Voters in city council District 6 must feel like judges at a ping-pong match.
Here's a recent history of the seat, which represents the Hill District, Downtown, the Strip District and parts of the North Side. Sala Udin held it until 2005, when he was defeated by Tonya Payne, his executive assistant whom he fired.
Four years later, Ms. Payne lost her re-election bid. The victor, R. Daniel Lavelle, is a Udin protege and former chief of staff for state Rep. Jake Wheatley. After Mr. Lavelle defeated her for council, Ms. Payne ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Wheatley. Now she is back to challenge Mr. Lavelle for the Democratic nomination.
There's one more candidate in this month's primary, but he's not involved in the back-and-forth nature of Hill District politics.
Franco Dok Harris, 33, lives Downtown and is a lawyer and director of business development for his family's enterprises. His father is Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris. The younger Mr. Harris ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2008. At the time, we said that he was an informed and committed Pittsburgher who might be better suited for council. Unfortunately, the priorities he enumerated during a meeting with Post-Gazette editors were largely irrelevant and impractical, in our view.
So, back to the match.
Ms. Payne, 49, of Uptown is safety manager for the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. She cares about her community and is a strong advocate for the Hill, but her ability to play well with others (on council) is a concern.
In that regard, Mr. Lavelle, 35, of Schenley Heights seems to have hit his stride by working to win improvements for his district. Although his challengers criticize what they say are close ties with the Ravenstahl administration, Mr. Lavelle defends the relationship, saying that a cooperative attitude with the mayor was key and will be necessary in the future, no matter who wins this year's mayoral election.
We disagree with his view that the city is ready to forgo state fiscal oversight, and his decision to sign off on election petitions that turned out to include forged signatures was a foolish mistake, one that led to misdemeanor changes against him and admittance to Allegheny County's diversion program for first-time offenders.
At the same time, Mr. Lavelle has been effective, devising an ordinance that funnels parking tax revenue from the site of the former Civic Arena into the Hill District, backing development around the former Garden Theater on the North Side and encouraging new housing being constructed through his district.
With no Republican on the ballot in District 6, the Democrats' choice on May 21 is a shoo-in for council. Because he shows a spirit of cooperation that will be essential for all council members once a new mayor is elected, the Post-Gazette endorses R. Daniel Lavelle for the nomination.