May 19, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Live: Vote tosses dirt on Tom Murphy's political grave

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Special Report: Paraguay RPCV Tom Murphy, Mayor of Pittsburgh: May 19, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Live: Vote tosses dirt on Tom Murphy's political grave

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Vote tosses dirt on Tom Murphy's political grave

Vote tosses dirt on Tom Murphy's political grave

Vote tosses dirt on Tom Murphy's political grave

Vote tosses dirt on Murphy's political grave

By David M. Brown
Thursday, May 19, 2005

Tom Murphy's name wasn't on the primary ballot, but he was pummeled anyway.

Election results Tuesday were a clear repudiation of the three-term mayor's record, policies and allegiances, said analysts and others Wednesday.

"If they had a statue of Tom Murphy, angry voters would have probably stolen it," said Joseph Sabino Mistick, a Pittsburgh attorney and political columnist. "It's not unlike a Soviet purge. In a few months, they'll be removing his name from everything."

Murphy's spokesman declined to comment yesterday.

Former city Councilman Bob O'Connor lost to Murphy in the 1997 and 2001 Democratic primaries, but O'Connor won easily Tuesday night by running, in a sense, against Murphy, who didn't seek re-election. Time and again, O'Connor reminded voters of past campaigns, saying he had tried to warn of the city's impending financial ruin under Murphy's guidance.

The strategy worked.

O'Connor, 60, of Squirrel Hill captured the Democratic nomination with 48 percent of the vote. His nearest rivals in the seven-candidate primary -- Councilman William Peduto, 40, of Point Breeze and Allegheny County Prothonotary Michael Lamb, 42, of Mt. Washington -- won 24 percent and 22 percent of the vote, respectively, according to unofficial returns.

Lamb's third-place finish was viewed by some as an indirect slap at Murphy. Lamb had behind-the-scenes backing from many of the people who had supported Murphy. He sought to distance himself from Murphy, but Lamb still was perceived by many as the mayor's choice as successor.

Evidence of an anti-Murphy backlash became most visible in races for City Council, in which three candidates with ties to the mayor -- including incumbent Councilman Sala Udin -- were defeated.

Udin, a 10-year councilman from the Hill District and a Murphy ally, lost his District 6 re-election bid to challenger Tonya Payne, who distributed literature that depicted the mayor and Udin as allies.

Peduto, who was running a dual campaign for mayor and re-election to his District 8 council seat, trounced his opponent in the council race -- Squirrel Hill lawyer Harlan Stone, whom Murphy quietly had backed.

In the District 2 council race, Paul F. Renne -- a well-known Murphy backer from Mt. Washington -- ran a distant second to Daniel J. Deasy Jr., a Public Works Department foreman who won the Democratic nomination.

City Councilman Luke Ravenstahl, who represents nearly a dozen neighborhoods on the North Side -- Murphy's home turf -- wasn't up for re-election, but he was busy on Tuesday helping O'Connor, who led the voting in all seven North Side wards, including several by large margins.

The voters once described as Murphy's loyal base helped O'Connor, the mayor's longtime nemesis, amass his lopsided primary victory.

Ravenstahl said he saw political sentiment begin to turn against Murphy when Ravenstahl was elected to council in late 2003, just as the state designated Pittsburgh a "financially distressed" city under Act 47.

As the city's crisis deepened, voters' misgivings over Murphy's ability to stabilize city finances multiplied, Ravenstahl said.

That paid off for O'Connor, Ravenstahl said.

"All of the people I spoke with on the North Side said: 'Well, maybe we made a mistake last time,' " the councilman said. "Murphy hurt people that were close to him and helped people who weren't close to him."

A poll conducted for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in April 2004 showed city residents blamed Murphy more than any other person for Pittsburgh's financial problems. Only 10 percent of the city's registered voters believed Murphy deserved to be re-elected; 84 percent thought it was time to give someone else a chance, according to the survey conducted for the Trib by Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Polling and Research.

The poll showed an identical percentage of voters -- 84 percent -- felt Pittsburgh was on the wrong track. Murphy subsequently decided not to seek a fourth term.

In a poll conducted for the Trib by the same firm last week, 76 percent of registered voters said Pittsburgh is headed in the wrong direction. Murphy's popularity was not gauged in the latest poll; however, Jim Lee, the poll's director, said most voters evidently still are displeased with the city's leadership.

"There was no change of the sentiment the voters have. It was the same type of disillusioned electorate today as it was in 2004," Lee said.

O'Connor's victory party Tuesday night also served as a celebration for those eager to dance on Murphy's political grave.

Joe Rossi, local president of the Teamsters union -- which gave O'Connor more than $30,000 for his campaign -- spewed a venomous attack on Murphy. Rossi said he hopes the mayor will be indicted by the federal grand jury investigating his 2001 primary victory over O'Connor.

"When I was in Harrisburg, do you know what they told me?" Rossi said about his lobbying trips during the city's financial crisis. "'Get rid of Tom Murphy, and we'll work with the city of Pittsburgh.'"

O'Connor, who worked as Gov. Ed Rendell's point man in Western Pennsylvania, has the contacts and engaging personality to win support and perhaps money from the capital, Rossi said.

Many of the voters who supported O'Connor this time around said they regretted spurning him for Murphy in the past.

Lillie Mosley, 70, a Democratic committeewoman from East Liberty, said she had worked for Murphy in 2001 because he had promised to help rebuild city neighborhoods. Instead, she said, Murphy seemed to do even less for them during his current term.

"The city went down," Mosley said. "A lot of the things he said he would do, he didn't."

David M. Brown can be reached at or (412) 380-5614.

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Story Source: Pittsburgh Live

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Paraguay; Politics; City Government



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