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Prodding the 'Burg's GOP

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By Dimitri Vassilaros
Monday, March 26, 2007

Maybe being threatened with the 36-inch, 8,000 volt, Hot Shot SS36 cattle prod will motivate one of the city's roughly 36,000 registered Republicans to stand for mayor of Pittsburgh.

The GOP doesn't seem to have any better ideas about finding a candidate who at least could articulate the party's principles -- and show the very Democrat-friendly 'Burgh that at least one mayoral candidate is not integrity-challenged.

But the Republican Committee of Pittsburgh considers running as a Republican in Pittsburgh a lost cause.

"We knew going into this that, once again, we'd not receive any support from the higher levels of the party," says Bob Hillen, committee chairman. Mr. Hillen claims he's not seen a dime of money from his party -- other than whatever he or a candidate have raised since Hillen became chairman in 2000.

"It's just historic that the higher levels of the party concede the city of Pittsburgh because of the registration edge," Hillen says. D's outnumber R's by almost 6 to 1, he reminds. "It's a shame since most are conservative Democrats."

So why not try to recruit a candidate?

"Everyone knew it was a losing battle," Hillen said. "I could not see putting somebody through that without support."

Well, what about a standard-bearer who could speak about the issues and propose GOP solutions?

"We don't get enough media coverage," he says. "It's difficult asking someone to do that when they know they are not going to win. It's difficult for committee people to get (the staff) motivated to work when they know we aren't going to have any gains because of it."

At least in 2005, GOP mayoral candidate Joe Weinroth garnered 16,321 votes to 40,226 for Bob O'Connor. The late Mayor O'Connor was succeeded by City Council President Luke Ravenstahl.

After decades of one-party rule, Pittsburgh is a decaying shell of itself. The senseless, subsidized shiny structures fool no one. Pittsburghers continue to leave. What remains is an older and poorer version of a once-vibrant city. Generations of Democrat politicians have failed the city and its suffering school district.

Mr. Ravenstahl's habitual parsing of that day's truth almost makes Bill Clinton look forthcoming. City Councilman Bill Peduto's self-serving excuse for ending his long-shot campaign to defeat the mayor in the Democrat primary makes Ravenstahl look forthcoming.

And yet the GOP is failing to offer a desperately needed alternative to introduce new ideas.

Cattle prods, anyone•

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