OK, I'm not really quitting to go help Arlen Specter get re-elected. If I were going to work on any politician's campaign, it would be Pat Toomey's. (No, really! I would do just about anything to help him win the Republican primary in 2010.)
But I am feeling a lilttle left out. As you've probably heard, Indepedent-nee-Republican Kevin Acklin has hired former WPXI-TV reporter Andy Gastmeyer to be press secretary for his mayoral campaign. As the Acklin campaign's release says:
"I'm honored that someone of Andy's impeccable reputation and journalistic integrity has agreed to join our campaign team. Andy has always been committed to making our city a better place, and I'm grateful that he's joining our effort," Acklin said.
Gastmeyer is following in the footsteps of Meghan Jones-Rolla, a former WTAE reporter who served as spokesperson for Mark DeSantis' 2007 Republican run for mayor. Damn that liberal media!
(Jones-Rolla, incidentally, is now a lawyer suing the city over its ordinance on lost and stolen handguns. Which means Jones has already fulfilled at least two journalistic fantasies: 1) putting words in politicians' mouths, and 2) actively tormenting them.)
Interestingly, before the May 19 primary, there was barely a peep from Acklin's camp, other than a brief spate of reports that he had changed his party registration. It was another third-party candidate, Dok Harris, who got all the attention, including invites to at least mayoral forums (one of which was co-sponsored by City Paper.) Since the primary, though, all the news has come from Acklin, whose official campaign kickoff is slated for June 3.
Count on Acklin to have some of the same teammates as DeSantis did .. and these will be folks who already have a citywide campaign under their belt. He ought to have at least as much success raising money as DeSantis did in 2007 -- and DeSantis raised about a half-million bucks. Then too, Acklin is a lifelong Pittsburgher, and it won't be as easy to write off as a Republican carpetbagger as DeSantis was.
Of course, Acklin will have some of the same liabilities that plagued DeSantis. About the only question I ever asked that threw DeSantis off his stride, for example, was a query about $650 he donated to Rick Santorum. That's not really very much money, but it IS a tough gift to explain when your campaign needs to portray itself as moderate and post-partisan.
Acklin could have an even bigger problem in this respect. According to FEC reports, Acklin contributed $1,000 to Santorum in four contributions made since 2004. He's also sent six checks totaling $3,000 to Melissa Hart between 2005 and 2008 -- and $750 to Tim "Santorum Lite" Murphy in 2008. Another recipient of Acklin's largesse: the Pro-Growth Action Team, to which he contributed $500. The Action Team was a leadership PAC that contributed to national Republican candidates -- AND which was affiliated with ... former Congressman Pat Toomey.
None of this should be terribly surprising. Acklin was a noted local Republican, who would have been expected to make such contributions. (FEC records show he's backed more moderate GOPers too, including Arlen Specter, now a Democrat, and 2008 Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.) If Acklin is smart -- and I'm pretty sure he is -- he's going to have a story to tell about all of that. And I expect it will be the tale of a guy who, like a lot of voters in the city, has seen party politics at their worst.
After all, you may remember that in 2007, Acklin ran against Charles McCullough to be the GOP's at-large representative on Allegheny County Council. And you may also recall that Acklin lost, despite the fact that McCullough was facing some high-profile allegations about using a client's money to help other local GOP candidates. Acklin may have been a Republican until recently, but disgust with political shenanigans is a bipartisan sentiment.
But, yeah, the odds against Acklin OR Harris winning are long, and of course as the P-G pointed out recently, one problem both candidates have is ... each other. But if the first race Acklin and Harris have to run is a contest to establish third-party credibility, right now Acklin seems to have a leg up.