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 -
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