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Jonathan Potts

Let me add one thought here. DeSantis is arguably the first serious Republican candidate for mayor in, what, a generation? Maybe that's an exaggeration--I've only lived in Pittsburgh/Allegheny County for 11 years. This is a chicken-or-the-egg kind of question, but why doesn't the state and/or county GOP do more party-building in the city? Are the sheer numbers always going to conspire against them, or is there a chance for a long-term return on their investment if they actually took the time to build a decent party in the city?


"My question is, what do voters fear with regard to a Republican mayor?"

I think I figure this out awhile ago after numerous conversations with my now deceased grandparents - very Catholic, very proper, very (for lack of a better term) conservative people who when pressed on specific issues always found tended to favor the Republican position. When I asked them if they recognized that (and they did) and why they continued to vote a straight Democrat ticket and against their own personal beliefs the response was always the same "Democrats are for working people, Republicans are for the rich and we came from a family of working people."

Democrats over the decades have been very successful at crafting that image to the point that even if you point out to them that working people in Pittsburgh have suffered most under their policies that kill jobs, destroyed the schools and wrecked the city's finances their eyes glaze over and they simply tune out. You can look at every major rust belt city that Democrats have held power in see swathes of destruction that resulted from ill-considered public housing projects, absurdly naive education initiatives, dependency creating social programs etc the results make no difference... If Luke Ravensthal, Dan Onorato and James Burn step up to the mic and say they're looking out for the little guy, even as they're taking more and more of his money and directing it to the Piatts, Burkel and Stabile, it reinforces what they were raised to believe and that's all they need to feel good about voting the way they do.

It is a very generational matter and the graying of the city's population fuels the problem; as young working families and educated working people leave the area in search of work a larger percentage of the voting populace is comprised of the over 55 set who can't be convinced of anything other than "Democrats are for working people, Republicans are for the rich." And here's the root of the problem... the people at the top of the machine's hierarchy know this better than anyone and despite any protestations to contrary that is why they seek to keep things just as the are and avoid any reform that might bring private investment and revitalize the job market. They are quite pleased to see the city population shrink because as it does it is the younger, educated families (those least likely to vote along party lines) are leaving and those who remain behind are the elderly and the dependent classes ie those most likely to keep voting for them.

As long as the state (and county) keeps handing over more and more money to gloss over the problems and allows the city to maintain the status quo, nothing changes - not ever. If for instance PAT can fill it's budget deficit with money the state's going to take in tolls from I-80, there is no need for them to evaluate the routes, as they've been told time and time again to do, and concern themselves with whether the system meets the needs of the county they're supposed to be serving. If ALCOSAN can levy a 10% rate increase on it's customers and get more state money without ever having to account for the tens of millions they collected previously for the purpose of upgrading systems, that were instead redirected to stadium projects what's their motivation to ever spend money they collect in the future for the projects it's suppose to be intended for?

After 30 years I'm more convinced than ever that change will not come until the city finally goes over the cliff into bankruptcy and residents suffer severe and prolonged hardship or the state pulls the plug on the whole mess and forces the change. Sometimes it gets to a point that a thing is so badly broken it CAN'T be fixed and City of Pittsburgh government is one of them IMO.


Having all these media folks predict a landslide victory Ravenstahl reminds me of watching ESPN and football pregame analysts. These so called "gurus" never go out on a limb. How many of them picked Arizona to beat the Steelers a few weeks back ? Zero. Thats because it was an upset victory.

Jon Delano wasn't in Beechview, Brookline, Mt Washington, etc when we have been out there campaigning for DeSantis. And I doubt he is driving around East Liberty and Highland Park to talk to folks about DeSantis. I have done that as well so I think I know the public sentiment better than he does.

Justin Kownacki

I agree with Paul's comment above. I also submit that Democrats are fearful of voting for a Republican because it might appear to be dipping the city's political toe into waters we dare not tread.

