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By Jay Cost

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Ravenstahl Wins in Pittsburgh

A race that I had my eye on yesterday was the Pittsburgh mayoral race. This was a contest between incumbent mayor Democrat Luke Ravenstahl and South Side businessman Republican Mark Desantis.

At first blush, this might seem strange to care about. There has not been a Republican mayor in Pittsburgh since 1929. Democrats outnumber Republicans among registered voters by 5:1. A Republican candidate has not cracked 35% since 1965. Why care?

Well - for a while it looked like it might have been a real race. Ravenstahl, who is only 27 years old, was elevated to the position in 2006 when Mayor Bob O'Connor died. He has had a bumpy two years in office. In January of this year, there were reports that Ravenstahl got into a shoving match with a city of Pittsburgh police officer at Heinz Field back in 2005. Ravenstahl also took an SUV funded by the Department of Homeland Security to a Toby Keith concert, and he participated in a celebrity golf tournament that worried the Pittsburgh city ethics board.

Enter Mark Desantis, who spent a good bit of money (a quarter million dollars, something never seen on the GOP side of the ledger here in Pittsburgh). He also picked up the endorsement of the Pittsburgh police union as well as the Post-Gazette, which has not endorsed a Republican since 1969. A lot of Republicans in this city hoped that Ravenstahl's youth and perceived incompetence might swing the election to the GOP. The fact that no independent polling was commissioned gave the race a sense of mystery. Could Desantis win?

No way. Ravenstahl won last night 63% to 35%. This just goes to show that, while some elements of the original FDR coalition have broken from the Democrats, urban voters really have not. They are still loyal to the Democratic Party. Last night in Pittsburgh, party registration trumped all else.

-Jay Cost