2015 Election | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 11:48 AM

You've no doubt already run into our Primary election guide, but this issue is just a culmination of what we've been working on since January. Below is a roundup of all of our #Election2015 coverage but keep checking back because we'll be covering these races right up until election day.

Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorses candidates for 2015 election

Candidates file petitions for 2015 election in Allegheny County

                                                                 PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT

High Priority: Why your choice for the Pa. Supreme Court may be the most important vote you cast all year

Locals endorse Philly judge for Supreme Court 

                                                                         PITTSBURGH CITY COUNCIL

District 9 City Council candidate Judith Ginyard stands out at forum

Pittsburgh City Council candidate Kaplan holds official campaign launch

Q&A with Pittsburgh City Council District 5 Candidate Kimberly Kaplan

Despite conviction, prison, former Pittsburgh City Councilor Twanda Carlisle wants another shot at public service

Challenger to announce candidacy in District 9 council race 

Randy Zotter announces challenge to Darlene Harris for District 1 City Council seat 

Bobby Wilson to challenge Darlene Harris for District 1 Pittsburgh City Council seat 

                                                                        PITTSBURGH CITY CONTROLLER

Rudiak kicks off controller campaign

                                                                   ALLEGHENY COUNTY CONTROLLER

Chelsa Wagner takes aim at gender pay gap and opponent Mark Flaherty

Flaherty calls out Wagner over fundraiser involving GOP Allegheny County Councilor

GOP County Councilor responds to Flaherty campaign attack over support of Wagner for controller 

                                                                    PITTSBURGH SCHOOL BOARD

School-board candidate Moira Kaleida says district needs more innovation

Pittsburgh Public Schools board candidate Lynda Wrenn commits to closing opportunity gap

School-board candidate Tracy Link identifies budget as top issue

Pittsburgh teachers union endorses school board candidates


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, April 20, 2015

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 8:18 AM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Council candidate Kaplan holds official campaign launch
Photo by Ashley Murray
District 5 candidate Kimberly Kaplan held her official campaign launch party at a pizza shop in her neighborhood of Squirrel Hill.
Pittsburgh City Council District 5 candidate Kimberly Kaplan talked politics over pizza at her official campaign launch this past weekend.

The event drew a small crowd to Pastoli's restaurant in Squirrel Hill, formerly Mandy's Pizza. Though she's drawn recent criticism, her campaign will continue.

"I've always liked the challenger," said Matthew Hughes, 44, Greenfield. "Everybody loves a good story, and she's the underdog."

Friday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed District 5 incumbent Corey O'Connor, calling Kaplan's platform vague and citing O'Connor's experience. In an early-April article on Kaplan's campaign, the P-G cited O'Connor's work on land-bank legislation, the HIV/AIDS commission and the redevelopment at the Almono site in Hazelwood.

"I think we've proven we can get things done," O'Connor said in the article.

However, Kaplan called the endorsement "weak."

"It was frustrating to me," Kaplan says. "They said he inherited good politics and that it is basically lucky that good things are happening in his district. I wish they'd been more specific about my policies and where we differed [in the endorsement]."

Kaplan says she has been specific about her ideas, particularly about how to "streamline" the city's budget and get out from under Act 47.

Despite the criticism, Kaplan and her new campaign manager, Michael Thompson, are planning more events and canvassing. Thompson met Kaplan when she knocked on his door while campaigning.

"It's a very young, very enthusiastic campaign. I'm the oldest person here at 32," Thompson, who is also a Lyft driver, says. "There's a lot of idealism, but it's pragmatic idealism."
click to enlarge Pittsburgh City Council candidate Kaplan holds official campaign launch (2)
Photo by Ashley Murray
District 5 residents and university students attended city council candidate Kimberly Kaplan's campaign kick-off in Squirrel Hill. Sarah Pesi at middle.

Over free pizza, Kaplan explained to those who attended that she's learned the diverse priorities of District 5 residents while door-knocking — that residents in Squirrel Hill express concerns for safe traffic patterns while residents in other District 5 neighborhoods want more public safety and jobs.

