The Big Apple (in more ways than one)
Once all of Pennsylvania's political leaders return this weekend from the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Society in New York City, the post-election calm of the past few weeks will soon fade. The society, once the exclusive domain of the commonwealth's industrial robber barons and their Republican cronies, is more ecumenical of late.
Any office seeker, regardless of party affiliation, must hobnob with the moneyed elite of Pennsylvania to have some hope of financing a successful campaign. Kingmakers and seekers of the throne gather at the Waldorf Astoria for a weekend that is long on bonhomie, with shades of intrigue worthy of the Medicis.
Even the future of Pittsburgh has been mapped in The Big Apple, 375 miles away, as acolytes of Bill Peduto, Michael Lamb and Luke Ravenstahl were expected to work the crowds, while the 2013 mayoral candidates were meeting and greeting at various receptions. Once back in the 'Burgh, they all will show a better sense of the political road ahead.
Expect incumbent Ravenstahl to take credit for every good thing that has happened here since he became mayor. Couple this with blaming all the bad things on someone else and he has a pretty standard campaign strategy.
The city budget has improved but that has happened under two state-mandated oversight commissions. And while Pittsburgh continues to receive national accolades, the people of the region deserve that credit for remaining steady through good, bad and nonexistent leadership over many decades.
Still, Ravenstahl has a story to tell and his television ads almost write themselves. But that is also true about the negative ads that will surely target his more infamous behavior, like partying at Seven Springs while the city was paralyzed during “Snowmageddon 2010.”
Peduto will highlight his own positive role on Pittsburgh City Council and his vital opposition to some of Ravenstahl's harebrained initiatives. Expect to hear more about things like Ravenstahl's failed attempt to lease the city's parking facilities to private investors for 50 years, lining their pockets while crippling neighborhood business districts.
And Lamb, the city controller, will try to run up the middle. Conventional wisdom dictates that two challengers will split the opposition, assuring victory for the incumbent. But Ravenstahl, a parochial politician with a North Side base and not much love elsewhere, might face two politicians, each with a larger base than his.
And that's just the primary election. If Auditor General Jack Wagner forgoes the primary fight for a run as an independent in the November general election, as Mayor Dick Caliguiri successfully did in 1977, it all would begin again.
As our contenders return from the political mountaintop that is the Pennsylvania Society weekend extravaganza in New York, watch for a little spring in their step, a sign that the sojourn was successful. Garnering financial or political support there can make a difference here.
As Frank Sinatra crooned about New York, “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.” Maybe even in Pittsburgh.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).