Monday: Josh Wander, and Other Notes

Today we note the occasion of a great honor for Pittsburgh City Council District 5 candidate Republican Josh Wander, who is opposing Democratic party nominee Corey O’Connor in the November 8th general election.

Wander has joined an illustrious line of political figures whom the Comet has interviewed, only to spend absolutely forever getting around to actually chronicling the experience online. Far too long a time. To an embarrassing degree. To the point where an interviewer might forget wide swaths of the conversation.

Fortunately for Mr. Wander, there is a strong correlation between this very situation and the incidence of multiple-part blog posts and heightened long-term interest. Even still, that also sometimes correlates to an extended “teaser” period and stylistic unpredictability.

Yet c’est la vie, for que sera, sera. If you’ll pardon the French. Sometimes an unorthodox approach is for the best.


We begin this months-long festival of cop-outs and subsequent penitence with some questions posed to Wander by the Comet author’s Twitter followers:

Wander responds:

Attracting new businesses to our district and to our entire city has to be a main priority. It is the lifeblood of our economy and realistically, this is accomplished by removing government hindrances, not adding new ones. I would suggest making our city more business friendly, and I plan on providing specific examples as my campaign progresses. Please stay tuned.


Mr. Williams references this story above. Wander responds:

I appreciate the opportunity to address this prank that I played almost a decade ago. During the height of the Second Gulf War, when we invaded Iraq and France did not support our efforts, there was a movement to rename French Fries, Freedom Fries in protest. I decided, as a practical joke to up that by creating a website called,, which supposedly advocated returning the Statue of Liberty to make a “stronger statement” to France. I never expected it to go viral, but it did and was picked up by the national news. Trust me, I was humored. As I still am at people that drudge this up to be used against me!

The Comet led off its own interview by asking, “Why are you running?” Wander immediately gravitated towards a discussion on transparency, in decision making and in policy making.

He recalled a county-wide event among municipal leaders which he attended, one from among the several associations and forums wherein our fractionalized regional governments come together to commiserate over common problems, and hopefully cooperate. He described one municipal Council member giving a stirring address on serious pension-funding problems, and how they all need to get serious together to tackle this widespread challenge.

So far, so admirable — until that official went on to emphasize, explicitly, that this must be handled behind closed doors, away from the public. And there was a strong murmur of assent in the crowd. Wander says a light went on in his head at that moment, as to a big part of the nature our civic obstacles. (For some reason, Wander is naturally suspicious of what “must” take place beyond public view.)

He then touched upon issues that sometimes go hand-in-hand with a lack of transparency, in a way that mirrored what appears prominently on his campaign’s website:

78 years of one party rule, cronyism, patronages and just plan corruption has crippled our once shining beacon of bustling business activity, has seen young growing families – the city’s future – diminishing. Our schools are closing. And frankly, the city is so broke that the State of PA had to supervise it’s financial activities and put the city in receivership under the “Financial Distressed Municipalities Act.”

We asked Wander then specifically, how if in any way does his opponent O’Connor fit into this equation. Wander pointed out that he himself filled out every candidate questionnaire he was given, whereas O’Connor took criticism during the primary campaign for neglecting to fill out many of these and “remaining silent”. Front-runner status be hanged — voters deserved to hear O’Connor’s thoughts on these issues, and that they did not was “disturbing”.

The relative silence on the abortion issue particularly rankled Wander, who goes to great lengths to describe his nuanced position. He makes no secret in his campaign literature that he is deeply religious, yet at the same time specifies that “in Catholicism, the life of the fetus is held as paramount, but in Orthodox Judaism we put the mother first” at all times. Wander is Jewish. Whatever his ruminations on the issue — and he stubbornly refuses to simplify — it satisfied Planned Parenthood enough to earn a “mixed” rating in their Voter Guide.

Wander’s avowedly strong Jewish perspective has proved a mixed bag for him in the political realm before. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he says he placed on display in a campaign office what he described as factual information about then-candidate Barack Obama’s stance on Israel. He says he was criticized bitterly by some in the neighborhood for doing this — which he attributes to some extent to an overly reactive loathing for Republicans in general.

Closed-mindedness, he calls it, and which he described here recorded in a speech at a campaign forum. To his mind this closed-mindedness to alternatives feeds into that culture of insularity which produces non-transparency (opaqueness?) and other problems.


I think on second thought we’ll leave what (for lack of better terms) we’ll call “adult entertainment” or “sexually oriented businesses” to an entirely different blog post. We owe Mr. Wander that much.

Surely the hobgoblins of meddlesome minds can wait a day or two in this process, before we begin seductively peeling away layers of prejudice, assumption and political aspersion — until we fully reveal the breasts of empirical understanding and finally the areolae of truth. After all there’s no profit in giving it away all at once!

40 thoughts on “Monday: Josh Wander, and Other Notes

  1. MH

    Speaking of District 5 and disturbing, who is sticking up giant Atlas Shrugged signs by the nicer Starbucks?

