Pathetic GOP: Pittsburgh's Republican Party needs a revival

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Josh Wander, the Republican who is trying to become Pittsburgh's next mayor, has his work cut out for him, and he knows it.

In a story Sunday by the Post-Gazette's James O'Toole, Mr. Wander of Squirrel Hill, who won the party's nomination in the spring primary, admitted that he has no illusions about the near-impossibility of defeating Democratic opponent Bill Peduto. That admission is as true as it is unfortunate -- not just for him, but for the city of Pittsburgh.

This is not an editorial about who should win the mayor's race on Nov. 5; the Post-Gazette will assess the proposals and qualifications of the candidates as the campaign proceeds in the fall. This is a lament that city residents lack something that most other Americans enjoy: a local two-party system.

Sure, Pittsburgh has a Republican Party and more than 30,000 registered Republicans, many of whom go loyally to the polls and yearn for the days when the GOP, like Mr. Wander, can offer voters a choice. But the city party is underfunded, weak in leadership and in no position to compete with the Democrats, who outnumber their GOP neighbors by more than 5-to-1.

That may delight the city's Democratic officeholders and committee members, but it should disgust the city's voters. It gives one party a monopoly on government and, as any customer in a Pennsylvania liquor store knows, monopolies are not good.

It is amazing that suburban Republicans, who have been successful in so many parts of Allegheny County, have not extended a hand to the city GOP in a way that could revive the moribund party. Particularly with a Shaler Republican, Tom Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania and with the state House and Senate dominated by Republicans, there is no excuse for GOP leaders to tolerate a feeble party in the second-largest city of the state.

It starts with sponsoring voter registration drives, recruiting reputable candidates for every race on the ballot -- including all nine city council seats -- and raising significant financial support for qualified nominees who are determined to offer a choice. While Pittsburgh's Democratic candidates spent millions of dollars on this year's primary, Mr. Wander, albeit unopposed for the nomination, raised less than $1,000. That's an embarrassment, not for the candidate but for the Republican Party.

Pittsburghers deserve a two-party system that provides not just choice, but competition of ideas. Pittsburgh will never have one until Republicans not just inside but also outside the city do the hard work of resurrecting their brand.

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