If you read a recent Roddey campaign fund-raising letter, you might not be sure. Roddey, the Republican Allegheny County executive, signed a May 13 letter asking recipients to donate anywhere from $35 to "$1,000 or more, in the enclosed envelope, so I can continue the progress we've started."
Clear enough. But who's the alternative?
"[Pittsburgh Controller] Tom Flaherty, [County Controller] Dan Onorato and their cronies in the old Democrat [sic] machine," the letter warns, "will take us back to the dark days of bloated budgets, mishandled appropriations and hiring based on political friends not merit." Later, the four-page epistle promises that your check "will send a message to the [sic] Tom Flaherty, Dan Onorato and the old-line Democrat [sic] machine that my support has the support [sic] of the people and we will not go back to the past."
Roddey's Democratic challenger is Onorato, whereas Flaherty is the chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. So why does Flaherty get first billing in Roddey's attacks?
"The reality of the situation is that Dan Onorato is presenting himself as a fresh face, when he's actually fronting for the same old crowd," says Roddey campaign manager Kent Gates. That crowd includes Flaherty and free-spending elected row officers like Democratic Sheriff Pete DeFazio, says Gates. "When voters are looking to who's going to bring [row office] reform," asks Gates, "is it the leadership of Dan Onorato and Tom Flaherty, or is it Jim Roddey, who has been fighting on the issue?"
Not surprisingly, the Democrats don't buy that explanation. "I guess he would rather run against me than Dan. & Apparently, he can't hit Dan on much," says Flaherty.
And what about those grammatical errors in the Roddey letter? Does the Roddey campaign, which expects to spend $3 million, lack the money for a proofreader? The letter "wasn't written for English teachers," says Gates. "This is a very effective letter," he adds, saying the checks are rolling in.
Flaherty says he's pleased with the missive, too. "Hell," says the notorious publicity hound, "if he wants to get my name out there, that's great."