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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shields takes on 14th ward, and other election-night miscellany

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 1:22 AM

This'll be our last Election Night update -- see previous live-blogging coverage here -- and we start with a dispatch from Chris Young, who has been watching the action in Squirrel Hill. 

Young reports that Doug Shields exited the district justice race in the same way he has conducted so much of his political life: with a long speech. 

Shields addressed his supporters in a 20-minute-long concession speech. Most of it was delivered in good spirits, with Shields praising family and campaign staffers. But Shields then launched into a critique of voters in the city's 14th ward, one of the city's most affluent and politically engaged. While he declined to "blame" the ward for his loss to Hugh McGough, Shields told his supporters, "There is a clear bias here."

14th ward voters had, he said, never supported Bob O'Connor -- Shields' former boss -- because of concerns O'Connor "wasn't smart enough." Shields said the 14th Ward had treated him with the same condescension, not backing Shields because he was not a lawyer.

I haven't seen ward-by-ward totals, so I don't know if Shields is right about 14th Ward being his Waterloo. Even if he is -- taking on voters in the progressive heartland? If that's not the sign of a guy who is tired of politics, I don't know what is. 

But even as Shields prepares to leave public life, at least for a time, a new star was born. Dana Dolney, who became an 11th-hour write-in candidate for environmentalists weary of the two Dems running for county executive, was on-hand at the Shields event. And not surprisingly -- given that the Shields crowd included many activists who oppose natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale -- Dolney was a bright spot in an otherwise somber room. 

As we noted earlier tonight, more than 1,100 write-in votes were cast in the Democratic county exec fight. It will take some time to see how many of those ballots have Dolney's name on them. But she said she was "stunned" by the groundwell of support for her ad hoc effort.  

Two other quick factoids before I head off to bed:

First, fans of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman take note: According to preliminary results, Fetterman's nemesis on the Braddock borough council, Jesse Brown, has been ousted from his position  in Ward 3.

Second, an astute observer pointed out some statistics that led to this somewhat surprising conclusion: In Pittsburgh city council races this year, the number of votes cast was inversely proportional to the number of candidates on the ballot. In other words, the more people running, the fewer people voting. To wit:

District 5 had the most votes cast -- 5,455 -- and district 7 had the second-highest number. 4,752. Both those races had only two candidates in the running.

District 9 had three candidates in the running, and finished third in overall turnout, with 4,015. 

District 1 and district 3 both had four candidates -- and turnout was a mere 3,637 and 3,106 votes. (Note that county numbers still don't include tallies from one precinct -- but including that precint shouldn't change the overall standing.)

I don't want to read too much into this -- District 5 includes the aforementioned 14th ward, so it tends to have a higher turnout regardless. Especially if you have book-larnin'. Still, it's weird: In situations like Dolney's insurgent campaign, we tend to assume that voters want more choices, not fewer. Could it be that somehow, the more energized the politicians are about a race, the more turned off are the voters themselves? 

In Pittsburgh, actually, that sounds just about right. 

More thoughts and analysis tomorrow morning. 

 

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