Saturday, April 30, 2005

Senate election expected to set spending record -

Real ink for the race hits today in the Trib.
Senate election expected to set spending record - Rauterkus, who is active on the campaign trail in person and via the Internet, is not expected to spend much on ads.
The only typo: My wife's name is Catherine V. Palmer, Ph.D. Her name is Palmer, not Parker. When we got married, Catherine had a long list of academic publications in her profession. She had done research and had it published in her field, and name identification in the academic world is very important -- just like it is in politics, if not more. Women who rise in the ranks of scholars have a serious burden when asked to change their name when getting married.

Presently, Catherine is the director of audiology at UPMC's Eye and Ear Institute and an Associate Professor at Pitt's School of Health and Rehab Sciences. I like to say that she is the W2 of the family.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

42nd District State Senate election expected to set spending record

Photo Gallery

Wayne Fontana

Michael Diven

Mark Rauterkus

By David M. Brown
Saturday, April 30, 2005

The race for a Pittsburgh-based state Senate seat has become a high-profile battle between Democrats fighting to protect traditional home turf and Republicans seeking to expand their gains.

The showdown pits state Rep. Michael Diven, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Brookline, against Democrat Wayne Fontana, a former Allegheny County councilman also from Brookline. Mark Rauterkus, a swim coach from the South Side, is running as a Libertarian.

The race -- a special election to fill the 42nd District seat formerly held by state Auditor General Jack Wagner -- was billed early on as one of the hot races to watch this year in Pennsylvania, and the stakes have gotten fatter.

"This is a highly targeted race statewide by both the Democrats and Republicans. There's a lot of money and attention focused on it," said John Verbanac, a public affairs consultant and political analyst based in Pittsburgh.

Diven and Fontana are pounding the airwaves with TV ads and waging aggressive organizational campaigns in the trenches. Their combined campaign spending is expected to set a record in a local legislative election. The most expensive race on record for Southwestern Pennsylvania was the $1.5 million spent in the 2004 campaign for state Senate in which Republican Bob Regola of Hempfield, Westmoreland County, ousted incumbent Allen Kukovich.

Rauterkus, who is active on the campaign trail in person and via the Internet, is not expected to spend much on ads. The district includes neighborhoods in the southern and western portions of Pittsburgh, plus 20 municipalities in the suburbs to the south and west.

Fontana is touting his record during his County Council stint as an advocate for property tax relief. He also chimes in on other hot-button issues, pledging to promote economic development and job growth while combating the high costs of health care.

"I got a lot of legislation passed with bipartisan support on County Council," he said, stressing his sponsorship of property tax measures giving homestead exemptions and senior citizen discounts.

Diven contends he has a track record for representing his constituents' interests -- regardless of political pressures -- plus an enhanced ability to deliver key legislation for the Pittsburgh region. His recent switch to the GOP, which controls both chambers of the General Assembly, gives him the clout to accomplish more than he could have as a Democrat, he says.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2-to-1 in the suburban portions of the district and by greater numbers in the city. Diven is counting on a coalition of diehard supporters, cross-over Democrats and Republicans eager for an upset win. Voters are less concerned with party labels than performance, Diven says.

"They're smart enough to realize that you can't keep relying on a Democratic organization that hasn't provided any tangible solutions to the problems they face on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Fontana is relying on unified support from Democratic elected officials and party loyalists, combined with an appeal to rank-and-file voters who have a long tradition of backing Democrats.

"I'm proud to say I'm a Democrat," Fontana said.

Rauterkus, the Libertarian, says his role as an outspoken community activist sets him apart from his opponents. Also, the region's problems make clear that a new brand of leadership is needed, he maintains.

"We're taxed to the hilt, the public treasury is broke, and the system is broken," he said.

The fight for control of the Senate seat here gained greater significance in early April, when Republican state Rep. Patrick Browne defeated Democratic state Rep. Jennifer Mann in another highly watched state Senate special election, that one for an open seat in the Lehigh Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania. Browne's victory gives the GOP a 30-18 majority in the Senate, with two open seats to be filled in special elections in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on May 17.

Democrats are battling to stop the erosion in the party's Senate representation. The party was stunned in November when Regola defeated Kukovich, a 26-year legislative veteran. The recent losses put even greater focus on the Democrats' effort to hold the District 42 seat vacated by Wagner, a Beechview Democrat, which has been a Democratic stronghold for nearly 70 years.

The race will determine who will serve the nearly two years remaining on Wagner's Senate term.


Wayne Fontana

Political Party: Democratic

Residence: Brookline

Age: 55

Occupation: Real estate broker

Personal: Wife, Francine; children Frank, Melissa and Matt

Education: Associate's degree, Community College of Allegheny County

Experience: Elected Allegheny County councilman in 1999; served on County Council from 2000 until mid-March this year.

If elected: Fontana says he will work to achieve property tax and business tax reform, plus focus on legislation that helps consumers with health care and prescription drug costs.

Michael Diven

Political Party: Republican

Residence: Brookline

Age: 34

Occupation: Member of the state House of Representatives

Education: Bachelor's degree in history, Duquesne University, 1993

Personal: Single

Experience: Elected Pittsburgh city councilman in 1997; served on City Council from 1998 until 2001, when he was elected to the state House

If elected: Diven says he will continue to push for approval of legislation providing $50 million in state money to help municipalities restore abandoned, tax-delinquent properties to good use and the tax rolls. The measure would help clear liens, get titles to more than 15,000 such properties in Pittsburgh and go far toward solving the city's budget deficits, he contends.

Mark Rauterkus

Political Party: Libertarian

Residence: South Side

Age: 45

Occupation: Swim coach for Carlynton Swim Club

Personal: Wife, Catherine V. Parker; sons Erik, 10, and Grant, 7

Education: Bachelor's degree in journalism, Ohio University, 1982; took graduate school courses at Baylor University

Experience: Ran unsuccessfully for Pittsburgh mayor in 2001

If elected: Rauterkus says he will push to establish a new Pittsburgh park district, consolidating city and county parks and incorporating public school recreational facilities for after-school programs. The effort would make better use of existing facilities, helping to keep them open and operating within affordable budgets, he said.

David M. Brown can be reached at or (412) 380-5614.