Candidates falsely claim backing

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Two Pittsburgh city council candidates are circulating literature that incorrectly suggests that they have been endorsed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

John Robinson Block, the co-publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, denounced the tactics of both campaigns.

"This is a deliberate, despicable campaign tactic and dishonorable in every way," Mr. Block said.

In the hotly-contested race for the open seat in City Council District 4, Patrick Reilly is distributing a flier headlined, "Endorsed Democrat Patrick Reilly."

That is true, as far as it goes. Mr. Reilly is the endorsed candidate of the Allegheny County Democratic Party's committee members in the South Hills district.

But just beneath that notation is the logo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the date of the paper's endorsement editorial in the race. In that editorial, the paper's editorial board endorsed another candidate in the race, Natalia Rudiak, calling her "progressive, hard-working and temperamentally ready for the rigors of the office," and urging voters to support her as "the best choice hands down."

But the flier, which was distributed to about 2,500 voters according to the campaign's estimate, includes the quote, under the Post-Gazette logo, "Patrick Reilly is energetic, smart, and understands the values of networking."

That quote is accurate, but it was mentioned only in passing on the way to the editorial's board's statement of support for Mr. Reilly's opponent.

Mr. Reilly said last night that the campaign had not intended to convey a false impression with the flier. To correct any improper inference, however, he said the campaign was preparing a corrective piece of literature, to be mailed to the same voter list this morning. He said it would state that Mr. Reilly was not endorsed by the paper.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl got into the act, but perhaps not as overtly as in Mr. Reilly's flier. A mass mailing that went out this week boasted of the mayor's accomplishments and directly beneath it was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette masthead. The mailing also carried a Post-Gazette headline from a story in November that read, "City weathering financial storm."

But in the Democratic primary, the Post-Gazette endorsed Mr. Ravenstahl's opponent, Patrick Dowd.

The incident with Mr. Reilly was reminiscent of a tactic in an adjoining district, in which Councilwoman Theresa Smith printed an old editorial, from February, in which the Post-Gazette congratulated her for her victory in a special election, and welcomed her to council.

The format of Ms. Smith's campaign literature would lead many voters to the inference that she had been endorsed by the editorial board in this race. In fact, in the special election as in Tuesday's primary, the editorial board had endorsed her opponent, Georgia Blotzer.

In a conversation with Tom Waseleski, the paper's editorial page editor, Ms. Smith defended her campaign literature, pointing to the fact that it had quoted the February editorial in full. Mr. Waseleski dismissed her contention, noting that a reasonable person, reading the campaign flier, would be left with the incorrect impression that Ms. Smith had won the paper's endorsement.

For connoisseurs of election gamesmanship, there was a double irony in the Reilly literature in that it featured twin photographs of Mr. Reilly and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and pointed out, correctly, that they had both been endorsed by the Democratic committee.

"On Tuesday, May 19th, please vote for the team that will get it done," it stated under the two pictures. But in this primary, it takes a broad definition of "team" to include both Mr. Reilly and the mayor. Mr. Ravenstahl is supporting yet another candidate in the 4th District, Anthony Coghill.

Pennsylvania's Primary Election is Tuesday. n For candidate information, coverage of individual races, the Early Returns blog and more, go to post-gazette.com/politics/

n Pittsburgh mayoral candidates take to the streets. Page B-1


Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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