Government
5:00 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Democrats Rally for Raja

A group of Democrats gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday to rally for their favored candidate in the County Executive race.

Only, the candidate they're throwing their support behind is not a Democrat.

Republican County Executive hopeful D. Raja enjoyed the backing of several local Democrats, including some former elected officials.

A Diverse Group of Supporters

Former Democratic State Representative Sean Flaherty said he's supporting Raja instead of his party's nominee for the County Executive position, Rich Fitzgerald, and he's calling on other Democrats to do the same.

The former North Hills lawmaker, whose brother Mark was defeated by Fitzgerald in the May primary election, said his decision was not based on spite, but rather on the issue of job creation.

"And there's only one candidate that's created a job in this race, and that's Raja," said Flaherty. "Raja's opponent has not created one job, and when he first ran out to the election, he claimed that he was a job creator. Raja is the job creator."

Other Democrats joined Flaherty in both denouncing Fitzgerald and endorsing Raja.

Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton Restaurant, said Raja has promised to do away with the drink tax in his first budget.

"We now have an opportunity to get rid of that tax once and for all," said Joyce. "So, this election, voters have a clear choice if they are unhappy with this drink tax, and they want to grow hospitality, and they want to improve the wages of our workers."

Raja has said that the drink tax unfairly singles out one industry to pay for the county's Port Authority. Fitzgerald argues that the tax is necessary to keep the buses running.

Democrat and former Pittsburgh Public Schools Board Member Randall Taylor said that he thinks the Democratic political establishment in Allegheny County is responsible for Pittsburgh's population decline and high rate of African-American poverty, especially among children.

"Why in the world, I ask, would a black person vote for Rich Fitzgerald?" asked Taylor. "I believe we should boycott voting for all local establishment Democrats until they answer what has happened to the black community, how it has occurred, and announce their plans for reversing these embarrassing and tragic statistics."

Against the Grain

Raja accepted the endorsements, and took the opportunity to express the difficulty of running a GOP campaign in a traditionally blue county.

"It's very hard for a Republican to run for this post," said Raja. "You're behind more than 2.5-to-1 [in voter registration]. Vendors are not going to give you money. Vendors have given Rich $60,000, whether he shakes them down or what, $60,000 campaign contributions. I'm not going to get that."

Raja said that the race should not be about party affiliations, but rather about who is most fit to become the next County Executive.