By Zach Brendza | Features Editor
If elected, Republican candidate Josh Wander would be the first mayor of his party in Pittsburgh in 80 years.
What a victory it would be for the Republicans, even though they may have to celebrate with Wander via video conference.
The 42-year-old Squirrel Hill resident is currently working as a security consultant in Israel, and although his return to the States has no exact date, he hopes to be back by Election Day.
“I’m not mayor of Pittsburgh yet,” Wander said. “I have a job contract. If elected, I would cancel my job contract and come back immediately.”
Until then, it’s a “no-brainer” for Wander to be abroad. He has to financially support his wife and six children, who took the trip to Israel with him. He is familiar with the country, though. Wander has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel and has also spent time in the Israeli military and Civil Air Patrol, part of the U.S. Airforce Auxiliary.
Wander has background experience with running for office. He ran for the Republican nomination in 2009 and for a Squirrel Hill city council seat in 2011.
Although he was unsuccessful in both attempts, Wander insists that merely running for mayor now is a moral victory.
“I can consider it that I already won the election, by giving people the ability to vote against the current administration, my opponent,” Wander said.
The choice to vote non-Democrat is a win for voters, according to Wander. If you vote for the same people, “you’re going to get the same result.”
“I’m coming here without owing favors to special interest groups, unions, wealthy individuals,” Wander said. “Whoever votes for me is voting for reform in the system.”
While he took issue with Democratic candidate Bill Peduto’s campaign donations, Wander took more issue with current mayor Luke Raventshahl’s administration. One of Wander’s main campaign planks is the fight against corruption.
Wander thinks being mayor comes with a level of accountability. Six months ago, he started a petition asking Ravenstahl to either come to work or resign. In terms of effective leadership, the current mayor is “a horrible example,” Wander said.
“If your boss doesn’t show up to work, why should you?” Wander asked.
But accountability is not the only thing lacking from the city’s government. The city is still without a permanent police chief, resulting from Nate Harper’s resignation earlier this year.
In searching for a new chief, Wander said he would look nationally, preferably to someone beyond city limits.
“If you really want to deal with the corruption, you have to have someone from the outside come in,” Wander said.
“Progress, Not Politics” is one motto of Wander’s campaign. He stresses not what is best for his personal career or political party, but what is best for Pittsburgh.
“This city is an amazing city. One of the best cities, if not the best city, to live in the United States,” Wander said. “Unfortunately, it could be a lot better than it is. The question is, ‘How much better can it be?’”