GOP awaiting full count on mayor write-ins

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Until the polls closed last night, underfunded and undermanned city Republicans were trying to place one of their own on the November ballot to oppose Pittsburgh's young Democratic mayor, Luke Ravenstahl.

  
Mark DeSantis

To do that, 250 or more of the city's registered Republicans would have had to cast a write-in vote for a single candidate during yesterday's primary election, since no GOP name appeared on the mayoral section of the ballot. The Republicans' write-in candidate of choice was Mark DeSantis, an executive with a technology consulting firm. He needs 250 votes, and he'd need to best any other write-in candidate, to win a shot in November.

Whether enough GOP voters did so isn't yet known; the write-in votes won't be tallied for two weeks, Allegheny County elections director Mark Wolosik said. But unofficial late-night election returns showed that more than 1,300 write-in votes had been cast in Pittsburgh's Republican mayoral primary.

Mike DeVanney, a Republican campaign consultant working on behalf of Mr. DeSantis, said he and his stable of several dozen volunteers and party committee members did all they could.

City Republicans received automated phone calls yesterday, asking them to write-in Mr. DeSantis' name. Volunteers also targeted the areas of the city with a higher concentration of GOP voters -- Shadyside, Oakland, Squirrel Hill and Brookline.

"This something the voters deserved, competition on the November ballot," Mr. DeVanney said.

Mr. DeSantis, who lives Downtown, has worked in the administration of the original President Bush and for the late Sen. John Heinz, and sat on former Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey's transition team, which advised the county's first chief executive at the outset of his term.

Mr. DeSantis has previously said that he doesn't plan on speaking to the media until his name is officially on the ballot, and last night, when called, he wouldn't comment on his prospects.

They aren't good, at least in a big-picture sense -- there hasn't been a Republican mayor in Pittsburgh since the 1930s. The last Republican mayoral candidate, attorney Joe Weinroth of Squirrel Hill, was beaten handily by the late Bob O'Connor in 2005.

But Republicans said they were spurred less by their chances for victory than by spirit of democracy and competition.

When Councilman Bill Peduto dropped out of the Democratic primary, Mr. Ravenstahl -- who took the office after Mr. O'Connor died -- was essentially left without an opponent in either May or November. An opposition candidate is important if for no other reason than to spur a debate of the issues facing the city over the coming years, city Republicans have said.


Bill Toland can be reached at btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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