Real Quick: Race for D7 hot like summer

by Bram Reichbaum

And getting litigious:

Tony Ceoffe Jr. of Lawrenceville lost the Democratic committee’s nomination for the vacant District 7 council seat in a vote Sunday to Deb Gross of Highland Park, with Ms. Gross narrowly beating him 47 votes to 43. An attorney for Mr. Ceoffe filed a complaint today in Common Pleas Court seeking to throw out the results, arguing it violated Democratic committee bylaws. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

PREDICTION: My wager is no — certainly not enough bylaws were harmed, if indeed any.

UPDATE: Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills calls the injunction request “baseless and highly suspicious,” among other things (Early Returns).

UPDATE, THE DUEX: More on the allegations (Pittsburgh’s Blogh of Recordgh)

SPECIAL COMMENT: Readers of the Admiral! Of Infinonymous! My brothers and sisters. I sense in your minds the same apprehension that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the politics of our new “progressive” leadership fails, when we must forsake our allies and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of transgressions and broken promises when the Age of Peduto comes crashing down, but it is not this day! Not even particularly close.

We knew (it was telegraphed) that accusations of “dirty politics” were eventually going to come, mirroring those many successfully demonstrated against the “old guard” for years. This injunction request is in part a way to forge and amplify that narrative. The fundamental problem with such an argument here is, this is not the government, this is a political party — the correct place for Party leadership to do things such as, reach out to the City’s new leader, during a time of transition (from concern to invigoration, and from division hopefully to collaboration) and ask, “So, do you have anyone to recommend fill a vacancy on the Committee? Because after all, previous leaders fiercely opposed to you made the last 300 or so appointments. We’d like to make sure that if Pittsburgh doesn’t move forward, it’s not because our Party is out of step with the City’s leader.” Or to tend all manner of logistical details within the discretion routinely due to elected party leaders, which always can be interpreted or misinterpreted to aggrieve somebody.

Do not mistake, if political envelope-pushing takes place in the halls of government, or between government and the Committee, we will have a problem. But within a political party, I think some folks are just shocked at their new perspective: that of having lost the majority to another fresh figure.

Though they kept it close enough to justify a day in court. Whether the attendant hoopla surrounding the reactionary maneuver does anything for their campaign will be interesting.

30 thoughts on “Real Quick: Race for D7 hot like summer

  1. Dara Stern

    The fact that the resulting vote was so close after tremendous efforts and possibly unlawful finagling by some of Pittsburgh's most powerful leaders (with money) speaks quite clearly and has been most satisfying to Ceoffe supporters. To have the nomination nullified would be the icing on the cake and would level the playing field to where all candidates have the opportunity to run purely as individual independent candidates (which is ideal IMO). Regardless of what happens with the suit, however, I am in eager anticipation of the first candidate debate, when we will more certainly learn which candidate is prepared to successfully lead our district alongside the new mayor.

    In the meantime, here is some fun trivia: One of the two D7 candidates vying for the Dem nomination reached out to Bill Peduto shortly after the mayoral primary to congratulate him and to discuss how they might work together to bridge communities going forward, while the other candidate was awakened from a veritable decade-long political slumber and asked to join a new political machine to serve as their favorite little rubber stamp. 100 points to the first contestant with the correct answer.

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    While the vote was close after tremendous efforts from dueling powerful influential infrastructures — it shouldn't be overlooked that Ceoffe also didn't hold what was his own backyard together. He was a ward chair, he won the endorsement for that seat previously.

    And let's give Deb Gross some due in this, one person's “decade-long political slumber” is another person's brief period of growth and maturation, one person's “asked” is another person's “seized”.

    Deb indeed enjoyed the support of many popular leaders (with power (and money)). Could Ceoffe boast anybody at all? Pittsburgh is not yet monolithic. Surely there could have been someone: Lamb, Harris, Kail-Smith, Ferlo, Wheatley. Richardson.

    Finally, so long as we're comparing trivia (I don't mean to drive you away from your points) can you confirm whether Ceoffe actually encouraged State Committeeman Turpin to vote for the nomination, which is now part of the complaint?

  3. Bram Reichbaum

    And honestly, in an ideal world, they could both run as Democrats, and neither with a structural party advantage that can be determinative in some races. But state law is clear, and the party's bylaws are clear on those points.

  4. Helen Gerhardt

    Coeffe = Deutsch?

