Sunday, December 02, 2012

Where are you Joe Cosetti?


Jim O covers the  current lay of the land in the upcoming mayoral race for the City of Pittsburgh. I know everyone thinks every election cycle is the most contentious ever; a perspective that  is as wrong as it is repeated. In Pittsburgh we are all separated by no more than 2 degrees.  There are a few folks we all know who are 1 degree people.  There are above them the zero degree folks who impact us all. 

On that note take a moment and read the Wikipedia entry for the late mayor Richard Caliguiri. There is an immense amount of history written in, and even more between the lines of, the brief narrative there.  Worth a read.  Note that in the general election when he was elected to his first full term of office, it was by far the most contentious race the city had seen in a long time (or since?)  The endorsed Democratic Party candidate Tom Foerster lost to Caligiuri who was running as an independent after having failed to get the ACDC endorsement.  

But that is just the beginning.  the winning margin between Foerester and Caliguiri (just 4%) was more than doubled by the minimal 9% of the vote for the endorsed Republican party candidate, Joe Cosetti.  Votes for Joe arguably could have decided the race,  but Joe had not been a Republican for long.  He was actually Mayor Pete Flaherty's Treasurer for years until just before the filing deadline for primary race when he switched party's and ran for mayor.  He was actually tossed off the Republican primary ballot by a successful challenge of his petition signatures by the only other Republican running, Jerry Cook.  Cook's qualification for running was owning a small luncheonette on Strawberry Way Downtown.  But Cosetti ran a write-in campaign on the primary Republican ballot and actually won.   Cosetti, as an aside, had once been the top economist for the Jones and Laughlin Corporation, and then went on to be a Federal Judge in town after his mayoral loss.  His appointment as judge came as a bankruptcy judge in 1980 which was before bankruptcy judges were appointed by the president (were appointed locally).  A local panel of US district judges nominated Cosetti for the bench.  Later on it would change to where bankruptcy judges were appointed more like district judges by the President.
Caliguiri himself was an unlikely independent candidate having received the Democratic Party's committee endorsement over Pete Flaherty when in 1973 when he first ran for office. More suprising, Caliguiri also received the endorsement over Flaherty when Flaherty ran for his second term as an incumbent.  Think how rare it is in town here for an incumbent major office holder to not get the ACDC endorsement??
So Caliguiri no doubt has strong party ties having once received the party committee endorsement over an incumbent mayor.   Cosetti was the point guy for much of popular Democratic mayor Pete Flaherty's administration and Foerester goes without saying was a career party loyalist who was an Allegheny County Commissioner for decades. So the 3 way race at the time was a form of political fratricide among 3 lifelong D's that remains far more contentious than anything since.  Arguably it shapes local politics to this day, and certainly confuses the roles of committee, party and electorate.  
So yes, this would be all ancient and forgotten political history in most places.  But remember my statistic, there are typically 8 voters in city primaries over the age of 65 for every voter who casts a ballot under age 30 (not under 20... under 30).  So the large majority of voters in May will at least remember all of this in some form.  Or to put it another way, many will have voted for Flaherty of Caliguiri in 1977 and likely still have strong opinions on that race to this day.  Don't believe me? Go ask one of your older neighbors and prove me wrong.

and if you think the Romney campaign misunderstood election data, they at least were a bit more accurate than this... and remember the ad is talking about a virtually lifelong D:

 

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