During last night's 27th Ward Candidates Night, in Brighton Heights, candidate Vince Pallus announced that if he failed to win the Democratic Party endorsement -- which will be made March 6 -- he would drop out of the race to unseat incumbent Darlene Harris.
Pallus, widely considered Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's chosen candidate, has been getting endorsement support from politically active mayoral allies like Kevin Quigley, who chairs the 27th Ward. But it's not going to be easy to beat Harris for the endorsement.
Harris is well-known in the North Side political scene, having served on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board for eight years before earning a seat on city council in 2006. But Pallas had an advatange of his own last night: As a product of Brighton Heights, the candidate was speaking on his home turf. And it showed.
Compared to Pallus' Feb. 17 appearance at the Young Democrats of Allegheny County endorsement forum, the 33-year-old candidate looked a little more relaxed and polished. At the earlier gathering, Pallus spoke briefly, and vaguely about the need to help the city's youth. Harris won that round -- and the Young Democrat endorsement. At the 27th Ward forum, though still thin on specifics, Pallus noted the city's need tackle the problem of abandoned and blighted homes.
However, he told the 15 committe members in attendance, "The main reason I'm running is communication. We need to work with community leaders, all of city council and the mayor's office."
After Harris and Pallus spoke for five minutes, Quigley asked each candidate two questions: "How do you plan to better communicate with communities, city council as a whole and the administration?"; and "If you do not win the Democratic endorsement, will you still run for election?"
Answering the former question -- which seemed pointed directly at her -- Harris said, "I don't know how much more I could work with the community." She also said that she regularly speaks with council members.
Harris has butted heads with the mayor since becomiong council president last year -- especially on the mayor's controverisal plan to lease public garages. Still, she said, "I have worked with the administration for the last four years ... I call every Monday to have a meeting with the mayor."
Unlike Pallus, who firmly rejected the idea of running without the endorsement, Harris said she has yet to decide whether she'd drop out. She wasn't alone: Out of roughly one dozen candidates who appeared at the gathering, only three committed to dropping out if they lose the March 6 endorsement.
(The third candidate in the District 1 race, Bobby Wilson, did not attend last night's event. But he tells City Paper that he will continue his bid with or without the endorsement.)
For his part, Pallus provided little detail about how he would work cooperatively with other officials. "I feel that everyone needs to come together," he said. "You can't shut something down just because you don't like a certain person. We need an open mind."
After the forum, Quigley addressed his committee. "I would hope that everybody in this ward supports the endorsed candidate," he said. "Whoever wins the endorsement, we support that individual 100 percent."
After the meeting, Quigley told CP he is frustrated by Harris' refusal to commit to dropping out. "That is disappointing to me," he said. "It just doesn't make sense. If you don't receive the endorsement, drop out."