Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jack Wagner

By and large, the club has shown little love for Jack Wagner, one of the top two contenders among four Democrats in this year's Pittsburgh mayoral primary race.

Wagner, from Beechview, began his political career in 1983 with a city council bid.  In a crowded field of 24 candidates (city council members were still selected citywide at this point, rather than by district), the club passed on Wagner and endorsed Jim Ferlo (who briefly challenged Wagner in this year's mayor's race), Jonathan Robison, Helen V. Hull, Michelle Madoff and Jim O'Malley. Despite the snub, Wagner went on to win a seat and served on council for 10 years.

Jack Wagner's Wikipedia photo
The club's archives contains a copy of an 8.5x11, 16-page Voters' Guide for 1983, replete with three and a half pages of advertising, produced by Shadyside's 7th Ward Democratic Committee. The guide includes detailed bios and policy positions for all of the council candidates. Wagner's "principal objective" statement reads: "[To] devote my effort on council to make this legislative body more responsive to the true needs of the residents of Pittsburgh." Feels that Council should provide a greater "check & balance" to the mayor's office."

He is listed as supporting eight separate initiatives like selecting council by district and freezing tax assessments until a house is sold, but regarding a "lesbian/gay civil rights ordinance", Wagner declared, "no position".

Conversely, another council candidate from the southern neighborhoods, Brookline resident and Pittsburgh's famous flamboyant traffic cop, Vic Cianca, supported the lesbian/gay ordinance but opposed a by-district council.

Fast forward to 2010 and Wagner's bid for governor. At a gubernatorial forum hosted by the club at Wightman School, in Squirrel Hill, Wagner said that he "believes marriage is between a man and a woman" but supports the anti-discrimination Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. He also asserted that he tolerates abortion but was evasive when asked if he would veto bills further restricting reproductive rights. The club endorsed his opponent and staunch progressive, Joe Hoeffel.

Returning to the chronology, the club did a turnabout in 1987, endorsing Wagner in his city council re-election campaign, along with Ferlo, O'Malley, Madoff and Otis Lyons, Jr. In its brief Voter's Guide rationale, the club explained: "As a sitting City Councilman he has displayed a professional, competent approach to city problems, voting independently. (He does his homework.)"

The club reverted to form however the next time it considered Wagner, rejecting him in the 1993 mayoral primary with a strong endorsement of Tom Murphy.

The club's archives are occasionally spotty, so it's unclear who the club endorsed when Wagner won State Senate races in 1994, 1998 and 2002. However, the club resoundingly backed Alan Kukovich over Wagner and a crowded field in a race for Lieutenant Governor in 2002. Kukovich finished third in the primary, behind Wagner and the eventual winner, Catherine Baker Knoll.

Wagner's long string of political campaigns continued in 2004 with a stab at Auditor General, but the club was having none of it, opting for "No Endorsement" even though Wagner was running unopposed. Wagner won anyway and in 2008 the club relented, backing him for re-election as Auditor General.

1 comment:

  1. Does Jack ultimately want to be Mayor or Governor or does he just have the funding to continue running for offices until his dying day?