Friday, April 18, 2014

20th Anniversary Celebration - 1984

Two great names from the 14th Ward's past--Ivan Itkin and Poli's Restaurant--featured prominently in the club's 20th anniversary celebration. Itkin was the honoree; Poli's the venue. Poli's closed in 2005 and was sold at sheriff's sale last year. Itkin has enjoyed a better fate, including 25 years in the state house and the Democratic candidate for governor in 1998 (he lost to incumbent Tom Ridge). Itkin was a very active club leader, serving as president in the early 1970s.

Today, Itkin has spread his progressive political roots to his new home in Florida, where he is president of the GO GO Democrats, aka the Galt Ocean Grassroots Organization Democratic Club, "a group of active citizens on the Galt Ocean mile in Ft Lauderdale, FL", according to the organization's Facebook page.

The club will mark its 50th anniversary next weekend with a fundraiser and endorsement meeting at Colfax School in Squirrel Hill. More information, including a ticket and sponsorship order form, is here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Two More 1964 Club-backed Committee Candidates

Talk about qualified! And even better, both Dolores Gluck and Milton Brauman won their Allegheny County Democratic Committee seats in what was then the ward's 21st District, located north of Forbes and south of Wilkins, between Wightman and Murray.

 And for a bonus blast from the past, here's Shirley Stark's letter to prospective committee constituents from 1966. She lived along the Schenley Park Golf Course, on Darlington Road, in what is now the 38th District. Again, qualifications galore and a really strong letter--Pitt and University of Chicago grad, two young children in public school, and deeply involved in local political and neighborhood groups (note that Shirley highlighted her leadership in getting a "ladycop" assigned to the intersection of Beacon and Wightman--while the nomenclature may change with the times, the need for civic-minded community activism remains).

Friday, February 7, 2014

Running for Committee in 1964--Almost as Big as The Beatles!

The club's archives include an interesting collection of campaign paraphernalia from, of all things, Allegheny County Democratic Committee races.

The position clearly carried more weight back in the salad days of patronage and ward chair power. Many committee races involved more than one candidate (a rare occurrence nowadays, for better or worse), and in a few primary elections the club ran an extensive slate of endorsed candidates in a bid to take over the ward.

According to a 1964 Pittsburgh Press article about the club, "Dr. Eugene Sucov, chairman of the 14th Ward Independent Democrats, announced his group will seek to elect 37 members of the Ward Democratic Committee." One of those committee hopefuls was current club board member Nat Hershey. (Here's a headshot of Nat in 1964.)

Also seeking a committee seat was another club founder, Celeste Behrend, who died in 2009-- Obituary: Celeste S. Behrend / Liberal political activist in city's 14th Ward.

Posted below are the entire results of the 1964 14th Ward committee elections, along with a list of club-backed candidates and a map of the districts at that time (there were 32, compared to to 41 today.) Unfortunately, many of the club's candidates lost that year, including Nat, Carol Berger and Marcum Schneider. However, Celeste prevailed, and of course, Nat and other club candidates would be elected to the committee in subsequent elections.

Note the number of contested races, some with three or more candidates, as well as some of the razor-thin margins of victory. For example, in District 7, in the heart of Point Breeze, Thomas Mahon beat Thomas Sheehy by one vote, 152 to 151, with the club's candidate, Richard Rieker, taking another 82 votes. Or how about 546 votes cast for four male candidates in District 15, near Blue Slide Park? That's a huge number compared to contemporary turnouts.

Not a bad level of interest for an unpaid, under-appreciated, bottom-rung position on the Democratic Party ladder!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Be Picky Elect Bicky"

Beatrice "Bicky" Goldszer was one committed committee person, as evidenced by her wide-ranging constituent services and multi-point community action plan listed in the campaign flier below. No date is indicated on the literature, but the mid- to late-1980s would be a good guess, judging by the font style and the fact that National Night Out started in 1984--Bicky was a prime mover in expanding the public safety event in the 14th Ward. Bicky was an active club board member and helped to organize a number of club fundraisers, including the sixth annual "Swanky Ball" (see photo in this post).

CLARIFICATION: Long-time club board member and former Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Liz Healy reports that this flier was circulated in 1990, when she and Bicky squared off in a school board race.

"Let's Start Building a Sub-stratum of Real Democracy ..."

