Tuesday, May 29, 2007

DeSantis on Ballot: The Next Jason Altmire?

It was reported today that Mark DeSantis, a last-minute write-in Republican candidate for Mayor, received far more votes than needed for the November ballot.

DeSantis reminds me of another little-known candidate who was tapped for potential greatness: freshman Congressman Jason Altmire (D-North Hills).

Altmire was swept into office over one-time political juggernaut Melissa Hart. Hart was seemingly tapped by the GOP kingmakers a few years ago. Instead, she was derailed by a candidate few people knew of months before the General Election.

Could the same happen for DeSantis, if there's a definitive "Anti-Luke" sentiment that comes about sometime in this summer? The position of "Independent Candidate who could draw Money" was originally earmarked for Bill Peduto; however, he apparently decided that sitting on the sideline for the next decade with Ravenstahl won't be that bad. Peduto would only be 52 when Ravenstahl moves onto a bigger statewide or Congressional post, and that's plenty of time to run the city his way.

There might be "niche" candidates like our dear friend Mark Rauterkus, but only DeSantis will be in a position to raise funds. Don't go crazy now, I don't expect it.

That being noted, DeSantis has been described in some circles as "left of Ravenstahl." With incredibly strong ties to the unions, Luke is a typical city of Pittsburgh politician. That's not to be confused with Dan Onorato, who beat Jim Roddey by truly being fiscally more conservative than the first ACE. Surely, Onorato is tied into the unions as well, but he doesn't HAVE to be as tied to the hip to the region's most influential Special Interest Group. He can cater to the North Hills conservatives and the few that still remain in Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.

Onorato has done a pretty fair job; Roddey speaks highly of him and the Allegheny County Republican Committee, rudderless for what appears to be an eternity now (Rich Stampahar was the last who initiated any kind of forward movement whatsoever), failed to provide even a viable write-in candidate. With Roddey now well into his 70's and a suburbanite, the city wasn't going to post a worthy candidate. I didn't even want to try it for kicks and giggles.

Ravenstahl is not without his political skeletons. He just hasn't made enough powerful enemies to derail his ambitions. A friend told me Luke's approval rating rivaled that of Reagan in the salad days.

However, Luke might be getting a little too cocky. He's started to snipe with City Council President Doug Shields over silly stuff. And City Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle's investigation/court case may still make an occasional headline this summer. IF I have my time line right, Ravenstahl was city council president when Carlisle was bankrolling her mother's boyfriend for plagiarised white papers.

What if something else embarrassing happens this summer. Power brokers won't nudge Ravenstahl aside and hand over the reigns to Shields, who was former Mayor Bob O'Connor's right hand man forever. The two apparently don't always get along.

Ravenstahl is a young man with a pretty wife and no children. What if he gets out of hand again like he did at the Steelers game a few years ago? There is the Casino flap looming like a dark cloud over the hillside (something tells me that Smokey Robinson might want to hold off putting a down payment on a downtown condo, he may not be Don Barden's headliner as soon as expected). What if Luke falls into the Mon after a night of checking out the South Side nightlife (on official business mind you)? WPXI's fabulous Katrina Owens might be able to narrate as Jeff Koch's buddies pulls Luke from the muck.

DeSantis could be the next Jason Altmire: a decent guy with no real credentials for the position. But the voters became sick of Melissa Hart's imposing height and linebacker shoulders and kicked her to the curb. If Ravenstahl stumbles, the same could conceivably happen.

If DeSantis starts to show up in the newspapers and on television, watch his donations. Do I expect him to be a player? No, not really. The classy Joe Weinroth was superior in the debates last time around and very few people gave him the time of day or dollars from their wallet.

Luke Ravenstahl won't be as dangerous to our fair city as Tom Murphy was for three terms. Murphy almost single handily destroyed Pittsburgh's 90 communities by looking only at the bells and whistles of Fifth and Forbes.

But if something unforeseen happens this summer, Mark DeSantis may just be the next Jason Altimire. But don't bet on it.


Char said...

Ravenstahl was Council Prez during the tail end of Twanda’s shenanigans. In fact, when the brouhaha first came to light, Peduto/Shields put forth legislation to tighten rules on individual council member discretionary spending. They wanted professional service contracts mandatory, stating credentials and deliverables, when a vendor’s payouts exceeded $1000 per year. Luke threw a fit, raised that amount to $10,000 and it was his version that was ultimately passed.

Additionally and of note, Luke added that HE would personally review all professional services bills, no matter what the amount, so as to keep an eye out for anything suspicious-looking. His eye must not have been too sharp as we now know Twanda keep right on doing her thing almost up to the moment she was indicted.

Anonymous said...

Your version of events is just not accurate.

Ravenstahl's bill came first, and Peduto & Shields introduced their versions at the last minute to try and steal the spotlight as the REAL reformers, with Ravenstahl's bill being "reform lite".

Ravenstahl was given a lesson in political manuvering by two more experienced political operatives; Ravenstahl was rightly offended that they didn't come to him first to talk about amending the bill, rather than grandstand for the cameras. Lessons learned, I guess. He should have forseen his fellow councilmen for what they all are: self-serving politicians (not that there's anything wrong with that...).

And as far as Twanda still "doing her thing" that's not accurate either. If her employees were giving her kickbacks, that's different from giving grants to family members who are not salaried employees. Plus, Ravenstahl wasn't council president after September, 2006 - Shields was. If this mess is to be laid at anyone's door other than Twanda's, it should be Shields.

Char said...


You may be right about Luke first with his $10,000 limit and then Bill/Doug with their "tighter" limit of only $1000. I do remember Doug's comment of "Once you pay someone $10,000, the horse is already out of the barn." Or something to that effect.

I just never understood Luke's problem with going with the lower limit of scrutiny. AND his pronouncement that he would be reviewing all bills himself to make sure there was no funny business.

My point about Twanda is that she never did stop. Council's invoice reform bill (Lukes version passed) came about because of her shenanigans. And Luke was Prez at that time, followed after by Shields. So both Luke and Shields "missed" the bogus invoicing.

I'm not sure I understand your point about the difference between kickbacks from friends vs family member grants. Both are misappropriaton of public funds. The bad thing regarding family members was not that they weren't salaried employees. The problem there was they were unqualified to do what they did .... if they did anything at all. And sometimes no work was done.

Whatever Bill/Doug's motivations were, Luke should have gone with the lower amount whether or not it was his idea. I had to agree with Doug .... Beginning to look at invoicing after we've paid someone $10,000 seems a little late in the game.

Tom said...

I can only assume that Ms. Carlisle's step-Sugar Daddy received a 1099 for that ridiculous white paper from a few years ago...and that he paid the proper taxes on that income.

Bram Reichbaum said...

"No real credentials for the position"???

His three degrees sounded dead-on relevant to the job. He has worked in government for a president and a senator. He runs his own business, and I believe has been active in lots of civic organizations. What possible credential are you looking for?

Thomas Leturgey said...

The ability to run a campaign and raise money. I wrote him in, but when the city party was looking for someone, he sat on the fence.

Civic organizations? Can't say I ever heard of him before this Spring.

Thomas Leturgey said...

Oh yeah, when Mr. DeSantis wants to run an effective telephone campaign, he should call me. I know a guy.