  2. Anonymous

    Atlas Shrugged signs in the 5th District? What nerve! Who could have the audacity? There goes the neighborhood!

  3. MH

    The signs are where the karate studio was by Poli's. Shields's signs were there during the election. I'm wondering if the owners are renting windows or what.

  4. Bram Reichbaum

    Atlas Shrugged is a bizarre tome, but to a lot of conservatives it's literary Ronald Reagan. I'd like to ask Josh Wander what he thinks of what he knows of Atlas Shrugged. It'd be a good question for Raja, it would have been a good question for Mark DeSantis, it would be a good question for John Huntsman and Hermann Cain.

  5. Joe Kleppick

    Josh Wander really worried me before when i heard about him. from this article it even horrifies me now!

  6. MH

    If you're worried about a Republican candidate in Pittsburgh proper, you have an overly developed sense of fear.

    The “Who is John Galt?” thing struck me as funny because it was next to an Einstein quote and also the message “Here he comes to save the day.” Given the point of Atlas Shrugged is that he isn't coming to save the day, I found it amusing.

  7. Bram Reichbaum

    Joe – What's horrifying? Aside that I repeatedly wedged my pet issue into an otherwise good post about Josh Wander (“The District 5 Alternative!”)

    MH – I didn't read Atlas (didn't finish it) but didn't Galt call an “ultimately necessary” strike by the ownership class? From their point of view? I mean, our own conservatives are trying to organize a general tax boycott for their own reasons, but Galt was teaching a punitive lesson, trying to break collectivism and liberalism for a good long time, and usher in a better world led by daring, innovative, ruthless, sexy titans. It's rather like Twilight in some respects.

  8. Anonymous

    Wander ran for mayor. He tried to get on the ballot this election for both county and city council–not sure what was up with that–but dropped his county council bid when his petitions were challenged (he had just managed to cross the signature requirement threshold, and clearly many of his signatures were questionable). And of course, there's the whole Statue of Liberty thing. Technically speaking, Wander is the District 5 alternative to O'Connor, but really Wander is running on the Wander ticket and is primarily interested in promoting gun ownership and other conservative, sometimes wingnutty, issues. (Dictatorship in Syria is the equivalent of Republicans being shut out of Pittsburgh City Council? Yes, he said it, and he was dead serious. See the video that Bram links to.) Wander clearly doesn't have the best interests of the Fifth District at heart, and it's unfortunate that he's gained a platform–no matter how small–for his self-promotion and frankly bizarre worldview. A next generation Les Ludwig, perhaps.

  9. Bram Reichbaum

    Wow, this is remarkable. BREAKING, from Josh Wander, in regards to Atlas Shrugged and other banners popping up next to the old Poli's / at the old Shields for Magistrate campaign office:

    The office on the corner is none other than my campaign HQ. And the banners were part of a very successful teaser campaign.

    RE: Atlas Shrugged, I think that would be an excellent question to pose to all the candidates! In a nutshell, my view of Ayn Rand is mixed (as you're probably realizing, my philosophy is not so black and white). Economically, I agree with much of what she espoused of free-market capitalism, but of course, she was an atheist, so my personal philosophy strongly includes the Deity figure…I'd be happy to discuss further anytime.

    Anon 9:15 am – More conventional local pols than Wander have compared facets of the local scene to the worlds of Tiananmen or Tahrir Square, but thanks for the comment.

  10. Joshua

    Anon 9:15 am –

    I'd love to address your points and clarify somethings. I ran for mayor (3 days before the primary), in order to prevent Luke Ravenstahl from becoming the Republican Nominee. My issue was and is with the lack of alternatives on the ballot, of which that was a prime example.

    I did indeed try to get on the ballot for both county and city council, because I think that both are extremely lacking in good leadership. I withdrew my petitions for county after having been challenged for a technicality of having switched people's party affiliation and having them sign the petition on the spot. They were not 'technically' Republicans until a day or two later. This clearly goes against the intended purpose of the challenge process, which according to Judge James and others, is to stop fraud. This was clearly not such a case. But I was indeed flattered to be one of the few (only?) Republicans to receive such a challenge. (could it be that they perceived me as a real threat?)

    RE: the statue of liberty, I already addressed that in the post.

    RE: my interest in running, My sole interest is the City of Pittsburgh. This goes way beyond the 5th district as our whole city is collapsing. I find nothing radical about coming out against a century of single party rule, which I believe is unhealthy, regardless of party.

    I am always happy to address any issues that you may have and I can assure you I will be the most creative, upfront and approachable councilman this city has ever had.

    Josh Wander

  11. Anonymous

    Thanks Josh. Regarding your petitions for county council, the challenge called into question 95 of your 296 signatures (250 were needed to get on the ballot). Are you saying that you convinced 95 people to switch their party affiliation to Republican? It clearly states on the registration card that, “You are not registered to vote until your application has been processed and accepted by the county voter registration office.” That applies to all options on the registration form, including new registration and change of party. It appears that you have just admitted to fraudulently allowing voters to sign your petition and presenting those signatures as legitimate for the purpose of getting your name on the ballot, even though you knew that they were not. That's some “creative” signature collecting, although not very “upfront”, I'm afraid.

