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It takes an extremely shrewd and effective politician to turn an FBI bugging of the mayor's office into a positive but that's exactly what Mayor John Street did as he earns PoliticsPA's 2003 Politician of the Year. Most media outlets were critical of the mayor's personal campaign style -- calling him aloof and unsociable. After a summer of campaign calamity after calamity, it appeared that Sam Katz could possibly win City Hall. But then came the 'bug'. Street used the discovery to question the tactics of GOP Attorney General's office and to effectively energize his base. Black voters turned out for Street in big numbers, but in fairness, a large number of white voters cased their ballot for the incumbent mayor. To his credit, Street has done a good job as mayor of the state's largest city. He has put his stamp on programs to clean up abandoned cars and homes in the neighborhoods. But his ability to come out of this campaign smelling like a rose is an accomplishment worthy of Politician of the Year.   



Politician of the Year Runners-Up


When Joe Loeper left the State Senate after more than two two decades of public service, he left some big shoes to fill. But this year Majority Leader Chip Brightbill emerged as a clear leader of the Senate of Pennsylvania. Sure, he and President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer have been running the show, but most of the focus has been on Speaker John Perzel and Governor Ed Rendelll. In 2003 Brightbill showed his metal by standing up and opposing both the Governor and the GOP controlled House (read: Perzel).  Brightbill insisted the proposed tax hike was way too high and he has withstood the media pressure (thanks to the full support of his caucus) not to cave into Rendell. The budget may be resolved as early as this week but it's a much different budget because of Brightbill's courage and leadership.


Defeating a sitting incumbent for any office is never easy but Allegheny County Controller Dan Onorato made beating Jim Roddey for Allegheny County Executive look pretty easy. Onorato impressed may with his youthful energy on the campaign trail.  But he impressed even more with ability to raise money. Clearly Onorato has emerged as perhaps the most powerful elected Democrat in Western Pennsylvania, and his future is looking very bright.


Superior Court Judge-elect Jack Panella earns his stripes as the Democrats' highest statewide vote-getter for Superior Court - an impressive feat for a candidate not from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia.  The relative political novice - a Northampton County Common Pleas Judge - impressed many.


He was courted to run for Congress earlier in the year but TJ Rooney decided to put his political talents working to revive the state Democratic Party. With the help of Governor Ed Rendell, whom he backed early in the 2002 primary, Rooney lead the state Democrats to one of its most successful off year elections in quite some time. Democrats won five of six statewide judicial races, along with re-electing  Street and helping Onorato to become the first Democratic Chief Executive in Allegheny County.