"I'm a social-services minor, and I'm really concerned about social issues," said Sarah Pesi, who's studying public policy at Chatham University. She said she attended to learn more about Kaplan's policy ideas."There are big differences between the neighborhoods in [the] district."

Kaplan, a Chatham graduate, told City Paper last month that if elected, she would focus on food and housing security as well as employment issues in the "underserved neighborhoods" in District 5, including Hazelwood, Glen Hazel and Hays. She also spoke about plans for better police-resident relationships, education and transportation.

On transportation, "My big issue is they [the city] are going to blow up the bridge between Greenfield and Oakland," said Hughes, the Greenfield resident. "I'm curious what they're doing to do for the bus routes. I'm hoping she can force them to look at it."

With less than 30 days until the May primary, Kaplan says she'll continue to campaign.

"I hope to be able to knock on every single door in [the] district." 

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, April 17, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Two days after a shooting in Homewood drew a SWAT team to the neighborhood's streets, District 9 Pittsburgh City Council candidate Judith Ginyard drew a standing ovation at an election forum for her criticism of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and police brutality.

"When there's an incident of police violence, we have to stand up and make sure we say, 'We're not behind you police officer,'" Ginyard said. "I don't care if you're an elected official or not. Wrong is wrong and right is right. We don't  have people standing up in our legislative branches."

But at the end of the forum, held April 16, support for Ginyard shifted. During the candidate's closing statement, a woman interrupted from the crowd. Her inaudible remarks eventually drew Ginyard into the audience, where a shouting match ensued and other audience members closed in to physically restrain the two women.

click to enlarge District 9 City Council candidate Judith Ginyard stands out at forum
From left: Andre Young, Judith Ginyard, Twanda Carlisle, Ricky Burgess

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Earlier today, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner gathered a group of women and men for a rally to recognize National Equal Pay Day. The event was created  by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 in an effort to raise awareness about the gap between men's and women's wages.

Chelsa Wagner takes aim at gender pay gap and opponent Mark Flaherty
Photo by Ashley Murray
During her remarks in front of the courthouse, Wagner  highlighted local gender inequity in Allegheny County.

"We have applauded when national figures, like actress Patricia Arquette during her acceptance speech at this year's Academy Awards, called attention to gender wage equity," Wagner said. "But the question remains: What are we doing here in Allegheny County?" 

But Wagner also used the public appearance as an opportunity to demonstrate what she has done for women and to take aim at Mark Patrick Flaherty, her challenger in the upcoming May primary election for county controller.

Wagner says a 2012 audit found that male workers in county government are disproportionately more highly compensated than their female counterparts. She says when she took office she worked to address disparities in the controller's office by promoting women to management positions and making sure entry-level workers were paid fairly. 

Video by Ashley Murray

"We've worked in the controller's office to correct it," Wagner said. "To add insult to injury, my predecessor Mark Flaherty, who's now my opponent, refused to take part in that study that addressed gender equity because ironically he didn't want anyone to look at that data. That's not behavior that's good for government. That's not behavior that's good for women."

Wagner also talked about criticism being lobbed at her for taking a $23,000 cost-of-living increase when she took office in 2012. The cost-of-living increase was approved while her predecessor Flaherty was in office, but he did not take the pay increase.  

For her part, Wagner says she would be be willing to return to a lesser salary, if her male counterparts do so as well.

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, April 10, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 2:46 PM

For District 6 school-board candidate Moira Kaleida, the decision to run in the upcoming May primary election was personal. Kaleida is a Pittsburgh Public Schools graduate and this year was her daughter's first year in the district.

"We have a long time ahead of us," says Kaleida. "I think it's worth investing time and a commitment into it, since we have a long road ahead of us with the school district."

The stay-at-home mom, who was endorsed by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and the Allegheny Democratic Committee, has a degree in secondary social studies and citizenship education from Penn State. She also serves on the board of directors of the International Cesarean Awareness Network and Brew on Broadway, a nonprofit coffee house.

"I think my background in education definitely gives me a leg up as far as understanding things from an inside level, as well as what I know from being a parent," explains Kaleida.

