Election 2013: Vote puts Baker on county council

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Allegheny County Councilman-elect Tom Baker has to work with people from different backgrounds and with different political beliefs in his job at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.

"I hope that will carry over to this office as well," he said after he won the District 1 council race on Tuesday.

Mr. Baker beat Democratic opponent Daniel McClain and Constitution Party candidate Jim Barr in the general election. He had 6,749 votes to 5,778 for Mr. McClain and 896 for Mr. Barr in uncertified ballot totals.

District 1 extends from Findlay, Moon and North Fayette in the west, past a half-dozen Ohio River Valley communities to Ross and West View.

He will be among five Republicans and 10 Democrats serving on council in January.

Mr. Baker, 34, is the chief community affairs officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He lives in Ross and serves on the North Hills school board.

The county charter appears to forbid serving in two elective offices.

"I'd be happy to do both and I think I could do both," Mr. Baker said. He plans to confer with lawyers for the county and school board and will abide by their advice. If forced to choose, he said he will take his council seat.

In addition to his work for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the North Hills school board, Mr. Baker runs his own leadership company and founded a community service nonprofit organization. He also is the author of three books.

Mr. Baker met his wife, Erin, when both were undergraduates at Millersville State University. He earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education and was elected student body president. He later earned a master's degree in student affairs in higher education administration at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Baker got support from the state GOP in his run for council. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania sent out a flier last week to District 1 voters to alert them to his Democratic opponent's April 20 arrest on a charge of driving under the influence.

"I did not send out the piece, but it is factual," Mr. Baker said of the mailing. The DUI charge was a first offense for Mr. McClain, who paid his fines and faces suspension of his driver's license.

Mr. Baker defeated incumbent GOP Councilman Matt Drozd to win the Republican nomination for the District 1 seat.

During that contest, Mr. Baker infuriated Mr. Drozd with a claim that he had voted to support President Barack Obama's health insurance reform plan. The Affordable Care Act was adopted by Congress, and county council never had a role in its passage. Mr. Drozd in turn threw his support behind Mr. Barr.

Council members receive $9,000 annually and serve four-year terms.

Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.

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