Entering the final weeks of the campaign for Pittsburgh City Council District 7, challenger Tony Ceoffe Jr., is going to have a lot more time to hit the streets and get his message out to potential voters.
Last week, Ceoffe -- who is squaring off against District 7 incumbent Pat Dowd -- resigned his position with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry after his request to continue working while running for public office was denied. Ceoffe says any state employee running for public office has to have "authorization" from the state.
He then appealed the decision, but that, too, was denied. He doesn't think the move was personal, in fact he heard of it happening to other state employees involved in campaigns.
"Once I lost the appeal I was given the option to either resign my position or withdraw from the race," Ceoffe says. "I'm very passionate about this and honestly, I feel like I'm the person best suited for this job and can best help the district with the quality of life issues facing them."
Dan Egan, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of Administration, says Ceoffe, as are all state employees running for public office, filed a request for supplemental employment to run his campaign.
State employees aren't automatically barred from running for office while employed, but they must get authorization. Egan says employees are typically allowed to run for part time political office like school board or township supervisor while working.
But usually, Egan says campaigns for full time positions, like Pittsburgh City Council, require an almost full-time candidacy.
"You can't run a serious campaign in your spare time after work," Egan said Thursday. "It's not practical to think that campaigns for full time positions won't spill into a person's day job."
Because of that, he says, employees running for office like Ceoffe must give up one or the other. Egan says the policy even withstood an employee's legal challenge in 2008.
This past Monday marked his first day as a full-time candidate. Prior to leaving his job Ceoffe -- who is married with a 14-month-old daughter -- was campaigning nightly for three to four hours and roughly another 10 hours or so on the weekend. He says being a full-time campaigner will allow him to spend more time in the community attending more events and speaking with more residents.
Ceoffe says his decision to resign his position is indicative of how he would act as a city councilor. He says public officials deciding to seek another office should always resign their current position to do so. In fact, he says, the current council had a chance to support legislation in recent months from City Councilor Ricky Burgess that would have made that a requirement.
He's also quick to point out that Dowd challenged Mayor Luke Ravenstahl during his first term in office. Although Dowd did tell the Post-Gazette that he had no intention of running for mayor in 2013.
"I have pledged to the people and neighbors of this district that as your councilman I will not run for another seat," Ceoffe says. "If I ever decide to run for another office, I would resign my council seat."
"This seat is way to important to entrust to someone who's not in it for the long term. I think resigning my state job shows how serious and committed I am to becoming the council representative for this district.
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