If we have a Republican mayor, that increases the support for a potential Republican governor, or Senator, etc. Whether or not that's actually the case is beside the point; in the minds of the people, it's better to vote for ineffectual devils they know than worst-case-scenario devils they don't.

How to counteract that? DeSantis (etc.) need to create a vision of positive alternatives, rather than only pointing out the negatives about the existing power structure. People won't vote AGAINST tradition simply for the sake of imprecise change -- and if anyone knows that it's Republicans, who've built their base around that POV. Instead, people need to be convinced that the change they'd be voting for is actually beneficial to them, and that's done by more than just laying out black and white facts; it requires a passion and confidence and personality that people can believe will lead them someplace desirable.

Is DeSantis that personality? I'm not so sure... but he seems to have the facts portion down...

Jonathan Potts

Well, we've had numerous Republican governors. I'm not sure how well they've done in the city. We've also had -- and have -- Republican senators.

I think the Republican Party needs to ask itself whether it really wants to elect Republican mayors and council members in the city. The local GOP has not given people much of an incentive to vote for a Republican candidate because none of them have been very strong.

Bram R

An extremely frustrating friend of mine offered his own explanation to me today.

If we had a Republican mayor, you see, even if he was a good guy, it would be allowing the EVIL Republicans a lot of covert influence on city and state politics.

More importantly, perhaps, a Republican mayor would invite the 2008 GOP nominee the stage on Market Square every week, which would tip the balance in Pennsylvania to the Republicans, which would tip the Electoral College to the Republicans, which would lead to World War III. He said this in all sincerity.


Anecdotal info, for what it's worth: I've talked with some old people around town and they are by no means big supporters of Ravenstahl (afterall, they're the only ones in town who still read the actual newsprint papers, and they've read all about his antics).

There is still some "give the kid a chance," attitude out there, but not much. It's more, "If we elect DeSantis (who seems like a nice enough guy), will he be able to actually govern with all the Democrats on City Council?" Old people aren't stupid.

So the question for them is, "Is he independent enough?" They want somebody to be independent of ALL the party politics that they see as getting in the way of the work that needs to be done.

The DeSantis campaign literature gets at these "independence" issues somewhat, and you can bet the old people are at least reading it. Is it sticking? I'm not sure. If DeSantis came out and declared his independence (or promised to do so), it would move some older folks off the fence (not to mention younger progressive Dems).

Here's a challenge to the Burgosphere -- get out and talk with older people and report back what you're hearing. They don't bite.

Jonathan Potts


I wonder if your friend is aware that Tom Murphy all but endorsed Tom Ridge, our former Republican governor, during Ridge's re-election campaign in 1998. Or that George W. Bush's first stop after the GOP convention in 2000 was Pittsburgh, one of several visits he made to the city during that campaign. Nothing will stop a presidential candidate from coming here if he/she wants to. Two consecutive GOP mayors in New York have not turned that state red.

Now, if you will excuse me, my head is bleeding from banging it on this brick wall.


"If the chattering class isn't full of idiots, is the wider electorate?"

At the risk of sounding too harsh, I'm going to have to say yes, the wider electorate *is* full of idiots. When will people in this city, and across the country too, realize that registering with one political party does not bind you to voting for people of that party for the rest of your life? Nor does it remove your ability to think critically or evaluate things.

Sure, you registered with one party because overall you agree with the ideals and beliefs of that party. However when it comes time for elections, people should look at where *all* the candidates stand on important issues, and make a critical evaluation based on those issues. Just because Ravensthal has a (D) next to his name and so do you, doesn't mean he is the best candidate to run this city, to help grow it, change our economic status, etc. His actions continue to point to the contrary.

When Pittsburghers go out to vote in November, before they mindlessly pull the lever associated with that letter D, maybe they should think about which party has been running the city since 1933 and whether Pittsburgh has been improving during that time, or rapidly declining.

Jonathan Potts

But let's not let the local GOP off the hook. I haven't seen any evidence the party has done anything to try to build support in the city. Trotting out a sacrificial lamb every four years, and running a candidate here and there in a token council district, isn't enough.