    The “Jewish slur” was evidently reported by only one person and as being said by Duetsch – and yet the blog post asserts he was “going around” so slurring. So was this really a pattern confirmed by others – and does it accurately reflect anti-Semitism on Coeffe's part as the post seems to imply? Several of my older fellow Peduto campaigners were blatantly homophobic, including a ward chair – I'm not going to hold Bill responsible for their offensiveness.

    I think it's a serious mistake to conflate the words and actions of allies, endorsers and supporters with candidates themselves (although I do think it's crucial that candidates and staff make clear they won't tolerate such offensive or threatening behavior if they become aware of it.)

  5. Uncle Darren

    I thought part of the issue with Deb Gross was that she doesn't technically live in District 7, but I don't know what that means under whatever bylaws. I want to mention something about what Dara and Bram were discussing, the “hiatus” of Deb Gross from politics. Deb Gross has not been idle or removed from politics over the past decade. She ran a fundraising company called Percolator that raised money for lots of political campaigns, including the very seat she fought against Tony Ceoffe a few years ago for Patrick Dowd. Everyone I have talked to that has worked with Ms. Gross speaks very highly of her hard work and dedication Progressive issues and to to the campaign for which she was working. Hence the idea that Gross left the Pittsburgh Alliance for the Arts and disappeared is misleading. She was working very hard it seems, just not very publicly.
    Ultimately, it freaks me out that getting the Democratic Endorsement in this City's government means you get the Office; every member of City Council is a Democrat. It isn't any politician's fault, it's us, the voters who just “rubber stamp” the ballot, if we even bother showing up at all. I refuse to take a stand on either candidate at this point, but I would really love to see Tony Ceoffe actually take a stand against “The Party”, and try to convince the voters of his goals for our neighborhoods, rather than pointing to who his friends are with one hand, and demanding the Election with the other. We bitch about party politics and Nepotism, but corruption is far more insidious than just the people at the top. It is Apathy and Cynicism about Civic issues that lets people do whatever they want. If no one else is adding an opinion and we keep electing them…can you really blame someone for just doing it the way they want?

  6. Anonymous

    First, I will say that Deb Gross does indeed live in District 7, and has for at least a year or so.

    Second, I'll say that I am a supporter of Deb, I will vote for her, and I think she will do a great job representing D7.

    Ok, now – they have to be concerned at this point. This was a quick, sleepy little insider competition for the seat, but now, there is a lot more attention being focused. I think independent Ceoffe will garner quite a bit of support in Larryville, Stanton Heights, and Bloomfield from the folks who have supported/followed his family in recent years. At very least, this will be a fight – and in the midst of that, people will have a closer look at the details of the committee vote. Those who find those details a little questionable are going to be quite active in opposition, and they have the time they need to get the vote out for November.

    So, tighten the hatches on this one. Did the New Guard overstep a bit? We shall see.

  7. Dara

    So…if anyone feels like actually knowing what you're talking about: The Tony Ceoffe mentioned in the above-referenced Political Junkies article is NOT the Tony Ceoffe running for the district 7 council seat. The one mentioned in the article is his father, the district magistrate. There is even a third Anthony Ceoffe, who is his grandfather. And as Helen pointed out, Ronald Deutsch was the one doing the slurring, and he was ALSO the Peduto/Fitz henchman who was most intimately involved in the “enticement” of committee members in his 9th ward to vote for Gross last week.

    And if you'd like to get REALLY techical, Tony Ceoffe (the judge) is actually Jewish according to Jewish law (he has a Jewish maternal line). And as his son's campaign PAC chair, I, a Jew, can attest that there is no anti-semitism in the midst.

  8. Anonymous

    Reply to Anonymous 11:21am- in Lawrenceville and other D7 communities, Tony Ceoffe's candidacy will both benefit and be hurt by his name. The family has a public, documented and recent history of both leadership and thug-like behavior in the neighborhood political realm and personally. Tony Jr. seems personable but there's an uneasy feeling that the previous generation sees his candidacy as keeping their control alive.

  9. Dara Stern

    Meet Tony (III, technically…and affectionately referred to as T III) yourself and then decide. He's more than personable. He is a progressive and independent thinker, certainly not at the whim of his father or grandfather. He is honest, compassionate, and has volunteered his time to all knds of causes in our communities from tree plantings to neighborhood festivals to youth programs, and has been very vocal about his support of marriage equality/domestic partner benefits.

