OK, now THAT was one weird-ass election. Not that anyone was paying attention: In Allegheny County, turnout was below 20 percent, according to unofficial numbers form the county's elections department.
But here in Pittsburgh, some political pillars were toppled. Raja, a political newcomer who ran a failed bid for Allegheny County Executive last year, beat out an established Republican, Mark Mustio, in a state Senate race. Jason Altmire, forced by redistricting into a battle with fellow Dem Mark Critz, also lost -- despite having been a good football player at one point!
But in Pittsburgh, the most important races were two state rep contests won by a younger generation of political progressives. Challenger Ed Gainey steamrolled Joe Preston, who almost qualified for legislator-for-life status in state House District 24. In House District 22, meanwhile, Erin Molchany trounced Martin Schmotzer, the endorsed Democrat. In doing so, she also bested another political pillar: Pete Wagner, the brother of former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, and the chair of the city's sprawling, vote-rich 19th ward.
And these races weren't squeakers, either. Gainey, who chairs the city Democratic committee, won by a 65-35 margin. Molchany beat Schmotzer 51-38. (A third candidate, Shawn Lunny, was deemed ineligible by the state Supreme Court, but his name remained on the ballot and got most of the other votes.)
Arguably, though, the biggest winners last night were Matt Merriman-Preston -- who managed both the Gainey and Molchany campaigns -- and the politician for whom Merriman-Preston acts as field marshal: city councilor Bill Peduto. Last night's results showed that voters across the city are ready for new faces and a progressive message -- the same message Peduto will no doubt campaign on during his likely run against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl next year. The outcomes also suggested that the old guard's grip on power is increasingly arthritic.