In addition to expanding opportunities for early childhood education and lobbying Harrisburg for a fair funding formula that would ensure moneys for the neediest schools, Kaleida says she'd like to see the district be more innovative.

"I think we need to focus on innovation in our district," Kaleida says. "What ideas do we have to make the district a district of first choice?"

Kaleida says one example of a district misstep was passing on City High Charter School. According to Kaleida, City High, a technology-focused 9-12 in Downtown Pittsburgh, was originally pitched as a public school, but the district turned it down.

"Now, they have one of the best charter programs in the city and that could have been a district school," says Kaleida. "When you miss out on innovative ideas, it hurts your district. You have to have a board that's going to look at all the options."

Conversely, Kaleida points to the board's recent decisions surrounding Woolslair PreK-5 as an example of embracing innovation. The board recently approved a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) curriculum at Woolslair, which was in danger of being closed due to low enrollment. 

"I was not a fan of all the school closures. I don't think you educate more kids by closing schools," Kaleida says. "I think Woolslair was a good example. I think that was a good move on the board's part, keeping it open and providing an innovative new curriculum. That's what we need to be doing all over."

Kaleida will face Samuel Hurst and Tracy Link in the upcoming election. 

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 2:56 PM

District 4 school-board candidate Lynda Wrenn says Pittsburgh Public Schools has an equity problem. If that problem continues, she says, it could hurt more than just the students and families in "bad schools," and damage the district's reputation as a whole. 

"My kids are at Allderdice, and Allderdice is considered a 'good school,' but I know all schools in the district don't have the same advantages that Allderdice does," says Wrenn. "I'd like to take those more challenged schools, see what they need, and make them more desirable for families."

Pittsburgh Public Schools board candidate Lynda Wrenn commits to closing opportunity gap
District 4 school board candidate Lynda Wrenn
This goal was one of the motivations behind her decision to run for election in the upcoming May primary. 

"I've been a longtime Pittsburgh Public Schools parent and I feel all kids deserve a quality education, regardless of whether they're in a 'good school' or not," says Wrenn. "I think all the schools should be good for the kids of our city." 

The mother of four holds a master's degree in education from Chatham University, and has served on the district's gifted-education task force and the task force for the Summer Dreamer Academy.

"I do have an educational background which helps when you're trying to make decisions about curriculum or the best way children learn and where to put resources," says Wrenn. "I have the perspective of actually being in the schools and seeing what the challenges are."

She did her student teaching at Springhill Elementary in the North Side and later went on to do work with several district middle schools for a research study on childhood obesity. She also volunteered in kindergarten classrooms.

"As someone who's been involved in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for so long, I've seen a lot of things come and go. I've seen a lot of changes over 15 years. I think that gives me a lot of perspective."

Wrenn says one component of closing the opportunity gap between students is setting the bar higher. During her time on the gifted task force, she worked to give more students who were not in the gifted program the opportunity to take higher-level classes. 

"At Brashear, the number of children taking [advance placement] courses over the past five years has increased four-fold," Wrenn says. "When you challenge kids and they rise to the occasion, it builds their self-confidence and it does help them believe they can achieve."

According to Wrenn, closing the gap, especially as it relates to college attainment, also involves helping students with parents who did not go to college. She says she'd advocate for more resources for guidance counselors and social workers in schools.

"I think a lot of times when I talk to kids, they don't see college as an option," Wrenn says. "Their parents haven't been through the process before and it's hard for kids to navigate."

In order to bring more resources to the district, Wrenn says she would advocate for a fair-funding formula to ensure "schools that need more are getting more."

Wrenn is running for the seat of board veteran William Isler who is not seeking reelection. She received the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement over her opponent Kirk Burkley. Schools in the district include Allderdice, Colfax K-8 and Linden K-5. 

