end and an offensive tackle for Central Catholic.)

Acklin said that he would campaign as "Everybody's Boy" -- a reference to Democrat Patrick Dowd's earlier invocation of the "Nobody's Boy" theme.  But Acklin agreed he'd be less likely to run in November if Dowd won this May. "I've supported Dowd in the past, and he's doing a great job putting things together. That's one of the key factors we're considering." 

Since Acklin isn't even officially in the race, it seemed a little early to ask about specific policy proposals. Acklin plans to spend the "next couple months" talking to "community leaders, pastors, business owners. This won't be a fake listening tour, where the cameras show up and leave. I'll have a notebook with me, and we'll see if we can come up with solutions. But it will be a real listening tour -- not the sort of thing the mayor does." 

Acklin faulted Ravenstahl for "running the city by photo op" -- which I'm hoping was a shameless attempt to garner favor with the press by quoting one of my columns. Either way, his timing was good: Earlier today, Ravenstahl had a press conference concerning a city pledge to fill potholes within five working days of receiving a community complaint. 

If last year marked Ravenstahl's "war on snow," I guess 2009 marks the onset of his war on negative space. 

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