  10. Bram Reichbaum

    Just want to add in response to being 'freaked out' that Dowd, Kraus, and Rudiak all were elected and reelected contra the party's endorsement, and there are other examples.

  11. Helen Gerhardt


    So, Peduto = Deutsch = enticer = henchman?

    If Deutsch did indeed slur and threaten as part of his campaign tactics in the past, that doesn't make the politics of the elder Tony Ceoffe “dirty” – only his own actions and inactions can do that. If he was indeed aware of such Deutsch behavior and decided to capitalize on such dirty work behind the scenes to keep his own hands clean, then he could be held responsible. But I don't know enough of that man's record to judge and at this point won't judge on anything more or less than actual evidence of such intentions or behavior. I certainly won't judge the younger Coeffe by association with possible intentions/actions of his father, (although I do think it's important to pay attention to “dynastic” family power politics in such a small town as the Burgh.)

    Dara, if you have evidence that Peduto “enticed” or “henched” these latest votes for the Democratic committee endorsement, then please bring it on, but based on what little information has been presented, I think the conflation of Peduto's own behavior and intentions with alleged actions/intentions of other politicians or allies is as credible as the Coeffe/Deutsch conflation.

    Based on what I know of Peduto and his record, hench-threats (or encouragement of same) just don't fit with the patterns of very real foibles, strengths, sins, principled positions and immaturities that Bill the Human Being has indeed demonstrated in many forums as recorded in the public record over time.

    I did differ sharply with the Peduto campaign's choice to public accuse Wagner of colluding with Ravenstahl on those negative Swift-boatish ads without presenting any evidence. I believed that Peduto believed his own accusation – I don't think he was intentionally “bearing false witness.” But without evidence of such collusion, I thought it was powerful ammunition enough to point out that the Mayor wanted to swiftboat Peduto in the most childishly low way possible and that the Mayor's money, the Network behind Ravenstahl, and most of their attendant camp followers were lining up behind Wagner.

    I look forward to meeting both Coeffe and Gross and judging how they may serve on our City Council for myself based on our conversations, my analysis of their actions and their public records. I will indeed be interested to hear backroom rumors from many sources, as such filtration systems often lead to outing very real patterns of wrongdoing within the silted convolution of local political history and hearsay.

    But at this point, based on what I know, I believe that Peduto has earned my focused attention and assessment of direct evidence over unsupported accusations, rumor, innuendo, and whisper campaigns. And although I think the company we keep and the allies we choose are important, I will not presume guilt by association. I will hope that Peduto will address, disavow and discourage any such possible behavior by any such allies as ultimately destructive to their common aims, as well as to their shared political images – and to the successful “redding up of City Hall.”

  12. Maria Lupinacci

    I deleted my own comment because it contained a link to a search for “Ceoffe” at 2pj which included posts which are actually about Ceoffe Sr. — written before there was a need to distinguish between a Sr. and a Jr.

  13. Bram Reichbaum

    Running to take down Patrick Dowd and campaigning for Jack Wagner in the recent contest both seem like unusual ways to demonstrate a progressive politics. But I can't argue that he's not personable or sharp or that he doesn't seem eager to try and work across the “divide”. To whatever extent that he's more of an old guard, they've put forward worse candidates.

  14. Helen Gerhardt

    Potter just filed a post at the Blogh on Gross and ACDC responses to the Coeffe suit – while I don't know that the Coeffe lawsuit has a lot of evidence of illegality to present at this point, I really gotta eschew (ATCHOOO!) the “look forward, not back” cliche.

  15. Anonymous

    Not sure if Coeffe ran to depose Dowd, or to gain office for himself. When you run for office, you run against other folks, be your politics progressive or not. I don't think Peduto “owned” the progressive mantle, or that some progressives did not see merits in Jack Wagner. What I am sure of, after typing this, is perhaps we are holding these labels a little too tightly.

  16. Bram Reichbaum

    I agree the term “progressive” needs redefining and clarifying most particularly as it succeeds, or else it means little. To me good government is a progressive value.

    I thought they (Dowd and Peduto) were convincing in their good government chops. Their separate and occasionally joint efforts at campaign finance and ethics reforms as well as transparency, as well as criticizing costly government mistakes amounting to giveaways then forwarding workable alternatives spoke louder than words.

