Mark Rauterkus is hoping for an astounding voter turnout in the 42nd District state Senate race on May 17, one of the only spring contests that's not a primary. Rauterkus, the Libertarian candidate, figures all he needs are several hundred Republican votes, maybe a fifth of the Democrats -- and all 8,000 people in the district registered with third parties, or as Independents.
Rauterkus, a 45-year-old South Side resident and Carlynton Swim Club coach, styles himself "a citizens' candidate. Let the idea reign supreme, no matter who it came from," he says.
It's the sort of thing you say when you're fighting for attention amid ugly television ads from Democrat Wayne Fontana, until recently a County Councilor, and Democrat-turned-Republican Michael Diven, hoping to move up from his state House seat. All want to replace Jack Wagner, elected as auditor general in November. Rauterkus ran for Pittsburgh mayor in 2001.
Rauterkus is one of the few candidates this season without a major-party endorsement who nonetheless is mounting a full-scale campaign, albeit without money for television ads. He says his first legislative priority is the kids: He wants to create a "Pittsburgh Parks District," which would require the city, county and school district to pool their parks under new oversight.
County-wide property reassessment is at the center of the other two candidates' campaigns, despite the state's less-than-central role in the process. Rauterkus' solution is assessment buffering: splitting each new assessment increase into three parts and adding one per year for three years to ease the pain.
Like many third-party candidates, he sports the most specific -- or unusual -- ideas on other issues as well: The region should use heavy rail instead of light rail, and not under the Port Authority's control. In fact, we should get rid of the various city authorities, or at least make their members stand for retention votes a while after they've been appointed. Rauterkus has also proposed the formation of transparent political action committee (PAC) accounts, in which citizens can track political contributions with the same ease as they can get a bank balance via ATM.
"Some of these items require senator-type leadership," he notes. "I'm trying to step out of the party game, as far as being a D or an R." Of course, the letter L has some implications as well. But Rauterkus isn't worried. He points to the lack of polling in this campaign as a positive sign -- the other fellows must be afraid of his candidacy.
"It sends a message to me that I'm doing pretty well," he says.
See Rauterkus.blogspot.com, Rauterkus.com or Platform.For-Pgh.org.