The Procrastinator’s Guide to the Pittsburgh City Council District 8 special election

A quick look at the surprise race that turned into a surprisingly interesting one.

collage district 8
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On Tuesday, District 8 voters will head to the polls to choose a replacement for former Councilman Dan Gilman, marking the culmination of a rapid-fire special election race touched off by Gilman’s resignation to join Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration late last year.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. If you’re a District 8 voter, you can find a list of participating polling places here. (It is too late to register or request an absentee ballot. Sorry.)

Four candidates will appear on the ballot: Democratic nominee Sonja Finn; Marty Healey and Erika Strassburger, each running as an independent after not getting the Dems’ nod; and Republican Rennick Remley.

And while city council races tend to be fairly modest and monotonous affairs, this one — affecting voters in Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze — has not. It’s a surprise race that’s been surprisingly interesting to watch.

In the span of two months, the D8 race has attracted an unusual amount of money for a council race. It has prompted a legal challenge and court hearing. It’s prompted talk of an intraparty proxy war between Strassburger’s supporters and Finn’s. It’s prompted campaign videos — and one notable campaign ad spoof.

In short, this is not your average council race. Here we look at some of some of the underlying causes and all of the candidates.

County officials said it’s unclear at this time when the winner will be sworn into office.


Sonja Finn
LAURA PETRILLA

Sonja Finn

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Chef/owner – Dinette. Nutrition, SNAP advocate. Point Breezer. Critic of the status quo. Democratic nominee. Mom.

Campaign in 5 lines

Endorsements

  • Allegheny County Democratic Committee
  • Operating Engineers
  • Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
  • Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh
  • Jeanne Caliguiri (widow of Mayor Dick Caliguiri)
  • Mayor Tom Murphy
  • Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner

Drama?

Some. Finn has called Peduto’s decision to back Strassburger, “disappointing.” She’s also questioned Strassburger’s ties to the Peduto administration and the donations Strassburger has received from out-of-state labor unions and real estate developers like Walnut Capital, developer of Bakery Square.

More info

Website: www.sonjafinn.com
Twitter: @sonjajfinn
Facebook: @SonjaForCouncil 
Office: 412-376-7180


Marty Healey
MARA RAGO

Marty Healey

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Shadysider. CFO – The Healey Company. LGBT advocate. Delta Foundation board member. Dad to a massive dog named Larry.

Campaign in 5 lines

  • On Peduto’s PWSA restructuring plan: “All of a sud­den, City Coun­cil has noth­ing to say about who is on the au­thor­ity.”
  • On guns: Wants to work with the state legislature. Said a citywide ban wouldn’t counter the fact that “someone can bring a gun in from an outlying county.”
  • On bike lanes: “I just hope moving forward that we can have more community input in the lanes.”
  • On suburban commuters: Too many rely on city ser­vices without buying in.
  • On Pittsburgh’s public persona: “A more diverse and inclusive city is what will continue to make Pittsburgh a vibrant place not only for its current residents but also welcoming to newcomers and visitors.”

Endorsements

  • A recommendation by Steel City Stonewall Democrats, which couldn’t endorse Healey outright because he’s no longer running as a Dem

Drama? 

Yes, but mostly secondhand. A spokesman for Healey’s campaign described him as caught in the middle of a proxy war of sorts between Strassburger’s backers — namely Peduto and Gilman — and Finn’s — namely longtime Peduto critic and Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner. Of course, Healey’s campaign pointed to him as the lone progressive candidate above the fray in a special election increasingly defined by internal Democratic Party discord. Healey, like Strassburger, is running as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination to Finn. Healey was also critical of the nomination process in this race.

More info

Website: www.martyhealey.com
Twitter: @martyjhealey
Facebook: @MartyJHealey


Rennick Remley
PHOTO VIA RENNICK FOR COUNCIL

Rennick Remley

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Running (er, jogging?) to breakup up Dems’ council monopoly. Squirrel Hill-er. “Moderate” Republican.

Campaign in 5 lines

Endorsements

  • The Fraternal Order of Police – Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1
  • Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh

Drama?

Um, yeah. Remley’s qualifications for the D8 office were challenged in a petition filed by two District 8 voters with the help of a Democratic Party-connected lawyer. The petition argued that Remley had not been a resident of the district when he needed to be and therefore was ineligible to hold the office. (Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter requires council candidates to have lived for at least one year in the district they’re running to represent before the election.) The challenge eventually went before a judge who ultimately sided with Remley, allowing him to stay in the race and on the March 6 ballot.

More info

Website: www.rennickforcouncil.com
Twitter: @RennickRemley
Facebook: @rennickforpittsburghcitycouncil 
Email: [email protected]


Erika_Strassburger
Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Erika Strassburger

Suggested 160-character (or less) Twitter bio

Enviro crusader. Squirrel Hill-er. Former chief of staff to Dan Gilman. Literally running for City Council. (*See below.)

Campaign in 5 lines

  • On the city’s water system: “We have to keep water publicly owned but make sure important changes are implemented. Green infrastructure needs to be a priority first, and I believe there are ways to raise money for that.”
  • On guns: Supports a lost-and-stolen law at the state level while organizing efforts such as gun buybacks locally.
  • On bike lanes: “We need more bike infrastructure in more neighborhoods in order to truly create a connected network throughout the city. In some cases, the city could do a better job of working creatively to add bike infrastructure that is great for bicyclists while doing so through a process that is inclusive and allows everyone to have their say.”
  • On the environment: Thinks Pittsburgh can — and should — be a leader on climate change.
  • On livability: “While we need this growth to replace an aging workforce and to provide a tax base for infrastructure needs, it must not come at the expense of long-term or low-income residents. Safe, affordable housing is not a luxury.”

Endorsements

  • Clean Water Action
  • Iron Workers union
  • Penn Environment
  • Pittsburgh Firefighters union
  • Service Employees International Union
  • Shadyside Chamber of Commerce
  • Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald
  • Mayor Bill Peduto

Drama?

A bit. As mentioned above, Strassburger sought and failed to obtain the Democratic Party’s nomination in this race and immediately turned to run as an independent. And while opponents argue that hers would be a less-independent voice on council, given her ties to and relationships with the Peduto administration, Strassburger maintains her connections are an asset that will help her actually get something done in City Hall for voters.

More info

Website: www.voteerika.com
Twitter: @erikastrassbrgr
Facebook: @erikaforcouncil
Office: 5846 Ellsworth Ave. (Shadyside)