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Mayoral candidate Wander sold Pittsburgh home, currently in Israel

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
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Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Josh Wander.

The Republican candidate for Pittsburgh mayor is running his campaign from Israel.

Josh Wander, 42, said he expects to return in time for the Nov. 5 election against Democrat Bill Peduto but would instruct campaign staff to assume his duties otherwise. Wander, a private security consultant, said he is in Israel working.

“As things calm down here, I will do my best to return with ample time before the election and participate in all the debate forums,” Wander said in an email on Tuesday.

But he said he could be bound for Kenya next and has been in Russia. He did not elaborate or return a subsequent request for comment. Republicans haven't put a mayor in office since the Great Depression.

Former Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey, who chairs the county Republican Committee, said he received an email from the Wander campaign informing him that Wander is in Israel. Roddey said he didn't know how Wander could be abroad and run a campaign. He hasn't heard directly from the party's nominee.

“Those are all questions that I would have for Josh if I were in contact with him,” Roddey said.

Peduto, 48, a city councilman from Point Breeze, declined comment on Wander's absence.

“We've got four debates scheduled, and I look forward to seeing him at those,” Peduto said. The first debate is Oct. 14.

Wander said he sold his Squirrel Hill home and took his family with him overseas. He said he is renting a home on Phillips Avenue in Squirrel Hill. He did not respond when asked for the exact address.

“I still retain legal residency in the city of Pittsburgh and believe that I am a viable candidate,” Wander said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is not running for re-election.

A political analyst described Wander's absence as a slap to Republican voters and candidates.

“To knowingly be absent and to make public that my staff is going to run the campaign in my absence, that's almost reaching the point of being absurd,” said Gerald Shuster, professor of political communications at the University of Pittsburgh.

Candidates for mayor must maintain a legal residence in Pittsburgh for at least three years prior to an election, according to the city's Home Rule Charter.

Allegheny County Elections Director Mark Wolosik said Wander did not change his voter registration to his new address, but he doesn't have to. His name will appear on the ballot, Wolosik said, because the deadline for anyone to challenge his nominating petitions passed.

“If he gets elected, somebody can challenge his qualifications to hold the office,” Wolosik said.

Wander, who lost elections for mayor in 2009 and for a council seat in 2011, and his wife, Tali, sold their home on Hobart Street. The $208,500 sale was recorded on Sept. 4, according to county real estate records.

Wander holds a bachelor's degree in Talmudic law from Yeshivas Bais Yisroel University in Jerusalem and a master's degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh

He has served as a state constable and an Allegheny County Republican committee member.

“I do live in Pittsburgh, and my residency status is not up in the air,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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