County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty and former Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald have been fighting over which candidate is more in bed with the industry. They've sniped about plans to divvy up gas-drilling royalties, and Flaherty has embarrassed Fitzgerald by circulating an e-mail Fitzgerald sent earlier this year, begging the gas industry for campaign contributions.
No surprise, then, that as we first reported early this month, anti-drilling environmentalists see little difference bewteen the two Democrats.
That's where Dana Dolney comes in.
In recent days, anti-drilling activists have been seeking to conduct a write-in effort to put one of their own on the ballot. And thanks largely to an internet video gone viral, Dolney is their pick.
"This has literally all happened in the past week," Dolney said by phone this morning. "A lot of people didn't even know my name, but they knew me from this viral video of me telling of an official at a public hearing and said, 'We want her for county executive.'"
In the video -- which has received more than 18,000 hits -- a spokesman for Lieutenant Gov. Jim Cawley tries to explain why several protesters who had signed up to speak at a gathering were not permitted to do so. Dolney calmly challenges the spokesman, Chad Saylor, even as he mocks her for thinking "everything is a conspiracy."
Dolney says that within the past week, people started asking her if they could write her name in.
"The mud-slinging had just gotten way out of control," she says. "We need to make a statement that neither of these two people is a viable option.
"Our goal here is to show that there's another side to this conversation. It's not just about development and how to manage the golden goose of Marcellus Shale. I believe both of these individuals would be manipulated by the industry instead of looking out for the public's health and safety."
Dolney, a 38-year-old waitress "proudly" from Polish Hill, says she spends about 30 hours or more a week as a community organizer, activist and protester in the fight against natural-gas drilling.
Nor was her encounter with Sailor the first time she's squared off with public officials. Dolney, who is working toward forming a "league of activist women," says she's spent quite a bit of time confronting political leaders.
"I was there protesting the governor on his very first day in office," says Dolney. "Before he even took office, he said on his first day he would reverse the ban on [drilling in state forests]. If he wants to make that statement, then it's my right to tell you that that's not OK.
"We expect our elected officials to put our health and safety first, but they're only concerned about the bottom line and filling budget shortfalls. If we don't confront these people face-to-face on this then we are complicit in their bad decisions."
Although it's late in the game -- the primary is tomorrow, after all -- Dolney is hoping an online grassroots campaign can get the word out quick enough to post a significant number of votes. While her chances of victory seem non-existent, she says a couple of thousand write-in votes would send a powerful message to public officials.
In a campaign announcement she is currently drafting, Dolney writes the following:
Left with no choice between the two, as I myself can vote for neither, I will gladly take on the responsibility of getting the word out to the masses that we the people deserve better, and we will not vote for someone who only does the bidding of industry or only works for promotion of themselves.
Vote for me, this Tuesday as your write in County Executive vote, and I swear that I will put people and the good of people and the good of this beautiful state we still live in, first and foremost in my every deed.
I love Mel Packer!