Mark Rauterkus

I was a Free-Market Republican Mayor candidate in 2001. I worked for a few years on the city committee. I bailed when the suburban Rs would NEVER work with the city's urban opposition party. NEVER return calls.

The death of the city "R" efforts -- opposition efforts -- IMHO, -- is due, in large part to suburban Rs, media -- including the Trib, J.Delano, hopeless PG endorsements (as today presents another vivid example -- picking Darlene Harris), the city-county feud of epic proportions, and Jim Roddey.

Within the ranks of the Rs, there are 'corporate welfare republicans.' Those are Jim Roddey, Tom Ridge, and Else types, of course GWB. Big gov Rs are okay with a dying city -- as there will be big redevelopment deals yet to come.

I can't really defend the city Rs -- as the Libertarians have more on the ballot than them. But, it is hard being a third party when the second party is broken.

But, most of all, it takes T E A M W O R K.

That (teamwork knock) is going to be the fatal flaw to an otherwise splendid campaign from DeSantis.

Mark Rauterkus

Perhaps I wasn't clear above, upon re-reading.

The city-county feud mentioned isn't between voters / citizens. Rather I was talking about the Bob Glancy vs. Bob Hillen feud. That was an internal R battle that put the Rs back to the stone age.

Ed Heath

Well, there is a reason why I call my blog Cognitive Dissonance (considering I like to look at politics). People rationalize their closely held but seldom considered beliefs, attributing all sorts of evil motives to the "enemy", even one as seldom seen as a republican in Pittsburgh. In this case I think Paul is on to something, but I think I will take it a little further. To the extent that some of the elderly in the 'burgh are former union men or union wives, they may have been involved in strikes in their lives, possibly bitter ones, and have a deep seated mistrust of “management”. I am stereotyping a bit here, but I suspect some of this could still be true. To the extent management lived in Fox Chapel, Mount Lebanon, Sewickley or Upper Saint Clair, they could probably be identified as republicans. I guess the city has had its share of battles with its unions over the years, but the national democrats fought for tariff protections and anti-dumping laws for steel over the years. So the proto-typical old ‘burgher may feel he has a reason to vote straight line democrat.
This is to say nothing of the African-American vote, which is a big block in Pittsburgh. DeSantis did himself no favor by calling for Ravenstahl to get rid of Nate Harper, even though personally I agree Harper should go.
I guess the research says that most people choose a party and stay with it all their lives, although that never explained to me “Reagan Democrats” or “Clinton Republicans”. I take heart that a lot of thinking people will vote for Desantis, and he should make a good showing.


An Older Pittsburgh Voter Profile (Male):

This Old Reagan Democrat has morphed into an "Anti-Clinton Republican/Independent." He doesn't trust government at all. These last 7 years of BushCo-induced terra mania haven't helped matters in terms of introducing any sense of progressive rationality into his thinking. His old bones are scared to death of Hillary (in a really nutty way that's related to his generation coming of age when men and women had their places in the world).

He was against pretty much anything we would call "progressive" and he still really doesn't trust blacks. He's not a mean guy, he's just trying to get by. He's never really had a choice other than a Democrat for Mayor, but he usually votes Republican in national elections. He voted for Santorum because he was Italian, and he will probably vote for DeSantis for that reason too. Sure, why not.


"I think the Republican Party needs to ask itself whether it really wants to elect Republican mayors and council members in the city."

Part of the problem is the false assumption that there is a Republican Party in the city of Pittsburgh asking these questions.

Some here may not be old enough to remember the events, ones I've mentioned before, but Elsie Hillman and Theresa Heinz(Kerry) pretty much dismantled the local Republican Party structure brick by brick from the inside out after they had some success at the county level.

To the extent the opposition exists anymore it's pretty much become a repository of Democrats who couldn't get their preferred seat at the table and switched over for the sake of political expediency. Many of the "leaders" have divided loyalties when it comes to making choices that would help in creating an effective multi-party system.