It doesn't quite have the ring of, say, "Remember the Maine, Down with Spain", but former club president Bill Behrend's call to action in 1976 highlights one of the club's catalyzing issues: reform and control of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee in the 14th Ward.
 Note the list of endorsed committee candidates below. Dr. Cyril Wecht's name is circled for some reason. He would quit the club the next year in a dispute over the its mayoral endorsement, as detailed here. Other endorsed committee candidates include club founders Celeste Behrend, Molly Yard Garrett and Janet Kreisman, former club president Mary Hall, and Michelle Madoff, who would become an outspoken member of Pittsburgh City Council in 1978.
The boxed text indicates that the committee was elected every two years. The cycle has now been expanded to four years and this year, 2014, all committee seats are again up for grabs. In fact, an important deadline is fast approaching. Any prospective candidate must collect 10 signatures from registered Democrats in their committee district to be included on the primary election ballot in May. Candidates may start collecting the signatures on February 18, with petitions due to be filed with the Allegheny County Division of Elections by March 11.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Better Luck This Year

Following on the club's dynamite gubernatorial forum at Carnegie Mellon yesterday (here's some good coverage from PoliticsPA), here's a recap of the club's last gubernatorial forum and endorsement, in 2010.

The club co-hosted the forum at the Wightman School  Community Building with the University of Pittsburgh College Democrats and the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh. KDKA's Jon Delano moderated. All four candidates in the race at the time participated, including then-Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and then-state auditor general and Beechview resident Jack Wagner. (The Post-Gazette's story is here.)

Joe Hoeffel speaking in 2010
(photo from 2 Political Junkies blog)

That April the club threw its support behind the race's most progressive candidate, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who the club also endorsed in 2004 for U.S. Senate. Unfortunately, Hoeffel lost the primary to Onorato, finishing fourth in the four-person field with 12.7 percent of the vote. Onorato went down in defeat in the general election to current Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

Dan Onorato speaking at the club's
2010 endorsement meeting at the
Schenley Park Skating Rink Lodge

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Anybody but Casey, Apparently

Philip J. Berg on the campaign trail, 1990

 In 1990 the club endorsed Philip J. Berg for governor over incumbent Bob Casey, Sr. Berg, a Montgomery County attorney, had his hat handed to him in the primary, getting 22 percent of the vote to Casey's 78 percent.

The archives don't indicate what Berg's progressive credentials or appeal might have been in 1990, but today, he is best known as a leading conspiracy theorist. For example, Berg brought a racketeering lawsuit against George W. Bush and 154 other people charging them with complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Another lawsuit challenged Barack Obama's eligibility to become president (i.e., Berg's a birther). There's much more wackiness at his Wikipedia page (

So why did the club back Berg? Probably because he wasn't Casey. Despite Casey's working class background and Democratic Party dedication, he was a staunch pro-life advocate; an absolute no-no for most club members. (During the campaign, Berg charged that Casey, a Catholic, might be controlled by the state's Roman Catholic bishops.) In fact, two years after the election, the U.S. Supreme Court considered Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a major case that upheld almost all of the abortion prohibitions that Casey signed into law.

Berg on Obama's trail, 2010, from the Birther Report website.
Another somewhat curious twist of the 1990 endorsement was the striking similarity between the club's endorsement mailer and the county Democratic committee's slate card, which had Casey in the top spot. Through the years the endorsements of the club and the main party have diverged many times, but they're usually easy to tell apart at the polls and in mailboxes--the club's slate is on yellow paper, the committee's list on red, white and blue card stock. Here's how they looked in 1990:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rendell Got Early Club Endorsement for Governor

21st District Attorney of Philadelphia - Ed Rendell meets with
newspaper staff in Philadelphia Evening Bulletin conference room.
(Photo from
Next Sunday, January 26, the club will co-host a forum for eight Democratic gubernatorial candidates at Carnegie Mellon. To mark the event, this blog will take a brief look at some of the club's endorsements for governor, starting with its 1986 backing of then-Philadelphia District Attorney Ed Rendell.
Bob Casey Sr. - 1986

As the Pittsburgh Press article below reports, the club--"one of the most liberal organizations in the state"--gave Rendell 50 votes at its endorsement meeting versus 16 for his main opponent, Robert P. Casey. Rendell put on a good showing in the primary with 40 percent of the vote, but he lost to Casey, who finally prevailed after three previous Democratic gubernatorial primary losses. (In 1978, Casey lost the primary to former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty, who lost the general election to former Western PA's U.S. Attorney, Dick Thornburgh.)

Rendell went on to serve two terms as mayor of Philadephia before becoming Pennsylvania governor in 2002, again with the club's backing, beating Casey's son and current U.S. Senator, Bob, Jr.. Curiously, Rendell's failed 1986 run for governor goes unmentioned on his Wikipedia page.