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 3:56 PM

Q&A with Pittsburgh City Council District 5 Candidate Kimberly Kaplan
Photo courtesy of Team Kaplan
Kimberly Kaplan, of Squirrel Hill, will challenge incumbent Corey O'Connor in Pittsburgh's City Council District 5 Democratic Primary. The Israeli-born, Pittsburgh-raised (specifically, raised in Greenfield and Sharpsburg) Chatham graduate traveled for a brief time after her completing her undergrad work to get a closer look at politics around the world, including trips to South Korea and Israel. Kaplan returned to Pittsburgh to pursue a graduate degree in International Relations and Conflict Resolution from the American Public University online program. She says she chose the university system because she liked its mission — educating returning vets — and she wanted to put her money there, even though she's doesn't fit that category. She says she became more involved in local politics in Squirrel Hill and other activism surrounding the Clean Water Act and pollution. With three classes left to finish, and a planned graduation date in November, she's campaigning nonetheless and wants to enact changes "that reflect what the neighborhoods [in District 5] need." Kaplan spoke to CP on Tuesday afternoon:

What made you want to run for Pittsburgh City Council?
It was a combination of things. I knew from a young age that I wanted to do something big for the community. At age 10, I thought I could do that through writing. I was inspired by the civil-rights movement. But, because I was good in math and science, my parents encouraged me to focus on that for college. I got my undergrad at Chatham in mathematics, mostly concentrating on physics. But, at Chatham, a lot of the core classes were geared toward a global focus and political issues. My senior year, I took a class on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that hit close to home for me. ... [After traveling abroad] and around the U.S. in 2012, I returned to Pittsburgh because I missed it and started my graduate degree. ... I started getting involved in my local politics in Squirrel Hill. I got interested in seeing what my city-council member was doing, and I personally felt like it wasn't enough. ... So I decided to play around with the idea of running. And after attending Ready to Run [events] at Chatham, [I] decided to run.

One of my main goals for running is, ultimately, I would like to make some changes that would reflect what the neighborhoods need. Whether I win or lose, at least those issues will be brought to public light, and whoever wins, they’ll have to address them. Although ideally I’d like it to be me.

I noticed your campaign team is very young and may not have worked on campaigns before. Is that by design?
Not only do I want the policies that I’m bringing to the table to be inclusive of residents, but I want the actual political campaign to make a statement. The No. 1 focus of my campaign is to inform the public and encourage active participation in the political process, and the same goes for the statement I’m making with my team. From what I’ve gathered as I’ve become more involved in Pittsburgh politics ... there is a strong wait-your-turn system in place. And I don’t agree with it, which is why I’m bringing new people on my team who deserve a chance to show what they’re capable of.

What are the issues that reflect what the neighborhoods need?
I noticed that city council used to not be districted, and they changed that so that neighborhoods would be represented. But city-council members get very territorial and focus just on their areas rather than the whole city, and I don't think that's a very constructive way to run a city. My policies are separated into two sections, citywide and District 5 neighborhoods.

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, March 13, 2015

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 at 1:47 PM

As a parent volunteer, Mount Washington resident Tracy Link has helped implement a number of education and social programs at the schools her children attend.

At South Hills Middle School, she helped run a character-building program that was reinforced by local businesses and saw students engaging with their neighbors at local senior centers.

At Brashear, she helped create a program that paired 11th-graders with incoming eighth-graders. The eighth-graders shadowed the upperclassmen throughout the school year in order to prepare for high school. 

"I've been involved in the district as an active volunteer for years," says Link. "I believe in education. I believe it's important."

Now the mother of four hopes to use that experience on the school board. Link is running for the District 6 school-board seat in the May primary election.

"It was brought up to me in the past to run for school board," says Link. "Now that my children are all older and I have more time, I thought it was the right time."

Link says she was approached about running by current District 6 representative Sherry Hazuda, a board veteran who isn't seeking re-election.  

Among the issues currently facing Pittsburgh Public Schools, Link says the most important is the budget. For more than five years, the district has warned of a looming budget deficit and taken steps to avoid it. But Link says the steps the district has taken have reduced resources for students and teachers.

"We need to come up with other ways to generate income, because we're going to have a huge shortfall," says Link. "There are a lot of resources students need and there's a cost to those resources."