"When Pittsburghers go out to vote in November, before they mindlessly pull the lever associated with that letter D, maybe they should think about which party has been running the city since 1933 and whether Pittsburgh has been improving during that time, or rapidly declining."

Well now see this is where things tend to get sticky. Using most objective measures one would think that the answer to the "are you better off now than you were 74 years ago" is pretty clear. If you're a recent college graduate trying to find a job or new small business owner, pretty clear as well with a few exceptions.

If however you or your spouse work for the city, as a very large number of the city's 320,000 residents do, well then the answer is a bit fuzzier. If you're a fire-fighter, cop or EMS worker you are making a well above the national average salary and just got a nice fat contract from Tom Murphy. If you're city teacher a few of the new whipper-snappers who were just making you look bad might have lost their jobs but you're still making damn good money, getting raise, retirement after 20 years and teaching fewer and fewer kids every year. If you work in any department in the city with a few years under your belt you're not working to hard, making solid money and probably have enough juice with the councilperson who got you your job in exchange for campaign work and contribution that you can expect to make the same arrangement to get a city job for your kid or another relative. If you're one of the "elites" who was recently able to a new suburbanish type house at Summerset in Frick Park or a similar location because of huge tax subsidizes used to develop and build them... ehhh well then maybe you're not so disenchanted with the way things are going in the city.

The point is one party machines are corrupt, they are anti-democratic, they are bad for growth and malevolent in a bunch of other ways but what they are not is stupid and unaware of what kind of grease it takes to keep the gears clicking along.

Just a few simple math equations on the numbers of people who've remained behind in the city at it's pretty shocking how many families in the city are dependent on the machine for their livelihoods ... those are the people you have to convince to think differently.


"But let's not let the local GOP off the hook."

You're absolutely right that you've seen no evidence of their efforts because as I stated previously; there is no such animal as a local GOP. It doesn't exist in any meaningful way.

Nearly every name you can associate from Jim Roddey to Linda Dickerson were Democrats who switched parties when their political careers couldn't gain traction. Some Like Barbara Hafer and Larry Dunn switched back as soon as their careers hit brick walls.

I really wish now I'd saved some of those news stories with the open letters from the State Republican Party to the local "leaders" back when they locals were systematically putting it out of commission.


What DeSantis really needs are a few high-profile endorsements, especially ones coming from traditionally democrat-supporting institutions. If the Post-Gazette or some of the local unions, for example, endorsed him, I think people would really take him seriously. It might be just what he needs to get over the automatic democrat vote tendency.


Actual conversation with 80-something "Freda" (who for all we know may be ILuvLuke's Jewish cousin by marriage):

FREDA: "...endorsing DeSantis for Mayor."

Q: "What's that?"

FREDA: "...I just heard."

Q: "What's that?"

FREDA: "...F.O.P. Fraternal Order of Police."

Q: "Yes"

FREDA: "...are endorsing...DeSantis for Mayor."

Q: "Wow"

FREDA: "....isn't that a wow...doesn't that tell you something...very interesting"

Q: "What are you going to do?"

FREDA: "I haven't....I have to think it over very carefully now....I have a couple more weeks, I have to very...have to make a very careful decision...I'm always very careful about my vote...it's Important...I never skipped...


While many Catholics might lean conversative due to issues like abortion (or be very conservative due to those issues) There is a tradition of Catholic Democrats due to the church's teachings on helping the poor, and social justice etc. so stating that all Pittsburghers are Democrats because of unions is simplistic and inaccurate. This is directed at any particular comment, but that train of thought always comes up about Pittsburgh/unions/Democrats.


"There is a tradition of Catholic Democrats due to the church's teachings on helping the poor, and social justice etc."

It would be more accurate to say that the tradition of Catholic Democrats is due to the average Catholic MISunderstanding of the Church's teachings on social justice. Unfortunately like any large institution there are members who've purposely misled people who look to them for guidance and perpetuated the idea that socialism and socialism are the same thing ... when in fact the church has explicitly stated many times and again going back many decades that socialism and Catholicism are incompatible belief systems.

