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Thursday, February 3, 2011

And they're off: Field of candidates expands in some Democratic primary races

Posted by on Thu, Feb 3, 2011 at 8:01 PM

A short time ago, I received the list of local candidates seeking the Democratic Party's endorsement in this year's May primary. Those letters were due today, and based on the response, this should be an interesting election season. Some Pittsburgh voters may well be treated (if that's the right word) to three- or even four-way races. But city council district 5 -- where chaos seemed to be in the offing -- is apparently not among them. 

In District 1, incumbent Darlene Harris, who just formally announced her re-election bid today, will face two opponents: Vincent T. Pallus, of Brighton Heights, and Bobby Wilson of Spring Hill. 

District 9 city councilor Ricky Burgess also faces two rivals for the party's backing. One, we've already written about: Lucille Prater-Holliday. The other is Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell, who we're told has the backing of Jacque Fielder, the chair of Ward 12.

And what of District 5, where a donnybrook was shaping up between incumbent Doug Shields and Corey O'Connor, the son of Shields' former boss? Not going to happen, apparently.

O'Connor is seeking the party's endorsement, as is Chris Zurawsky, the head of the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, who has previously made his intentions clear. But Shields will indeed be running for a district justice seat, as he intended all along.

It seems, however, that Shields is in for a three-way contest anyway: Also seeking the party's nod for magesterial district 5-2-35 is Hugh McGough -- known to faithful readers in his role as solicitor to the city's police review board and a member of the county's Human Relations Commission -- and Squirrel Hill attorney Dan Butler.

Other city races present fewer surprises. Michael Lamb's bid for the party's city controller endorsement will apparently be uncontested. In district 3, Bruce Kraus is facing three opponents, but as reported here yesterday, only one -- former councilor Jeff Koch -- is seeking the party nod. 

For District 7 incumbent Patrick Dowd, the picture remains unchanged: Both Tony Ceoffe Jr., son of district magistrate and longtime Lawrenceville United head Tony Ceoffe, and artist David Calfo are seeking the endorsement.  

In the city school district, there appears to be only one contested school-board race. District 8's Mark Brentley -- always a lightning rod -- faces a challenge from Doris Lewis, of the Mexican War Streets.

On the county level, only one development may come as any real surprise: The county controller's seat -- which is being vacated by county executive candidate Mark Patrick Flaherty -- is being sought by four Democrats.

Three of the candidates had already expressed interest: current state Rep. Chelsa Wagner, longtime county real-estate office manager Valerie McDonald Roberts, and former clerk of courts George Matta. But a fourth entrant has also joined the fray: veteran activist Joni Rabinowitz, who for many years headed up Just Harvest, a local advocacy group for the poor.

At the top of the fight card, the county executive race, only Flaherty and Rich Fitzgerald, the county council president who formally launched his own candidacy last week, are seeking the party nod. 

To the surprise of no one, Stephen Zappala is the only guy seeking an endoresment in the District Attorney's race.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee will hold its endorsement meeting March 6, after which some disappointed office-seekers may well drop out. Check back here for more details about these candidates as they come in. 

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