Johnny Lee, who is challenging Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak for the District 4 Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary, has what is considered the trifecta of endorsements for a city election -- the Fraternal Order of Police, the Pittsburgh Fire Fighters Local 1 and the city Democratic committee.
What Mr. Lee did not articulate during a meeting with Post-Gazette editors was a good reason to replace Ms. Rudiak as the party's choice to run for the seat, which represents Beechview, Brookline, Bon Air, Carrick, Overbrook and a small part of Mount Washington. The Democratic nominee will face Republican Samuel J. Hurst, who is unopposed in the primary.
Mr. Lee barely criticized Councilwoman Rudiak, calling her a competent opponent. A difference between them is Mr. Lee supports getting the city out from the state oversight of Act 47 "sooner than later," while Ms. Rudiak believes, as the Post-Gazette does, that, although the city has made improvements, major elements of its recovery plan remain undone, making continued oversight important.
Mr. Lee, 52, of Brookline, recently retired as a U.S. Postal Service supervisor but he is best known for his 18 years as a high school basketball coach and as a broadcaster for the local MSA Sports radio network. He describes himself as a people person who would be better able than Ms. Rudiak to reach out to the district's elderly residents and who would concentrate on community quality-of-life concerns rather than broad, citywide issues.
During her four years on the job, Ms. Rudiak, 33, of Carrick, seems to have tackled both.
The South Hills district, which long has believed it's been neglected compared to services provided in the city's East End communities, is seeing a lot of neighborhood attention right now. A new, $3 million Beechview community center is being planned. Brookline's commercial core, Brookline Boulevard, is undergoing a complete reconstruction. Carrick and Overbrook have joined Economic Development South, a group that works along the Route 51 corridor that those neighborhoods share with nearby suburbs.
Citywide, Ms. Rudiak has not been afraid to confront the status quo, leading a task force that was set up to review emergency response plans for weather emergencies after a 2010 blizzard crippled Pittsburgh.
Like Mr. Lee, we can't articulate a good reason for him to replace her as the Democratic nominee. The Post-Gazette endorses Natalia Rudiak -- a smart and effective hard worker.