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Light at the end of the city's Dems?

| Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007

Mark DeSantis was not exactly creating a stir on the crowded sidewalks of Oakland.

Even with a Fox News Channel crew from New York City following him along Forbes Avenue, the man who wants to be the first Republican mayor of Pittsburgh in more than 70 years was attracting virtually no attention late Tuesday afternoon.

DeSantis -- as alert Pittsburghers know and the whole country may find out Tuesday -- is the entrepreneur/business consultant who's trying to do the politically impossible: overcome the Democratic Party's 5-1 advantage in registered city voters and dethrone accidental Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

If he weren't running in a one-party city, DeSantis would be the clear favorite. Mayor Ravenstahl, 27, is -- unfortunately -- best known for his youth, for being a Steelers fan and for his excellent adventures in New York City.

DeSantis, 48, a former aide to Sen. John Heinz, possesses the worldly (i.e., out-of-Pittsburgh) experience and valuable ideas that can reverse Pittsburgh's long, all-Democrat-engineered economic and civic decline.

Unlike previous Republican candidates, DeSantis has the money and endorsements he needs to give him a chance of winning. But as he and everyone else knows, his fate is in the hands of city Democrats like the 80-year-old he says he met recently.

Ordinarily, she confessed to him, she'd vote straight Democrat even if the candidates were convicts. But because she's so worried about the city's direction, she was voting for DeSantis -- the first Republican in her life.

DeSantis says he's met many Democrats like that old woman -- and like Pitt student Alex Boyanovsky, 21, of Point Breeze, whom DeSantis bumped into Tuesday as the economics major came out of a 7-Eleven on Forbes.

As Fox cameras rolled, the astute Boyanovsky said to DeSantis that the city needs new thinking, new leadership and more fiscal responsibility -- and he's ready to "cross the line" to support him, not Mayor Luke.

DeSantis found no more dream voters among the dozen he gently accosted in Oakland. But on his way to a small fundraiser held at Doc's Place in Shadyside, a youthful 50-ish woman spotted him on the sidewalk. "You have my vote," she told him.

She declined to reveal her name to the Trib. But the lifelong Democrat sounded like DeSantis' mom when she said, "Clearly the current mayor is immature, irresponsible and I don't want someone cutting their teeth on my tax dollars.

"He could be ready in 10 years, but he's not now."

Was she an aberration among her Democrat friends and family• Not exactly: "I know I am not alone. I just hope there are enough people like me to go around."

So does DeSantis. So should Pittsburgh's long-suffering, vanishing residents.

DeSantis may be a stinking Republican but he knows what Ravenstahl will never learn on the job -- exactly what's wrong with Pittsburgh.

He knows Pittsburgh has too much top-down government, too much debt, too many employees, too many taxes, too many regulations, too many wasteful/harmful authorities and too many reasons for businesses to either leave or never come here. He may never get a chance to put any of his reforms into practice -- even if he miraculously wins Tuesday.

But if Mark DeSantis does triumph, it'll prove that the blindly partisan Democrats of Pittsburgh have finally seen the light.

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