Progress Pittsburgh: Against the Machine | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Progress Pittsburgh: Against the Machine

 If somebody distilled the disgust and hope that drove hordes of young Democrats to Pittsburgh's voting booths on Nov. 2, and pumped it into the May 17 mayoral primary, what would happen? That's the question posed by Progress Pittsburgh, a new political action committee that hopes to rally young progressives and upend the old order.


If you're saying, "There are enough 'progressive' organizations already," you're probably right. Progress Pittsburgh is a union of those groups and a vehicle to "move money and voters" to specific candidates, says Jason Simmons, the self-described "chief instigator" of the PAC. So far Ground Zero, Everybody VOTE, local chapters of MoveOn and Democracy For America, plus several top volunteers from John Kerry's failed presidential campaign, have signed on. Through their combined e-mail lists, Simmons figures they can probably reach 8,000 to 10,000 people, and he hopes they can eventually forge a bloc of 20,000 local voters.


Though explicitly Democratic, one of Progress Pittsburgh's goals is to challenge the party's "old-boy network," says Simmons. The founder of the Arlington-based video and Web design firm Gradient Labs, Simmons started Progress Pittsburgh because he was "annoyed" at the city's governance. "The government we have is embarrassing, and it's time that we get some smart people in office," he says. "Things are particularly bleak when all they can do in our city is try to manage decline and scrape the city off the bottom of bankruptcy."


Progress Pittsburgh's first target is the mayor's race, in which they may endorse a specific candidate. If the involved groups can influence even a few thousand city voters, they could have an impact on the race, since it may take just 25,000 votes to win in a three- or four-way race. An early favorite for Progress Pittsburgh's nod might be City Councilor Bill Peduto, who is leaning toward a mayoral run. "There are certainly individual positions among the people who are around the table, and some of them are pro-Bill," says Simmons, "but there's no universal consensus yet." 

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