Write on: Republicans are on the right track in mayor's race

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Today is primary election day, as always an opportunity for voters to do their civic duty by making their choices. For registered Republicans in the city, this is a special opportunity to do everybody a favor.

The sad fact is that the local Republican Party has no nominee on the ballot for Pittsburgh mayor, an omission made more glaring by the fact that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is also unchallenged on the Democratic Party ballot. As it happens, one last option can disrupt this premature coronation -- the write-in vote.

Republicans should seize it. While the young mayor is undoubtedly popular, he is not beyond criticism. Besides, the lack of a Republican candidate -- and this is true of other races, too -- is less about battling tough odds than it is about defeatism and a lack of will on the part of the GOP's local leadership.

Encouragingly, local Republicans show signs of finally understanding. They have rallied behind a write-in campaign that would put Mark DeSantis, 47, an executive with a technology-related consulting and management firm, on the ballot for the mayor's race in November. Mr. DeSantis appears to have the professional and civic background to make a plausible candidate, but we take that on trust -- although he has written op-ed pieces for the Post-Gazette, the editorial board has not met with him.

So this is by no stretch an endorsement of Mr. DeSantis, but it is an endorsement of the effort to give Pittsburgh a real mayoral campaign in the fall and a real election in November -- with choices, debates and lively discussions of the issues confronting the city.

The Republicans need just 250 of their registered voters to type in his name using the option on the electronic voting machine. What is at stake here is a variation of "build it and they will come" -- build a party that can field credible candidates with good support and the voters will come. It has worked in other large American cities and it can work in Pittsburgh. If it happens, it will pump some life into a sclerotic political scene.

The rest of the voters should make the effort to get out today, too. For all the seeming lack of excitement in today's races, important decisions must be made -- in judicial contests, in races for school board and councils and on referendums related to property taxes (in school districts outside Pittsburgh).

Voting is a matter of personal pride for most people -- but for Republicans in the city, it should also be about restoring pride in their local party.


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