    In this light, I wonder if Judge James could retrospectively review your batch of city council petitions for similar infractions?

    Beyond that, here's the crux of the challenger's complaint, as filed by a Republican in your district:

    “As detailed below, there are numerous signatures of electors who are not registered in Allegheny County Council District 11, defective signatures, illegible signatures, signatures of unregistered voters, and signatures of voters who are not registered Republicans in Allegheny County.”

    But maybe your leadership skills will make up for your lack of attention to detail and the rule of law.

  12. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 2:13 – Not everyone locally is a wizard with elections law. We see folks get bounced from ballots all the time, sometimes known quantities. It speaks a little poorly of Wander's capacity for due diligence (and/or about the seriousness of his past run for Allegheny County Council) but these accusations of knowing fraud and lawlessness seem gratuitous and uh… well, are you scared he's going to win? Or punishing him for running and marketing his ideas?

  13. Joshua

    Anon 2:13 – Let me suffice it to say that I was unaware of this rule until after I collected and submitted the signatures. It is not as clear cut as you make it and was discussed at length in the Ralph Nader case, at which time the precedent was set not to accept them.

    I look forward to many other false charges being trumped up against me in the future…it is par for the course when you have a Syrian style dictatorship! 😉


  14. Bram Reichbaum

    Josh – I think Syria was a bad example for several reasons. If the very worst and wildest of all the semi-informed speculations are true, the essence and form of our government would more closely resemble that of Iran. Give us some credit. 😉

  15. MH

    was discussed at length in the Ralph Nader case

    That was exceptionally bad petition collecting. It probably did make judges look at things more closely.

  16. Anonymous

    Officer, let me suffice it to say that I didn't know that the clearly visible traffic light that every one else heeds was red until after I ran it, therefore, I am not guilty.

  17. Anonymous

    Cognitive dissonance alert: Noted local blogger/muckraker suggests that examining a challenge to a candidate's nominating petitions is equivalent to “punishing” them for running.

    In the MSM we call that getting too close to your source.

  18. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 9:38 – Not what I was referring to as “punishment”. Everyone's petitions deserve a good challenge. The trumped-up and overwrought charges at 2:13 seemed to me to be “punishment” for something. Which hey, one can do, it just fascinated me as to why — and so meanwhile, why not point out its trumped-up essence and tamp it down to its deserving level of wroughtedness?

    If one specializes in wry, accusatory invective, my suggestion is to focus on Wander's adherence to Ayn Rand and what that might do for our police, fire and public works departments — rather than stretching a commonplace procedural error into broad character salvo regarding fraud and the rule of law.

  19. Joshua

    They seem to be coming out of the woodwork…If only we spent a fraction of the effort we waste on party politics trying to fix this city, we might have a chance of turning things around!

  20. Bram Reichbaum

    Josh, you got into quite the scrape on Twitter over the Voter ID question, no? You wrote you've seen voter fraud first hand. I'd like to hear more about that.

    My instinct is that requiring photo ID at the polls is a brute remedy that causes a much larger specific larger problem (widespread disenfranchisement of the bureaucratically incompetent), but if there really is fraudy shenanigans on there on Election Day well we should address that! But we need to know what it is.

  21. Joshua

    As I said on twitter, I am one of the few poll workers that checks to match signatures as required and often they don't match. Some of this is due to the fact that the county doesn't update their database, and some is outright fraud. Either way, one is required to show ID the 1st time they vote or if they moved. One is required to show ID to get other social services like welfare or Medicare. One has to show ID to travel or to get a library card or bank account. I'm sorry, but to me it is just common sense that we should make sure the person that says they are voting are actually voting! Perhaps some people are afraid of finding all the dead voters if we asked for ID…

  22. Joshua

    As far as 'widespread disenfranchisement' is concerned, we already have a pitiful 17% voter turnout. This is not because it is difficult to vote, but because people either don't care or think that its pointless (or both). These are things that we need to work on across the aisle. I try and convince everyone I can to vote, regardless of HOW they vote. I register a Democrat any day versus having a non-voter. Complacency is the enemy of us all!

  23. Joshua

    The next trick is getting people to see beyond party. To take the time and effort to be informed voters and to stop this stupid practice of voting straight party!

    40% of Dems in the county vote straight party. That means that they walk into the booth without knowing (caring?) whom they are voting for. This is wrong!

    We need to vote for people on their merits regardless if they are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party or Whigs.

  24. Joshua

    So let's summarize…A pitiful amount of people are even showing up at the polls. Of them, many may be fraudulent and even if they're not, almost half of them have know idea who's on the ballot…How sad is that?

  25. Joshua

    Anon 11:36-

    Wow! You sure do have a lot of spare time on your hands. Would you like to volunteer as a full-time researcher for my campaign?

  26. Anonymous

    Searching a quote on Google doesn't take much time. Anyway, I'm already trying to help you as much as I can.


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