Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kevin Acklin's Strange Idea of Independence

Kevin Acklin -- whose current, self-applied "independent" label is difficult to square with some of his choices of playmates -- has been found back in the partisan sandbox, trying to toss some sand into the gears of Dok Harris' campaign.

The Tribune-Review reports (yet the Post-Gazette, so far as I can tell, does not) that three city residents have challenged Dok Harris' nominating petitions, based on what appears to be a week of painstaking legal analysis of more than 3,000 signatures submitted to the Elections Bureau in early August. One of the challengers acknowledged acting on Acklin's behalf.

Acklin's streetfighting politics -- it seems unlikely, based on the mathematics, that Acklin's challenge will succeed, but the two campaigns are likely to devote substantial time, effort and cash to the battle -- are unbecoming, but the real problem is that early reports identify Republican political operatives and lawyers (largely from outside the city) as the muscle behind Acklin's challenge.

This is no way, Mr. Acklin, to incline people to forget that you were quite comfortable, not so long ago, snuggling with the likes of Rick Santorum and Pat Toomey.

UPDATE: The Post-Gazette has published an account in which the petitioners are described as "[s]upporters of independent mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin."


Anonymous said...

If you can't get enough signatures together from people in the city, then you don't deserve to be on the ballot. I want to see Luke beaten and it looked like Franco might be the one to do it. But their campaign has just been so disorganized, I would be relieved to see him kicked off.

Infinonymous said...

Mr. Acklin has publicly, even ostentatiously, attempted to distance himself from the conservative/Republican/rightwing world while campaigning for mayor in a city that has no use for conservative/Republican/rightwing candidates.

Siccing a Republican lawyer -- a member of the Republican committee, if my sources are accurate -- on Harris' petitions raises a question about how genuine (or durable) his break with the Republican Party is. I have also heard (less reliably, because the grunt workers don't sign their names to court papers) that the line-by-line analysis of Harris' petitions was performed by Republicans.

None of this is improper.

But Acklin was the Republican establishment candidate for county council, and this episode causes me to wonder whether, despite his loud claims that 'I am the independent in this race,' Kevin Acklin might still be the Republican establishment candidate.

Reality check: Among an electorate whose largest elements are "senile" and "dependent," Luke Ravenstahl remains the overwhelming favorite.

Anonymous said...

The Acklin campaign has to be up to this. Any smart candidate/campaign would have found supporters to challenge something if they saw it fit.

Anonymous said...

So do you believe that Harris should be allowed on the ballot in spite of not having enough signatures? Or do you believe that non-city residents should be allowed to sign?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this outrage about Acklin's political past all seems a little contrived to me seeing as how Dok was a Republican too.

According to the interview he did with Bram a few days ago he registered as a "conservative" because he didn't like Al Gore...which means he voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

Give me a f*cking break.

Anonymous said...


You don't cite your sources, and I don't blame you. But could you at least name some of the lawyers your sources claim to know about?

In the post, you say there are lawyerS "largely from outside the city." In your comment, you say there is A lawyer from "the Republican committee."

Which is it? Both? Spare us the innuendo and the inconsistency and give us the facts. We'd like to know.

We'd also like to know if the challenge has merit. Are the signatures really that bad? Can a number in the 3,000s really be reduced to only 825 good ones?

Is Acklin that desperate? Or is Harris that incompetent?

Infinonymous said...

My expectations concerning the challenge are expressed at the Propositions Board (far right column). The current lines indicate that I believe the likelihood Harris will be barred from the ballot for lack of valid signatures approximates 25 percent. That line may change as facts emerge, but if he turned in more than 3,000, needs 1,100 and the challengers acknowledge 800 as valid, giving the challengers a 25 percent chance is generous.

The likelihood Acklin is behind the challenge zpproximates 90 percent. He probably will admit it promptly; he almost surely will be forced to admit it eventually, because one of the individual challengers spilled the beans and campaign finance reports should establish the funding for the challenge.

I see a relatively small change that the Ravenstahl camp is involved in this; it probably prefers to avoid a single opponent.

I see the chance that the GOP establishment has a hand in this at about 50-50.

If something thinks I have the lines wrong, place a wager.

On the subject of lines, the bottom line: Pittsburgh has three severely flawed candidates for mayor in an important election. The entire city should be ashamed of this self-inflicted predicament.

Anonymous said...

Led Ludwig for mayor!

Bram Reichbaum said...

A few thoughts:

1) I don't have the slightest problem with candidates trying to knock other candidates from the ballot. Submitting all of one's signatures properly and minding one's P's and Q's is the first test of whether one is serious, thorough and responsible. Kudos to Team Acklin for being serious.

2) The whole angle of Acklin's recent ties with notable Republicans doesn't bother me personally, but it bothers me because it definitely seems to bother others and that gets to electability. At the end of the day I would like only one challenger to make it to the end and I would like that challenger to be electable. Ravenstahl made more hay with Mark DeSantis over less.

