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City GOP Casts Web for Candidates, Cash

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If your boss is a Democrat, don't check out the Pittsburgh Republican Committee's new Web site, pghgop.org, during work hours. The home page blares "Stars and Stripes Forever." Parading pachyderms make it clear that you're viewing partisan patriotic propaganda. Click through to the page on city government, and you'll hear "The Imperial March" -- Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars. The school-board page features the Looney Tunes theme. Click on "Cool Stuff" and you learn that the Republican idea of a neato knickknack is a George W. Bush bobblehead doll or piggy bank -- available for a $25 donation.

 

"The best way to have people look at something is to make it fun," says city Republican Committee Chairman Bob Hillen, who created the site along with his wife, Kathleen, on Jan. 11. "It represents an avenue that people can contact us through, and an indication that we're here and we're getting larger," says Hillen, a Beechview resident who is launching his fourth bid for the City Council seat now held by Democrat Jim Motznik.

Along with Hillen's run, the Web site announces the intentions of hopefuls for two other city council seats and one school-board slot. Notably absent, though, is a mayoral wannabe.

 

Hillen observes that the major Democratic contestants -- announced and presumptive -- have all had involvement in city government, which he says could make them vulnerable, given the city's financial troubles. Still, finding a Republican willing to dedicate a year to a mayoral run could be tough, considering that the party's last candidate for the post, Carlow University professor Jim Carmine, got just 23 percent of the vote.

 

One name that's been floating through Republican circles is Dick Skrinjar, the witty former PennDOT spokesman, canned without explanation in September. Skrinjar, of Highland Park, calls the idea of running "intriguing," but doubts he'll do it. "I might make a good candidate, but I would make a lousy mayor," he says. Skrinjar says he's exploring other opportunities, but promises to "go into the Hall of Fame ... with a PennDOT hard hat on."

 

Hillen hopes the Web site will help drum up money, candidates and committee members, but early on it brought him something that might give Democrats a chuckle. "Somebody sent us a virus," he says.

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