Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Hard to Find Right Name for Bill Robinson's Petitions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

It's Hard to Find Right Name for Bill Robinson's Petitions

Article excerpt

One might place Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson's nominating petitions among the great works of political fiction were they not so unimaginative and repetitive.

For campaigners too lazy to comb the streets gathering signatures, the time-honored shortcut always has been to copy names from a list of registered voters. Maybe you switch hands as you copy the names to mask their single source, but you just hope that nobody checks back with these people and that they're not dead.

We've seen the occasional forgery conviction for such trickery, but at least those showed real effort.

What Mr. Robinson turned in, however, is downright embarrassing for someone with more than 40 years in politics. The Hill District Democrat has served on city council, in the state House of Representatives and on county council, so he's a veteran of dozens of campaigns. Yet he turned in sheets, endorsed with his signature, that are so clearly fictional that one can only look at them in awe.

Three district voters are contesting 343 of the 358 signatures. The challenge is financed by Better Jobs Better Future, a political action committee supporting DeWitt Walton and other county office seekers. Mr. Walton is challenging Mr. Robinson in District 10, which stretches east from the Hill District.

Do the challengers have a strong case?

I don't know. Is the Monongahela damp? Are there any deer in Mt. Lebanon?

It's hard to know where to begin. One is tempted to start with the Australian-born actors, Naomi Watts and Russel (sic) Crowe, whose names stand amid the muddle of signatures on Mr. Robinson's petitions that appear to have been written by a single hand. We might also note that his own name appears at his address on four different pages.

But it was Sam Hazo's name that jumped out at me - at two different addresses in Mr. Robinson's district. I happen to know the former poet laureate of Pennsylvania lives in Upper St. Clair. So I called him to see whether, in his 86 years, he'd ever run into any other Sam Hazos in Allegheny County. …

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