"I just can't get excited by any of these candidates," Lindsay Patross groaned during a break at the first-ever League of Young Voters Endorsement Meeting on Oct. 18.
Neither, it seems, could the nearly 20 other people who crammed into a room at the Union Project space in Highland Park. When the organization, which seeks to get young people engaged in politics, issued its slate of endorsed candidates for the Nov. 9 election, much of it was blank.
There was, for example, no candidate endorsed in the five-way race for Pittsburgh mayor. And while the group could have endorsed as many as seven candidates for Common Pleas Court judge, it only gave the nod to two: former prosecutor Ed Borkowski and family lawyer Kathryn Hens-Greco. The League also took a pass on county-wide elections: It did not endorse any candidates running for coroner, jury commissioner, or sheriff. In races for County Council, it found only one candidate worth giving the nod: Millvale Mayor Jim Burn, who was lauded as a "strong supporter of community revitalization, economic development, and the arts." The League made no endorsement in any of the other five county council races being held this fall.
The group did endorse City Councilor Bill Peduto in his unopposed re-election bid, which was hardly surprising: As one participant asked during deliberations, "Did anyone here not work for the Peduto [mayoral] campaign?" But it made no endorsement in the three other city council races.
Perhaps surprisingly, the group endorsed a "no" vote on the retention of two state Supreme Court justices, Russell Nigro and Sandra Schultz Newman. The reason? "Both allowed the Constitution to be trampled by politicians who award themselves a huge pay increase, paving a culture of arrogance and greed to take control of our state government." The League did, however, endorse the "fairness, community involvement, and support of the arts" practiced by aspiring District Magistrate Cathleen Cawood Bubash. This may surprise some other young voters: As a city magistrate, Bubash gained notoriety for handing out seemingly indiscriminate community-service sentences to more than 100 anti-war protestors arrested during a 2003 anti-war march Downtown.
The standard for getting an endorsement was high: At least two-thirds of those present had to support a candidate. As League member Nish Suvarnakar put it before the voting started, "I want our endorsement to mean something." Very often, as in the mayor's race, League members wrestled with the dilemma posed by candidates whose politics they liked, but who had limited organizations behind them. In other cases, the choice was easier: For Suvarnakar, one candidate's endorsement by a gun-rights' group was "enough for me to not want to endorse him."
Given that this was the group's first endorsement meeting, there were the inevitable hiccups, and confusion about the differing effects of a "no" vote and an abstention. But organizers expressed hope that the lessons learned would serve them in the future.
Assuming, of course, there are any candidates worth supporting.