The Aug. 22 editorial "Pathetic GOP: Pittsburgh's Republican Party Needs a Revival" was absolutely correct. The GOP does need to have a stronger presence in the city of Pittsburgh and the citizens of the city deserve to have a viable alternative to one-party rule. However, as rational and logical as that seems, it is much easier to say than to accomplish.
In 2007 Mark DeSantis was the Republican candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh. Mark is an intelligent and accomplished manager who presented an impressive list of ideas as to how the city could be better governed. He was articulate, well informed and exhibited a sincere desire to serve and improve his community. His campaign was well-funded; supported by many political, business and community leaders and endorsed by the Post-Gazette. Yet with all of these positive forces arrayed behind his election effort, his opponent received 63 percent of the vote -- a 26 percentage point defeat for Mr. DeSantis.
Although Pittsburgh has done reasonably well during the past six years despite its poor leadership, imagine how we would have benefited from a strong, active and mature mayor -- someone who would have forged a working relationship with the business community. We missed that opportunity because of the Pittsburgh mindset that says, "I will vote only for a Democrat."
I ran for Allegheny County executive in 1999. Despite winning by a respectable margin in the suburbs, I lost the Pittsburgh vote in a manner similar to Mark's loss and, consequently, barely won the election (by less than 2 percent). Pittsburgh, not unlike Philadelphia and most other large urban centers in the Northeast, are politically controlled by a combination of lopsided Democratic registration -- in Pittsburgh, there are five Democrats for every Republican -- and voting blocs such as city employees and their families and organized labor. This cabal makes it almost impossible for the GOP to win elections in these cities.
Allegheny County is very different. The county GOP committee has grown over the past few years from less than 350 to approximately 1,000. Republicans have been elected at all levels of government, from township commissioners to county council, and obtained a majority of the county vote in the last governor's campaign.
I applaud Josh Wander for having the courage and fortitude to run for mayor of Pittsburgh this year against what he has acknowledged are odds that will be almost impossible to overcome. We have not given up on winning in Pittsburgh. In fact, we are working to strengthen our city committee, find more candidates and craft a message which appeals to a wider and more diverse audience. The Post-Gazette editorial has reminded us that our goal is not yet accomplished.
Jim Roddey is chairman of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County and lives in Oakmont.