3) There will be only one Republican party candidate on the ballot in November, I think we should all jointly acknowledge.

Anonymous said...


We're still waiting for the names of the Republican lawyers and political operatives from outside the city who are the "muscle" behind the challenge.

It's starting to feel like your "sources" are inside the Harris campaign.

If you can't substantiate those claims, you should retract them.

Infinonymous said...

The names of the petitioners and their lawyer(s) are available to the public, from the filed petitions. That should always be the primary source of information. (Anyone unable to wait eight hours without getting antsy could have simply walked to the Elections Bureau counter and/or the Clerk of Courts counter to satisfy his curiosity. Copies must be purchased but reviewing the documents is free.)

A source I consider reliable indicates that one of the lawyers representing the challengers is Chris Jacobs of the Dapper Baldasare firm; another describes Jacobs as a member or affiliate of the county Republican Committee, from McCandless/Allison Park. Again, this is not a point of opinion -- the documents will provide the answer, at least with respect to the lawyer(s) willing to be named on the filed papers (lawyers who worked behind the scenes might be tougher to identify, but that information usually emerges eventually).

I don't mind legitimate signature challenges, but this one seems unusually lame, based on the reported numbers.

The Republican angle also is troublesome. Acklin has tried to distance himself from his unsavory former allegiances; this casts doubt on the sincerity of his disclaimers. Plus, any decent Republican would be too busy apologizing for how his side broke the world to have time for this type of petty jousting.

The sole likely consequence of this challenge, in my judgment, will be to consume resources of the Acklin and Harris campaigns. That raises questions about motivation and, perhaps, funding.

Now, please excuse me for a bit; I need to take some time to decide between (1) spending the rest of the day as Patrick Dowd and (2) climbing back onto the Dok Harris bandwagon.

Anybody But Luke said...

That's good reporting Infin. Thanks.

Have you seen the Harris petitions? You can get copies of those from the Elections Bureau too.

If you look at them, you'll see that the truly lame thing is the quality of Harris' signature-gathering effort. Unless, that is, Carnegie and Monroeville and Wexford and New Castle and Harrisburg and Philadelphia are now considered neighborhoods in the city. And unless scribbling and rewriting and not being able to follow the rules are now considered marks of a professional team. They're shoddy, messy, incomplete, and laughably amateurish. The worst set of petitions I've ever seen. Bush league all the way.

Acklin and his crew may be streetfighting, but Harris and his crew are out wandering in the wilderness.

Bareknucklers or rank amateurs, people. What's it gonna be? Because it sure as hell can't be Luke.

Unknown said...

How do you figure a 50/50 chance that the Republican Committee is behind this? From what I have heard, the Allegheny County Republicans are telling their members not to work for Acklin because he left the party. Info, call the county repub party and ask them about it, they have been pretty up front about their views on Acklin.

Infinonymous said...

Yeah, I understand none of the party big-shots are donating to Acklin.

Their spouses are.

Anonymous said...

Has Acklin been at any NN events this week? (Harris has been all over them - 2pj has pictures of him at Warhol, and he was at at the candidates' table today.)

If not, can his supporters (who appear to troll this post for comments) explain the rationale behind his decision to avoid this large political gathering, if he is, indeed, a reformed conservative-turned-independent progressive?

Anonymous said...

Harris must have been looking to wrap up more votes from outside of the city.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Ballot access is the worst sin of PA's political landscape and those that side with that cancer are clueless.

Bram, posted above, "I don't have the slightest problem with candidates trying to knock other candidates from the ballot."

Well, Bram, shame on you for that.

Court costs are part of the quagmire. So, when a candidate goes before the judge, rather than campaigning, to defend his/her right to challenge the status quo and appear on the ballot, the judge can slap a $1.5M fine onto the candidate as has happened in another courtroom same building when I was challenged.

Talk about a dangerous, long walk on some very THIN ICE. That's why we have 3 choices that we do in this election -- and others.

Most ballot challenges are UN-DEMOCRATIC. Let the voters decide.

Of course this is a "R" challenge. And, of course that doesn't matter if it is "R" or not, on the basis of the "R". But because it is from Kevin Acklin -- it sucks and smears Kevin Acklin.

Seems as if this challenge is from KEVIN ACKLIN's camp. If that is the source, that is what matters. That's what sucks the most.

Finally, the funding for the challenge does NOT need to be reported on campaign finance records. Court expenses are not to sway voters in a campaign. It can all be swept under the rug according to the old rules we must sadly follow.

Anonymous said...

The signature requirements may be steep for independent candidates in PA and in need of reform, but why should one candidate be exempt from those requirements? You've qualified for the ballot a few times, Mark, but you did it by finding voters inside the political district to sign your papers, not from filling it up with suburbanites. That's what really seems to be the biggest sin here.

Mark Rauterkus said...

There is more to this whole process.

Case in point: If a citizen signs the form (nomination paper) and the county election department does not have a signature on file for that individual, and there had been <25% of that as the case -- then the signature does not count.

The list of "gottchas" is long indeed.