Candidate tells official to quit - PittsburghLIVE.com Candidate tells official to quit
By Glenn May, TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Saturday, March 5, 2005
A campaign foe of Allegheny County Councilman Wayne Fontana is accusing Fontana of violating county laws by remaining in office while seeking election as state senator.
'He has a little bit of power, and he doesn't want to relinquish it,' said Mark Rauterkus, Fontana's Libertarian opponent in the race to fill the 42nd Senate District seat vacated by Jack Wagner, now the state auditor general.
Rauterkus points to language in the county's home rule charter indicating that council members shall not be candidates for nomination or election to other offices 'without having first resigned from county council.'
Fontana and Jack Cambest, the council's solicitor, said the definition of a candidate as spelled out in the county's administrative code means Fontana has a few more weeks before he has to give up his council seat.
'I'm going to resign by April 1, no question,' said Fontana, 54, a Brookline Democrat.
Cambest said the administrative code would require a council member to resign in a regular election immediately upon filing nomination petitions, but the rules differ for special elections.
Nominations for special elections are, in effect, bestowed upon a candidate by a party rather than sought by the individual, Cambest said.
Fontana has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party to run for the Senate seat, which has the effect of giving him the party's nomination once the decision is accepted by the state Democratic Committee.
Cambest said Fontana has 30 days under party rules to reject the nomination or to accept it by filing papers with elections officials.
If he accepts it, Cambest said, Fontana must resign his council seat.
Fontana has until March 27 to file papers.
The special election will be held May 17, the same day as the primary.
The Senate district includes neighborhoods in the south and west of Pittsburgh, as well as 20 municipalities in the suburbs.
Rauterkus said Fontana owes it to voters to concentrate either on county council or on the race.
Fontana laughed off the idea that running for the Senate will shift his attention from being a council member, which is a part-time job.
'You gotta be kidding me,' Fontana said. 'I've been doing a full-time job the whole time I've been on council.'
He said Rauterkus is playing politics and he doesn't know why Rauterkus wants him to leave the council so quickly.
Council members have long complained about the resignation rule, saying it was inserted into the charter by state legislators to fend off potential challengers.
County voters twice in 2003 rejected referendums seeking to abolish the rule.
Rauterkus said the rule helps officeholders stay focused on their current posts instead of using them as steppingstones to higher office.
Two other big points didn't make the article. The election to fill the seat after the resignation might not be able to materialize between April 1 and May 17. The county suffers. We'll have a hand-picked member on county council for seven months. The un-democratic democrats theme returns.
The other point of reason is that a possible shift in candidates is possible. Wayne could step out of the special election and make way for another to enter the race.