    Ceoffe could have chosen to work alongside and even for Dowd instead; maybe that leadership in the community would have been the spark to change things in the 2009 mayor's primary. I understand ambition, but I wouldn't personally run against an incumbent Democrat unless I thought they were an opportunity cost to taxpayers or I had major disagreements. Dowd/Ceoffe 2011 is not overwhelming evidence but it seems like one hint.

  17. Anonymous

    Not this day! Only because it is early. What happened here is despicable. The party endorsement used to be anathema to the “progressive” camp. Now, the endorsement, even if obtained in questionable terms, so long as “technically and legally done” is a good thing. Boy have things changed quickly. And, local progressives are quick to smear candidates with allegation of “slurring” and questionable ties to slurring. Most important in this extremely fast conversion of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the rationalize and defending by the “progressive” bloggers and reporters. Very disappointing and sad, but expected.

  18. Bram Reichbaum

    The endorsement only was “anathema” because it could be relied upon to endorse problematic candidates like Ravenstahl. And anything's “questionable”, yes, but legal and proper seems like a very appropriate bar. We'll get an answer on this from Judge Joe James.

    Unfortunate that a Special Election occurred so early (in advance of) the region's political transition, necessitating a heated contest for the sole Democratic nomination on the ballot. It would have been better had the first electoral clash been in 2015 as scheduled. But what can you do? Besides go out there and win it.

  19. Anonymous

    Why was Ravenstahl questionable? Was he questionable simply because he was questionable? Or was he questionable because he used hard nosed and aggressive tactics and maneuvering to consolidate power to crush his enemies?

  20. Helen Gerhardt

    @Anon July 28 5:15pm

    Not sure if you're familiar with the Mayor's record. Google “Ravenstahl” and “FBI” and you will find plenty of questions. Rich Lord is also a great source for a much longer history of what Bram probably means by “problematic.”

  21. Helen Gerhardt

    @Anon July 27 9:19 am

    In my book, being progressive doesn't mean any formulaic set of political positions but instead means consistently practicing free, transparent, evidence-based, inclusive, equitable, democratic deliberation and due process for decision-making that prioritizes community needs, without conferring any special privilege or shield to those with wealth, status or power – and also with special attention to the protection of minority human rights too often threatened even by the prejudices of “tyrranies of the majority.”

    Working from that definition, yes, I would describe myself as attempting progressive politics, blogging, and reporting. Which I think also means engaging in vigorous debate with fellow progressives and writers when we don't think we seem to be practicing due diligence as regards the standards above. So, whether the subject of slurring is Coeffe or Peduto or Wagner or Ravenstahl or my Muslim friends vilified by a large majority of “progressives” – I believe what matters is the consistent effort to try to better understand our shared realities and to practice as close as we can get to justice for all.

    So, I think I really don't understand your criticism of the “progressives” that have been conversing on this page. I tried to address what I saw as logical fallacies in conflating either Ceoffe or Peduto with Deutsch's alleged slurring and/or “henching” behavior, Maria is a progressive blogger who withdrew her link re: the Deutsch/Coeffe article when it was clear that the allegation didn't apply to this candidate Coeffe (T3,) Dara is a progressive who vigorously rebutted the defamation of her chosen candidate Coeffe, and Bram is a progressive who abstained from the “slurring debate” entirely.

    What's your beef?

  22. Bram Reichbaum

    As touched upon above, some definitions might be in order.

    Differing tactics for decision-making might tend to lead to more progressive or less progressive decisions. But at the end of the day it seems like you can still have a pragmatic progressive leader who presides over transparent inclusive deliberation when that's most advantageous to progress, and pursues his or her convictions when that's most advantageous to progress. In this world sometimes time is very much a factor, for example.

  23. Anonymous

    Very random thought

    We are talking about progressives in the above conversation. Just when you think that they are a bunch of wacko, chicken littles, something happens to show you how shortsighted you are.

    Lots of folks ridiculed Doug Shields for taking a stand against drilling in the City. The ridiculers say gas drilling would never happen in Pittsburgh anyway and that the industry is being very careful.

    I wonder how the people in living in Mount Oliver wished that coal mining would never have happened under their house.

    Everything we do has long term effects and sometimes (often) the progressives can be right and have valid concerns.

    Like I said, a truly random thought to add to the progressive conversation (and I am semi-conservative).


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