It's time for a little political day dreaming. Pretend for a minute that Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato wins the gubernatorial race and vacates his current post.
Winning the race might be considered a nightmare for some, as Onorato has proven himself to be a dandy tax raiser. “Dan, Dan the Tax Man,” will be a nifty limerick to overcome over the next election cycle.
Democrat Onorato bested Allegheny County's first Chief Executive, Republican Jim Roddey, by running to the fiscal right of the moderate businessman. Roddey, a successful advertising executive and philanthropist, laid the proverbial goose egg once in office and fared only one term.
Onorato skated to an easy re-election and has not-so-secretly been priming the pump for a gubernatorial run ever since. Current Governor Ed Rendell, thankfully, cannot run for re-election. Rendell's ineptitude over the last eight years promises that not even a Turnpike rest stop can be named “in his honor.” Rendell's tour of duty as the Commonwealth's top general has been an utter and complete failure. And that legacy was cemented before the Democratic political machine propelled him to a second, more dismal turn.
If Onorato could surge past the competition and take residence in Harrisburg, suddenly, the state's second-most-prestigious post becomes available, with almost no sure-fire candidate ready for the seat.
Now, don't get me wrong. There's a certain boyish, big city Mayor who thinks that he would be the first-in-line for the post, but there's significant thought that the rather lightweight figurehead might not transcend from the inner city to the suburbs.
Add to that a certain moderate-to-conservative voting block in the northern-most region of the county that doesn't enjoy having taxes raised at every conceivable turn.
Finding that fiscal steward could be, would be difficult. But you've read it here first: no one in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County politics is better suited for the job than Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto.
A “Reform Democrat,” Peduto is decidedly not of the ACORN crowd. Recently, the long-time Pittsburgh pol attended a Jewish Women's dinner. And instead of using wheels provided by the Department of Homeland Security for a concert tailgate party, Peduto, in his early 40's, plays sports on the weekend. Most notably, he can be found checking opponents into the boards of a Pittsburgh-area Celebrity Hockey Team. Peduto also recently spoke at the eagerly-anticipated PodCamp Pittsburgh event and the 2009 Mahatma Gandhi Birthday Celebration. There isn't another politician in Allegheny County who would effortlessly make those activities work. There may not be another politician in the state who wouldn't look like a kook at one of those events.
In the last election cycle for Pittsburgh Mayor, Peduto was expected to participate. He didn't. That perplexed some, intrigued others. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called him a “coward” for not running. Pittsburgh's true revolutionary thinker, and doer, was on the sidelines. Hosting urban bike rides, doing more substantial “ground work” than any candidate, and he wasn't even running. He's keeping his name out there, perhaps in a more positive way than any other local politician.
Surely, Pittsburgh's Mayor took kudos for dodging the bullet that was G-20. Most of the “action” took place in Peduto's Bloomfield and Oakland. Peduto laid quiet and his neighborhoods did not burn. Onorato will also use the success that was the G-20, but his opponents are smart. They will drive home the fact that Onorato pushed through a drink tax to fund public transportation.
Smart people in and around Pittsburgh wondered why Peduto was passed over for Pittsburgh's current Mayor, but it clearly wasn't “his turn.” Remember, long-time Councilman Bob O'Connor was an also-ran for two mayoral races before finally winning when controversial Mayor Tom Murphy stepped aside after the 2005 election. Only then did O'Connor become a beloved, fatherly figure. Tragically, just as O'Connor earned his goal, he was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2006.
If Onorato wins, and there is no certainty in that (a continual liberal swing toward fiscal socialism hopefully will awaken a slumbering Pennsylvania electorate that appreciates financial responsibility), he will need to be replaced.
The current Pittsburgh Mayor appears to provincial, too limited in intellectual scope. Onorato is an attorney. Roddey before him an executive who became a multi-millionaire through decades of business ventures. It took him awhile, but Peduto did earn a BA from Penn State University just a few years ago.
The current mayor earned his position on Pittsburgh City Council almost right out of college because of his parent's political ties. Shortly after that, he was appointed Council President as a compromise candidate, nothing more. Twanda Carlisle, a councilwoman who was later busted for giving tens of thousands of public dollars to friends, and buying fur coats with city funds, nearly was that compromise candidate.
The current mayor cannot, or should not be ignored politically. Chances are his pal President Barack Obama might cast some influence his way should the Allegheny County Executive position crop up. By that time, Obama's popularity (see a base-less Noble Peace Prize as proof) might, hopefully, be on the wane. Again, a moderate-to-conservative block might enter the fray. That would benefit Peduto, who earnestly seems to look beyond his constituents' wallets for an easy fix.
Let's be honest: there isn't a Republican, or an Independent who would electrify the voters. Roddey's term as ACE might be the last for a Republican in Allegheny County. A vibrant, intelligent, viable Democrat could be the answer. There isn't a single person on Allegheny County Council with the name recognition or resume to make a charge.
That only answer is Bill Peduto. I would suffer those sleepless nights, knowing I changed my voter's registration card to Democrat to help Bill Peduto. I've done it before.
That's my alarm clock. Daydream is over.