Allegheny County Councilman Chuck McCullough is joining the increasingly crowded field running for the Republican nomination for county executive this year.
Mr. McCullough, of Upper St. Clair, said worries about the county's fiscal position and its looming property reassessments pushed him to enter the campaign, even as he is under criminal indictment. The attorney is due to go to trial May 9 -- eight days before the spring primary -- on charges he took an elderly client's money without her knowledge and used it to make political and charitable donations.
He says he will ultimately be cleared of the charges and filed a motion Friday to dismiss them.
"Quite simply I am innocent of the charges. ... Once I win again [in court] people will see through that," he said.
Mr. McCullough is the second formal GOP entrant into the race, following Patti Weaver of Fox Chapel, a leader of the Pittsburgh tea party movement. Mt. Lebanon commissioner and businessman D. Raja is also considering a Republican run, as is county councilman Matt Drozd.
Democrats Rich Fitzgerald, a county councilman from Squirrel Hill, and Mark Patrick Flaherty, the county controller, also are in the race. Current executive Dan Onorato announced last month he would not seek a third term.
Mr. McCullough won election to the council's at-large Republican seat in 2007 despite the spending accusations and despite the preference of GOP leaders for another candidate, Kevin Acklin. He said he will go his own way this year, too, running a grass-roots campaign that does not accept political action committee funding and appeals to tea party voters and others outside the party establishment. He has hired no staff nor made any campaign appearances.
"I'm tired of seeing the way the county is going -- the fiscal situation, the cash flow problem, reassessments, the Port Authority, the drink tax fiasco. I decided to step up and take a shot at it," he said.
Mr. McCullough has been a vocal critic of the county's looming property revaluations and plans to file a petition next week asking Common Pleas Court Judge R. Stanton Wettick to stay the reassessments, to allow property owners to appeal their new property values before they go into effect.
County law requires council members to resign once they campaign for higher office. He said he will do so on March 8, the deadline for filing for the office.
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581. Read the Early Returns blog at earlyreturns.sites.post-gazette.com.