Thursday, March 08, 2007

correcting the history - Pittsburgh's long history of political fratricide

So this is a correction of sorts. I explained it correctly in this old post, but elsewhere and in person, I have incorrectly explained the episode in 1977 when then-acting-Mayor Caliguiri sat out the primary but later ran as an independent in the general election for mayor.

My error, and apparently the error of others (see the current version of the Caliguiri Wikipedia entry, which is also incorrect), was in thinking Mayor Caliguiri ran in the primary in 1977 and that, only after losing, did he declare as an independent and go on to defeat Tom Foerster in the general election that year. That is not how it happened.

The correct history goes like this: Louis Mason was City Council president from 1970-1977 and only because of illness did he announce his resignation in February of 1977. At the time, there was an expectation that Mayor Flaherty would take a position in the newly elected Carter administration. Thus it was expected that the person selected to replace Mason as City Council prez would become acting mayor in short order and remain in office through the general election in the fall. City Council included several potential mayoral candidates and there was a compromise consensus that the potential City Council prez/acting mayor should be someone not planning to run for mayor. Caliguiri was that compromise choice and replaced Mason. Flaherty became deputy attorney general (when Flaherty was nominated in March, fellow Pennsylvanian Richard Thornburgh was briefly acting deputy attorney general - the two would run against each other for Governor a year later), Caliguiri became acting Mayor, and neither sought the Democratic endorsement for mayor nor ran in the primary that year. Tom Foerster handily won the ACDC endorsement that year (a 537-150 blowout btw) and then the primary against a number of other candidates.

Several bits of trivia. If it wasn't Caliguiri, who was defeated in the 1977 Democratic ACDC endorsement? Councilman Richard Givens of Lawrenceville. Also, Caliguiri had run for mayor 4 year earlier but had actually won the ACDC endorsement by defeating then-incumbent Pete Flaherty. So it is not the case that Caliguiri ever lost the ACDC endorsement, though he would lose the 1973 primary to Flaherty. Flaherty had actually beaten the endorsed Democrat twice, first Harry Kramer who had been unanimously endorsed in 1969 and then Caliguiri in 1973. And a bit of counterfactual history: if Louis Mason had stayed in office, as people wanted him to do, he would have become Pittsburgh's first African-American mayor.

At that point things get ugly. Some believed Caliguiri had promised to stay out of the race for mayor, period. But Caliguiri claimed he had only promised to stay out of the primary election. He would subsequently change his registration to independent, which he had to do in order to run for mayor in the general election. Despite Foerster on the ballot as the nominated Democrat as well as a Republican: Tom* Joe Cosetti, who had been City treasurer under Flaherty and who had switched parties just before nomination petitions were due. Caliguiri won the 1977 general election and remained in office. The general discontent fostered by the whole episode persists to this day in some of the animosities that still exist between factions/families within the party.

Makes all the current machinations seem pretty boring.

* an anonymous comment pointed out my error. It was Joe Cosetti, not Tom. Thanks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

note of correction: I believe the city treasurer's name was Joe Cosetti not Tom.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

ack. noted, and I will correct the post. not bad if that is the only thing wrong in all of that. Maybe I was thinking of Tom as in Foerster...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:28:00 AM  

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