Wander's long-distance run gives voters a choice
Republican Josh Wander knows his odds of becoming mayor of Pittsburgh are long, but he believes he won a moral victory.
“It's not all about winning. Part of it is just giving the voters another choice,” he said from Israel, where he recently moved his family because of his job.
Wander, 42, of Squirrel Hill, a security consultant, said he is running his campaign from the Middle East. He faces Democrat Bill Peduto, 48, and longshot independent Lester Ludwig, 80, of Squirrel Hill in the Nov. 5 election. Peduto, a city councilman from Point Breeze, is the frontrunner.
Pittsburgh's last Republican mayor was John S. Herron, from 1933-34, but that didn't stop Wander from taking a second stab at becoming mayor.
“It's a futile mission to go up against people who just go into a voting booth and push a button and don't care about anything other than Democrats,” said his adviser Andy Dlinn, 61, of Squirrel Hill. “Josh Wander goes out there to give voters a choice, even if they don't take it. I think it says a lot about his character.”
Wander was unknown to voters in 2009 when he waged an unsuccessful write-in campaign to unseat incumbent Democrat Luke Ravenstahl. Wander lost his bid for the City Council District 5 seat in 2011 to Corey O'Connor.
He holds out hope that city voters will realize Democratic Party rule for nearly 80 years is unhealthy.
“Eventually, people are going to wake up and say, ‘Enough is enough. We don't need to have an absentee mayor. We don't need to have a police chief under indictment,' ” he said.
Wander vows to push for legislation that would require mandatory work attendance for the mayor, who earns $108,000 annually.
The legislation would be a jab at Ravenstahl, who has rarely been seen around City Hall since dropping his re-election campaign in March. Former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper is scheduled to plead guilty on Friday to federal charges that he siphoned about $30,000 of taxpayer money for personal purchases.
If elected, Wander said he would privatize or merge with Allegheny County the city Parking Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority. He promised to cut taxes.
He said he would be sworn in without owing a dime to special-interest groups.
“People don't realize that when somebody gives you a $10,000 campaign donation, they're not doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” he said.
City Republican Committee Chairman Bob Hillen, 55, of Beechview said Wander could effect change.
“He's a good conservative,” Hillen said. “He has a lot of good ideas on how to manage the city. He knows what the core values of municipal government are.”
An Orthodox Jew, Wander attended private schools in Pittsburgh and lived after high school in Israel, where he holds dual citizenship.
A former state constable, he 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 served in the Israeli military.
He and his wife, Tali, sold their home in late summer and took their six children overseas. Wander said they rent a home on Phillips Avenue in Squirrel Hill but would not provide the address for verification.
“If I'm elected, I've already committed that I will be back in Pittsburgh as soon as possible,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.