One of Link's suggestions is to solicit Allegheny County businesses with a net worth of $100 million or more to contribute a percentage of their income to the district. In exchange, they would receive a tax credit.

"We want people to view Pittsburgh as their first choice. Making sure we can provide students with a range of resources will lead to that," explains Link. "There's also probably other line items in the budget we can look at to cut costs."

But one solution to the district's financial difficulties Link says she won't consider is raising real-estate taxes.

"This governing body of the school board can raise taxes," says Link. "I think voters should consider that when they vote." 

Link will face Samuel Hurst and Moira Kaleida in the District 6 race.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 10:54 AM

click to enlarge Rudiak kicks off controller campaign
Photo by Alex Zimmerman
Natalia Rudiak at the Polish Falcons Nest
In a linoleum-tiled room nestled behind a smokey bar at the Polish Falcons Nest #8 in South Side last night, City Councilor Natalia Rudiak kicked off her campaign for city controller and made a stab at defining her candidacy.

She'll be squaring off against against seven-year incumbent Michael Lamb, who she tried to define as a product of an old political machine that wouldn't be capable of the data-driven innovation she's championed on city council.

"I’m running for city controller because it is time to lift up our vision for a new Pittsburgh," Rudiak said in front of a crowd of about 50. "And I don’t believe that the vision … will ever be realized without a new controller. We cannot have 21st century executive and legislative bodies with 20th century oversight.”

She touted her role in "guid[ing] a five-year Act 47 plan," her "Open Data" bill that "made all city data public and open by default," and status as chair of council's Finance and Law Committee.

But Rudiak also took direct aim at Lamb: "Less than two years ago, our city was rocked by scandal. Our police chief went to jail, our mayor was under grand jury investigation for possible fiscal related misconduct and our controller said there was nothing he could have done to stop it.”

Rudiak's got the backing of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (who was in attendance) and Mayor Bill Peduto (according to Rudiak), whose political infrastructure she's trying to capitalize on by billing herself as an extension of Peduto's "new" Pittsburgh. Rudiak acknowledges it's tricky to get people excited about financial oversight, part of the reason she's hoping to make the election about a larger political agenda. "It's hard to make this stuff sexy," she says.

But she's vowing to try: Taking a page out of Peduto's political playbook, each week of her campaign will feature a new policy proposal or reform.

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 6:43 PM

Today was the deadline for filing petitions for the 2015 primary election in May. While many candidates had already announced their campaigns, there were some surprises at the Allegheny County Election Division.

Among them was veteran school board member Mark Brentley who filed petitions to run for Pittsburgh City Council District 1. Brentley previously ran for city council in 2009 and lost. This election, he will face incumbent Darlene Harris, along with Randy Zotter, Bobby Wilson and David Schuilenberg. Earlier this year, Brentley announced he would not be running to retain his seat on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors.

"I'll be leaving the board in November," says Brentley. "In city council, I would continue my work to change the landscape of the city by advocating for jobs and resources for African Americans in Pittsburgh."

Another highly contested race in city council will be for District 9 where incumbent Rev. Ricky Burgess faces Judith Ginyard, Andre Young and former District 9 Councilor Twanda Carlisle. 

"We have a nice message, and I think our chances are very good," Young said after filing. "The field's a little crowded, but even though it's crowded, I think voters will still be able to hear my voice."

In 2007 Carlisle resigned from council after pleading no contest to charges of corruption and ethics violations. She was convicted of public corruption in 2008 and sentenced to one to two years in prison. As a result some have questioned whether she can legally hold public office.

"I'm going to let the attorneys do the work they need to do and hopefully it will work out in my favor," she said today after filing her petitions.

Unofficial Candidate List for the Municipal Primary:

Allegheny County Controller

Chelsa Wagner
Mark Patrick Flaherty

City of Pittsburgh Controller

Michael Lamb
Natalia Rudiak

City of Pittsburgh Council - District 5

Corey O'Connor
Kimberly Kaplan

City of Pittsburgh Council - District 7

Deb Gross
Latasha Mayes

Tags: , , ,