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Politics & Government
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

In The Hands Of A Few: Small Group Likely To Choose Next District 11 County Councilperson

There are nearly 68,000 registered voters in Allegheny County Council District 11, according to the state Department of Elections, yet 24 people will choose the person likely to occupy that council seat for the next four years.

“That’s exactly right,” acknowledges Nancy Patton Mills, chairwoman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

Later this month, the Democratic Committee will choose a new nominee to replace the late Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko on the November general election ballot.  Danko’s May 6 death came too late to remove her name from the May 19 primary ballot.

Voters in District 11 cast 58 percent of the ballots for Danko, compared to 42 percent for Democratic challenger Caroline Mitchell.

“I think there was a tribute vote to Barbara,” Mills said.

Under the Home Rule Charter, council will temporarily fill the vacancy. Members are to interview interested candidates Monday, then select a replacement Tuesday at their regular meeting.

That still leaves an opening for a new Democratic nominee to replace Danko’s name on the November ballot. Mills has tentatively scheduled a vote by committee members for June 27 to select a nominee to win a four-year term starting in January.

But not all 3,500 committee members countywide will vote, nor even those just in Council District 11.  There will be 24 electors:  the chair, co-chair and the secretary of each of the district's eight wards. 

“There was some confusion early on that it may be the entire committee, but according to our bylaws, after careful review with our attorneys and others, we are restricted to only permit the chair, vice chair and secretary from each [ward] to vote.”

Mills expects at least four or five individuals to officially file their names with the committee, and she expects it will be difficult for one candidate to get 13 votes — 50 percent plus one. So that could mean multiple ballots.

“We’ll hope that if people don’t get many votes, they’ll drop out and leave the remainder to be considered by the 24 people,” she said.

There is no mandatory cutoff unless a candidate receives no votes in a round of balloting. 

With no Republican and the unlikelihood of a third party candidate on the November ballot, that nominee, selected by two dozen committee members and affirmed by however many District 11 voters go to the polls in November will represent the nearly 100,000 residents for the next four years. 

“I’m sure the [committee’s] election will produce the right person for the district,” Mills says.