Candidates emerging for city council seat

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With city Councilman Patrick Dowd's official resignation about to take effect, candidates are lining up for the special election to fill the balance of his term.

The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties may nominate candidates for the election, which will coincide with the regular November general election. Candidates also have the option of running as an independent.

Paul McKrell, a senior aide with the Ravenstahl administration, reaffirmed his interest in running for the Democratic nomination. Some supporters of Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Peduto are lining up behind Highland Park resident Deborah Gross, the former executive director of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance.

Mr. Peduto has not taken a public position on the still-evolving race.

Rita Turpin, a recent graduate of Duquesne University Law School, also plans to seek the Democratic nomination. Ms. Turpin is the daughter of Vanessa Turpin, the Democratic chair of the 8th Ward, which is dominated by Bloomfield.

Anthony Ceoffe, the Democratic chairman of the 6th Ward, which includes Polish Hill, said several weeks ago that he, too, was interested in the seat, which he unsuccessfully sought in a race against Mr. Dowd in 2011.

Mr. Ceoffe could not immediately be reached Wednesday to confirm his decision.

There had been speculation that Lauren Byrne, executive director of Lawrenceville United, might enter the race, but she said Wednesday that she planned to stay with the community group.

No Republican candidates have emerged for the seat -- not a surprising development given the decades-long record of GOP frustration in picking up any council spot.

Under the city charter, council President Darlene Harris will direct the city clerk to issue a writ of election, a declaration that starts a 15-day clock ticking for the parties or individuals to file the paperwork necessary to get on the ballot. That's expected to happen in the next few days.

Nancy Mills, who chairs the Allegheny County Democratic Party, said she planned to call a meeting of the 108 party committee members from the district to choose their nominee. In the special election context, that meeting will be the functional equivalent of a primary.

Individuals also may get on the ballot as independent candidates -- a less onerous process in a special election than in a normal contest.

To secure a spot on the ballot, independents must file nominating petitions with at least 128 signatures from registered voters.

In a normal election, individuals cannot run as an independent candidate if they are registered with one of the major parties.

That is not the case in the special election so that a candidate, in theory, could lose the party nomination vote but still get a place on the ballot as an independent.

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Politics Editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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