2011 Election Coverage: Attacks, accusations fly in days before primary


primary-coverage-logoThe District 1 race has gotten ugly, as attack ads, vandalism and accusations of sign removal are flying in full force the day before the primary election.

Before 4 a.m. on Sunday, May 15 someone broke the window of incumbent Darlene Harris’s campaign office on East Ohio Street, according to a press release sent by Harris’ campaign.

An employee of an East Ohio Street business discovered the broken window and reported it to authorities, said campaign manager Kyndall Mason. Pittsburgh Police are investigating.

A press release from Harris’s campaign called the incident vandalism, but Mason said that “It could have been anything from someone falling through it to someone breaking it.”

She added, though, that Harris did not believe in coincidences, and that dealing with the incident on Sunday meant they could not spend that time campaigning door to door as planned.

Harris has three challengers in the District 1 Democratic primary: Vince Pallus of Brighton Heights, Bobby Wilson of Spring Hill and Steve Oberst of Brighton Heights

The press release also stated that objects have been thrown at Harris’s personal vehicle and supporters have reported pro-Harris yard signs being removed or stolen.

Mason said that “numerous eyewitnesses” have called the office and reported seeing City of Pittsburgh workers and employees from local contracting business Allegheny Construction Management Co. removing Darlene Harris signs.

Allegheny Construction Management Co. owner Jeff Dzamko said those allegations were “absolutely false,” and that the only signs he removed were from a piece of property owned by S&A Homes on the Federal Hill housing development.

According to reports in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in March 2010, Dzamko is well connected with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and good friends with Ravenstahl’s Chief of Staff Yarone Zober.

S&A Homes Construction Manager Corey Lovrak said that Allegheny Construction Management occasionally did some property maintenance such as grass cutting for S&A, and that company policy is to not allow political signs or advertisements of any kind on property they own.

City officials can remove illegally placed campaign signs, according to local laws.

Harris challenger Bobby Wilson told The Chronicle that he caught Jeff Dzamko removing a large banner Wilson had hung on a fence at the corner of Tripoli and Chestnut streets in East Deutschtown in early April.

Wilson said he confronted Dzamko, who said the owner had asked him to remove it. Wilson said he had permission to hang the sign there, and called the owner to confirm. The owner confirmed the sign could be there, Wilson said, and then Dzamko said the neighbors had asked him to remove the sign.

Dzamko today offered no comment on the incident.

Vince Pallus said that his office has also received numerous reports of stolen or missing campaign signs, and that someone wrote a vulgar saying on one of his signs in Woods Run.

He said there have been no incidents at his campaign office.

“That’s unfortunately that that happened to her,” Pallus said of the broken window. “It may not have had anything to do with the campaign. It’s my understanding that a lot of windows have been broken down there [recently].”

Despite the distraction of the broken window, Mason said the publicity has helped Harris’s campaign, and that many people are calling to express disdain over the incident and their support for Harris.

“Regardless of how or why it happened, it’s actually been good for the campaign,” Mason said.

The Vince Pallus campaign recently sent out a mailing that criticized Harris. The flyer said “Greed Works for Darlene Harris” and listed a number of projects, such as demolition, that Harris allegedly moved money away from to fund pet projects.

In the past few days, both Harris and Pallus have been sending out numerous flyers, all focused on what each candidate can do for the district.

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