Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Democrats Endorse Candidates First Showdown Set in Controller's Race

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

County Democrats Endorse Candidates First Showdown Set in Controller's Race

Article excerpt

Some of the first real skirmishes of the Democratic primary season are taking place over the weekend as members of the Democratic hierarchy offered their official recommendations for the party nominations that will be decided in May.

Hundreds of members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, elected or appointed from each of the county's voting districts, will meet on the South Side Sunday to vote on their recommendations for a variety of judicial and municipal offices.

In a relatively low-key political year, the most prominent competitive race on the committee ballot was the testy face-off between county Controller Chelsa Wagner and her predecessor and would-be successor, Mark Patrick Flaherty.

The backdrop for that race was set by the years-long feud between Ms. Wagner and county Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald defeated Mr. Flaherty in the 2011 primary for the executive post. Now, he is backing Mr. Flaherty as a vehicle to rid county government of the former state lawmaker, a member of a prominent political family. The race has featured escalating acrimony. On the eve of the balloting, Ms. Wagner questioned her opponent's ethics while a Fitzgerald aide called Ms. Wagner "a liar."

Mr. Fitzgerald has no opposition himself. The other major countywide officeholders, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and Treasurer John Weinstein, were also unopposed for the party imprimatur.

The Democratic balloting took place in the wake of endorsement deliberations by the Allegheny County Labor Council. Leaders of most of the region's major unions interviewed candidates and voted on their recommendations Friday.

Under their rules, it takes a two-thirds majority from the labor officials to win an endorsement.

Mr. Flaherty met that threshold in the labor officials' balloting. The union support figures to be welcome on its own terms, with its promise of financial and grass-roots support. It also confers welcome bragging rights for the challenger on the eve of the party officials' choice. …

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