Choose Wagner ... and other qualified candidates on Tuesday

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Pittsburgh needs a strong, steady hand -- someone to take charge and put an end to the friction, chaos and missed opportunity.

Jack Wagner would be that kind of mayor.

When the city's Democratic majority goes to vote in Tuesday's primary, they will choose not just their nominee for the job, but, in all likelihood, the next mayor of Pittsburgh. The person who assumes the office in January will find the city's finances still under state oversight, its council a noisy and divided lot, and its neighborhoods a quilt of haves and have-nots.

It's time for a Pittsburgh that works for everyone.

Although the Democrats will choose from four candidates, three of whom have records of public service, Jack Wagner is the right leader at the right time for this city. He put his life on the line as a Marine in the Vietnam War. He served on city council for 10 years, four of them as president. He represented a large part of Pittsburgh in the state Senate and was Pennsylvania's fiscal watchdog as auditor general for the last eight years.

With such a seasoned record, Mr. Wagner not only understands Pittsburgh's problems, but he also has extensive experience working with Democrats and Republicans, state leaders and local officials, business and labor, institutions and organizations -- all of whom can play a significant role in the progress of Pittsburgh.

No other candidate comes so well prepared. No other would-be mayor can leverage from Harrisburg, from Grant Street, from the union halls and the corporate suites what Mr. Wagner can on behalf of the city.

Jack Wagner is not only the best choice for the Democrats; he would be the best mayor.

Although the Pittsburgh mayor's race has garnered most of the attention heading into Tuesday's primary, it will be decided solely by city Democrats. But other voters in Allegheny County, Democrats and Republicans alike, should not feel left out -- they'll have important choices to make as well.

This spring, the Post-Gazette interviewed more than 40 candidates in contested races on the way to making 18 endorsements in the last three weeks. Here is a recap of those recommendations.

Common Pleas Court

Four seats will be filled this year on Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. With 13 candidates and most of them cross-filed, as permitted by law, for both Democratic and Republican nominations, the array of choices can be bewildering.

Voters in both parties can nominate three excellent candidates: Bill Ward of Mt. Lebanon, a former state and federal prosecutor who is already on the bench due to gubernatorial appointment; Eleanor Bush of Squirrel Hill, who has had an extensive career as a child welfare attorney; and Mark Tranquilli of Upper St. Clair, who has been a prosecutor for the district attorney for two decades. The fourth choice for the Democrats should be Rosemary Crawford of Hampton, a civil litigator who is a bankruptcy trustee for U.S. District Court -- and for the Republicans, Patrick Connelly of Shadyside, a trial lawyer who focuses on civil cases.

Pa. Superior Court

The only primary race for a statewide office is for the Democratic nomination to Superior Court, which handles appeals in criminal and most civil cases from the Courts of Common Pleas and also hears appeals in cases involving children and families.

Judge John T. McVay of Shadyside, who has served in the Allegheny County court's Family Division since 2007, deserves the Democrats' backing.

County council

In Allegheny County's 15-member legislative body, three districts have party primaries. For the Republicans, the best nominee in District 1 would be Tom Baker of Ross and in District 3 Ed Kress of Shaler.

In District 5, since no Democrat filed, Republicans will choose which of two GOP candidates will complete the term left by Vince Gastgeb. The best bet is Sue Means of Bethel Park, who is well-informed about county issues.

The Democrats have a primary in District 9, where the incumbent, Bob Macey, deserves nomination.

City council

In Pittsburgh, where Democrats rule, the party has three primaries. In each case, it's the incumbent or someone working for the incumbent who deserves nomination: District 4, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak of Carrick; District 6, Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle of Schenley Heights, and District 8, Dan Gilman of Shadyside, chief of staff to Councilman Bill Peduto.

City school board

Pittsburgh's nine-member school board will see change in 2014 when four new directors take their seats. One will be Cynthia Ann Falls of Overbrook, who is unopposed in District 7.

The others deserve to be Lucille Prater-Holliday of Homewood in District 1, Terry Kennedy of Squirrel Hill in District 5 and Carolyn Klug of Brighton Heights in District 9.

House special election

In Pennsylvania's 42nd House District, all voters, regardless of registration, have the chance to elect, not nominate, their next representative. The winner in this three-way race will complete the term left vacant by Matt Smith, who won election last fall to the state Senate. In the district that includes Mt. Lebanon and extends from Bethel Park through parts of Scott, Green Tree and Thornburg, the best bet is Democrat Dan Miller.

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