Adam Ravenstahl talks with two voters. (Photo courtesy Friends of Adam Ravenstahl)

With a little more than two weeks until the May 18 special election for Don Walko’s old perch in the State House, no candidate appears to be a clear frontrunner.

This may be because only one candidate, Mark Purcell, has held public office before, and that was as a part-time commissioner of Ross Township. Two other candidates, Dan Keller of Brighton Heights and Tim Tuinstra of Observatory Hill, have both served on their respective neighborhood councils, but neither has wide name recognition.

That’s Adam’s advantage, because if you haven’t heard by now, his last name is Ravenstahl — both Luke’s younger brother and the grandson of former District 17 (now District 20) State Rep. Robert Ravenstahl, Sr,, who served from 1975 to 1978 before losing to future mayor Tom Murphy.

“Obviously, I’m using my brother as an asset,” Ravenstahl said without hesitation.

That the 25-year-old Ravenstahl might win on name recognition alone doesn’t bother him.

“The bottom line is I have a good working relationship with the mayor, and that will help get things done,” Ravenstahl said.

And while his opponents might scoff at this attitude, news headlines in the past seem to validate Luke’s need for a friend, or in this case relation, in Harrisburg.

But the Summer Hill native (that wasn’t just his adolescent address; he lived there with his parents as a commuter student attending Robert Morris University, where he boasted a 3.94 GPA and majored in business management) doesn’t think voters should see him as a pawn.

Rather than just a Northsider or urbanite, Ravenstahl sees himself as part of a more youthful and invigorated movement of Western Pennsylvania legislators.

And rather than viewing state politics as rural versus urban voters, Ravenstahl sees a clash of major metropolises.

“This side of the state is taking a backseat to Philadelphia. Everything is going to Philly,” he said.

To staunch the flow, the candidate believes that Western Pennsylvania legislators need to band together against its commonwealth cousin and fight for funding based on need rather than just population (Philadelphia is about five times the size of Pittsburgh).

Although he wasn’t heavy on specifics, Ravenstahl said two policies close to his heart are a “more progressive tax system” that doesn’t “rely too heavily on property taxes” and reducing the size of the legislature even “if my seat would be lost.”

He isn’t sure just where the money would come from to fill the gap vacated by property taxes, but he made a point of saying that legislators should look at the big picture on taxes.

“When you chop it up in separate pieces, then you get” lost on the overall goals of taxation, he said.

Ravenstahl is used to looking at the big picture. As a business analyst for UPMC, he spends much of his work day sizing up profits and losses in the region’s largest hospital system.

It’s not that he doesn’t like his job. He just thinks there might be a higher purpose for his talents (read: the state budget).

Ravenstahl won the Democratic Party nomination for the seat in early March.

And don’t listen to his opponents, Ravenstahl counseled.

“My opponents have been acting like I’m not busy, but I have been door knocking and attending different events in the district.”

And the last Saturday in April, that’s where he was — knocking on doors in the rain.

To hear all four candidates for the 20th District debate their merits, come to the Sarah Heinz House at 6 p.m. on May 5 for a candidate forum sponsored by the Northside / Northshore Chamber of Commerce and the Northside Leadership Conference.