By Aaron Warnick | Photo Editor
Welcome to 1934 in Pittsburgh. The last Republican mayor to serve the city, John S. Herron, is defeated by Democrat challenger William McNair. With his victory, McNair broke a 25-year chain of Republican mayors in Pittsburgh.
However, the streak he broke is dwarfed in comparison to the one he started. Pittsburgh has not had a Republican mayor since. That’s 79 years of one-party dominance. Something is awry.
Republican candidates are at a numbers disadvantage in Allegheny County. Less than one-third of active voters are registered Republicans. That disadvantage becomes even more prohibitive when faced without any help financing a mayoral campaign.
“The city committee has been helping [Wander] with what little funds we have,” Republican Committee of Pittsburgh chairman Bill Hillen said. “We essentially have to go after friends and family and try and grab some PACs…but [they] just don’t pay attention to city Republican candidates.”
This election, the Republicans were in great position to capitalize on the public’s recent distrust of the Democratic administration. Current Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s tenure has been controversial as of late, and his decision to drop out of the campaign for re-election earlier this year gave Republicans an opportunity to bring a candidate with a fresh set of views into city government.
Unfortunately, Republican candidate Josh Wander, who spent campaign season outside of the country, missed the opportunity to gain serious ground in the historically-Democratic city.
Even when Republicans put forth a well-financed mayoral bid, the results have not reflected the effort. Mark DeSantis ran an effective campaign against Ravenstahl in the 2007 special election. DeSantis managed to win the endorsements of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune Review, but ultimately ended up losing the election by an estimated 30 percent.
Without help from the State Republican Committee or the Republican National Committee, Republicans will continue to have a difficult time even getting to the starting line in the mayoral race. Pittsburghers and local media outlets treated this year’s Democratic Primary Election as if it was the mayoral election… and it essentially was.