You will often Catholics point Social Security as an example of Catholic social justice teaching in action when in reality it is a system that violates numerous church teachings.


Uh yes the catch all of the boogeyman "socialism." Misunderstandings indeed. It is unfortunate that some take this warped right wing ideal into Christianity in general and Catholicism specifically. The church (and Jesus for that matter) is very clear on its stance towards those of us who have the least.


"The church (and Jesus for that matter) is very clear on its stance towards those of us who have the least."

Yup and as a follower of Christ it is YOUR personal responsibility to help the people with the least not simply elect people who promise to do it for you during a campaign and then act in the opposite manner once elected. It's one thing to say you care about the poor and social justice it's another entirely to act as if you do.

The church is and always has been equally clear in its stance on using immoral means and methods in pursuit of good ends, its position that a basic right of every human being is to benefit from the product of their labor and nobody should be subjected to coercion, force or threats by governments in pursuit of secular view of what constitutes social justice. That is why they've categorically dismissed Liberation Theology, Socialism, Communism and other leftist inspired definitions of social justice.

I'd say to any Catholic who votes for Democrats because they think the party's policies are in line with the church's teachings on social justice to take a minute and look closely at any of the cities where Democrats have held power for decades and ask if those are the results thought they'd be getting for their votes?
Voting for a party that claims to be concerned about the poor but has with its policies and programs created multiple generations of broken families, illegitimacy, abortions, illiteracy, government dependency, government constructed ghettos rife with violence centered around substance abuse and government schemes that levy taxes on the working poor in order to send monthly checks to the some of our wealthiest citizens in exchange for votes while at the same time placing the nation's entire economic foundation at risk isn't helping anyone least of all the poor.

Any Catholic should be able to set the Democratic Party's claims of concern for the poor up against their actions and results of the past seventy years and see that the party does not share the church's vision of what constitutes social justice. One really shouldn't have to look any further than the past seventy years of Pittsburgh's history to see how wide the gulf is between the Democrat's alleged concern for those with the least and their policies that favor the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.

But what do I know? I know on judgment day when I'm asked what I did for the least amongst us I'll have a better answer than; I voted for people who used force to take money from people who earned it to build stadiums, pay union teachers to turn out at the polls after they've spent the day teaching kids to hate all things of faith, embrace secularism and hedonism and sought to devalue fathers, destroy the role of families and replace them with a government check and bureaucracy in order to accumulate more and more power for themselves.


It is interesting (and telling) that you have this built in scripted argument that was waiting to happen - it's as if it was relevant to a general point I was making about WHY people vote. Unfortunately it wasn't so you can keep typing as I don't really care about your irrelevant rantings. I did catch this one though:

"I know on judgment day when I'm asked what I did for the least amongst us I'll have a better answer than; I voted for people..."

This alone is a great example of the irrelevant points you make and additionally, voting your values doesn't mean that one's vote is the be all of your values and removes YOUR responsiblity.

Party machine politics is party machine politics. Liberal ideals are hardly alive and well in the DINO Pittsburgh machine.

Just look at the W wannabe frat boy in charge now.


You're the one who raised the issue of a "tradition of Catholic Democrats due to the church's teachings on helping the poor, and social justice etc."

I merely point out that Catholics who vote this way are very often voting against the church's teachings because they are ignorant of what the teachings really hold. They do it because the political left and Democrat Party in particular has been very successful at co-opting the term social justice from the church and substituting a very secular, pro-socialist and often anti-Catholic definition.

If Catholics really understood how little resemblance there is between what the church teaches as social justice and what the Democrat Party offers as social justice, there'd be very few Catholics voting for Democrats. Of course for that to happen Democrat voters would actually have to spend some time learning and investigating issues instead of just taking campaign rhetoric at face value and that's not going to happen anytime soon...

Especially here in Pittsburgh where it's just easier to say that Democrats are for working people while a few million more of their money winds up in Ron Burkle's bank account.

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