The Spin Room

Just finished moderating the mayoral democratic debate for WTAE. Candidates Luke Ravenstahl, Patrick Dowd and Carmen Robinson took aim at the issues – as well as each other – during a debate that was 60 minutes but frankly could have gone longer.

I won’t tell you who I think won tonight’s debate. Frankly, it’s not my place as moderator to say who won and who lost. Even more to the point, I thought all three candidates made valid arguments for why they should be mayor.

What struck me is how I was assured by some of those I spoke with before hand that this would be a “conversation” … as one candidate described the pre-debate atmosphere – and quickly became anything but. The accusations started flying early, much aimed at Mayor Ravenstahl. Of course, he is the incumbent and that should come as no surprise. However, the Mayor got back at councilman Dowd during one exchange when he read off a list of statements Dowd used in regards to the passage of a gun control bill … one that even Dowd admitted was weak.


Then, there was Carmen Robinson. Her position on the desk was determined before the debate via the coin toss, but she could not have been in a more perfect place. From her middle seat. she was able to serve criticisms and insights with equal measure. She was the third candidate going into the debate, by her own admission, but I think a couple of things have made her a more relevant opponent. Her performance during the debate and her 14-years as a city police officer as public safety moves to the top of the local agenda.

No matter who you thought “won” the debate, one thing is clear: the next mayor will face a myriad of challenges not seen by the mayor of this city since the 1980’s. Crime, unemployment, education are all issues of great concern to the city’s next chief executive. Issues that could sink this city if we are not careful.

While we all could play Monday Morning Quarterback when it comes to second-guessing politicians, I will give our leaders credit for taking the chance to lead. It is not an easy job and not one I want to have. While we don’t always agree with our leaders, at least they got into this messy business. Someone has to take out the trash.

So I’m not telling you who won, but I invite you to offer your thoughts. Our website has a poll where you can choose a winner from the debate. Log on and vote. Better yet, vote May 19th when the real debate begins.

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