When Republicans first heard about the candidates seeking the party nomination for an at-large seat on County Council, they might have been surprisingly impressed. A party that has struggled to field good candidates in local elections -- or any candidates at all -- had two attractive choices in the May 15 primary.
It was easy to imagine Charles McCullough, 52, a lawyer from Upper St. Clair, one day making a plausible candidate for county chief executive. A former county solicitor under former County Chief Executive Jim Roddey with an MBA as well as a law degree, he has been chief counsel to a number of boroughs and townships.
By the same token, his opponent, Kevin Acklin, 30, of Squirrel Hill and also a lawyer, would have made an ideal Republican candidate to give Mayor Luke Ravenstahl a run for his money. Although his family roots are Democratic, he told the Post-Gazette editorial board that he was put off by the patronage he saw while growing up in south Oakland and so registered as a Republican at age 18. After college, and before going to law school at Georgetown, he worked in Gov. Tom Ridge's office in Washington, D.C. He returned to Pittsburgh five years ago.
But, sadly, this race has proved a disappointment. The candidate who would have been our first choice on the strength of his work in municipal and county government -- Chuck McCullough -- withdrew from the contest this week, although his name will likely remain on the ballot (which is why we persist with this editorial).
As readers of the Post-Gazette know, Mr. McCullough has power of attorney for a 90-year-old Upper St. Clair widow, who in the past was diagnosed with moderate dementia. She became the largest single donor to candidates in Allegheny County this year, giving four Republican contenders $10,000 apiece. Not only did she deny approving the donations to a Post-Gazette reporter, she also blamed Mr. McCullough for them.
Mr. McCullough has an explanation for this. He says she is of sound mind but may have felt threatened by the reporter's questions and so reacted with a denial. That is possible. But even if Mr. McCullough acted ethically -- and we hope that official inquiries vindicate him -- he certainly acted rashly with no thought to how the situation would look to others. It looked questionable enough that all the candidates, one of them a judge, gave back the donations (the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh also gave back a $10,000 gift from the widow).
As it happens, the remaining choice in this race is also a good one -- a young man who promises a fresh generational approach to county problems. Mr. Acklin brings to the table a sharp intelligence and a strong desire to serve his community.
Republicans will see two names on the ballot, but there's only one choice. The Post-Gazette endorses Kevin Acklin for the council nomination.