Allegheny County Councilman Drozd cries foul in election loss

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Allegheny County Councilman Matt Drozd, a Republican from Ross who lost Tuesday's primary election, says he's leaving the party and running a write-in campaign in November after the nomination was "stolen" by his challenger.

Mr. Drozd, who has earned a reputation as a bit of an eccentric after two terms on council, said a misleading mailer distributed by opponent Tom Baker that claimed he supported "Obamacare" cost him the election.

In a news conference Friday outside the courthouse, he also called on Allegheny County GOP Chairman Jim Roddey to resign, saying the political leader masterminded his ouster.

"It's almost up to the borderline of a conspiracy," Mr. Drozd said. "I didn't lose the election. They stole the election."

Mr. Drozd has made grand pronouncements before. Indeed, many attributed his defeat Tuesday to an earnest desire among voters for a less bombastic representative. Mr. Drozd admits he's seen as a loose cannon -- and that's why the party leadership took him down, he says.

The mailer was a black-and-red affair with a leering portrait of President Barak Obama, reading "Matt Drozd Voted YES to Obamacare!" Bankrolled by Mr. Baker's campaign, an asterisk directs voters to the county council's March 19 meeting.

Mr. Drozd did vote yes at that meeting -- but not on Obamacare, over which he has no control. His vote supported a resolution urging Gov. Tom Corbett to reinstate Pennsylvania's adultBasic program, which supplies health insurance to residents who don't qualify for Medicaid.

The councilman joined with his Democratic colleagues in supporting the measure, saying the government program helped his constituents.

"My voters know what I stand for," he said. "I always put people before the party."

But the bill had a fatal flaw, at least for a Republican in an election year: Towards the end, it mentioned working in concert with the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

That's what stuck out to Mr. Baker, 33, who attended the March meeting. When crafting his campaign mailer, he said he wanted to make it clear to voters that Mr. Drozd had sided with a liberal policy.

"It was clear that the funds would be in concert with and very similar to the federal Affordable Care Act. That is Obamacare," he said. "We felt like that needed to be shared with the voters."

In addition to a possible write-in effort from Mr. Drozd, Mr. Baker will face Democrat Daniel A. McClain Jr., the former Ross Democratic chairman, in the fall.

The younger Republican won his party's nomination with 53 percent of the vote. He also secured the endorsements of Mr. Roddey, state Rep. Mark Mustio, R-Moon, state Rep. Hal English, R-Hampton, and state Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler. For his part, Mr. Roddey thought it was time for a change. Though he said he hasn't seen the mailer, he agreed with its sentiments and doubted it had that much of an effect on the election's result.

"I would have been very surprised if Matt Drozd didn't find some reason why he lost, other than that people just decided to have a different person," he said. "He's an agent all his own."

Mr. Drozd agrees with the latter sentiment, saying he's never been good at taking orders from Mr. Roddey. But he lays his defeat at the mailers' feet, saying many of his constituents called or stopped him on the street and asked why he voted for the president's health care plan.

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Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497. First Published May 24, 2013 12:30 AM


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