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Voters get to choose a new member of Pittsburgh City Council

Bob Bauder
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Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, D-Carrick
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle speaks at the ceremonial groundbreaking for Phase 1 of the Lower Hill Roadway Work at the site of the former Civic Arena in the Lower Hill District on Monday, March 23, 2015.
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Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman
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Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Councilwoman Theresa Smith stands near a banner for the West End's Westwood neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon, April 17, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Four potential candidates have lined up to replace two-term Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, whose decision not to seek re-election sets up an open-seat primary.

So far, only Democrats have publicly expressed interest in running to represent the city’s southern neighborhoods of Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick and Overbrook:

• Beechview roofing contractor Anthony Coghill, 50, who chairs the 19th Ward Democratic Committee and has run unsuccessfully three previous times for the position;

• Rudiak’s Chief of Staff, Ashleigh Deemer, 33, of Beechview;

Tony Griffith, 33, of Brookline, digital communications manager for Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen;

Jim Sheppard, 30, of Brookline, an analyst for Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, who previously served as special assistant to former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Pittsburgh’s even-numbered council districts are up for election in 2017.

Incumbents Theresa Kail-Smith 57, of Westwood; R. Daniel Lavelle, 39, of the Hill District; and Dan Gilman, 34, of Squirrel Hill, confirmed they plan to run for re-election. Kail-Smith of District 2 represents West End neighborhoods, Lavelle’s District 6 includes the Hill, Downtown and some North Side neighborhoods; and Gilman of District 8 represents East End neighborhoods, including Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.

Everyone on the nine-member council is a Democrat. Its longest-serving member is Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who took office in 2007. Harris has said she plans to run against Mayor Bill Peduto, who served on council from 2002 to 2014.

Candidates can circulate nominating petitions starting on Feb. 14 and must file by March 7. City Council members are elected to four-year terms. Council members are set to receive a salary of $65,423 in 2017.

Democrat Lisa Freeman, 54, a Manchester social worker and community activist, said she plans to challenge Lavelle.

Rudiak of Carrick said the death of her mother, Helena, in 2015 of pancreatic cancer changed her outlook on life.

“My mother was only 61 when she died,” Rudiak said. “I’m 37, almost 40, and it just made me realize that life is short and nothing is guaranteed.”

The councilwoman said she plans to spend time in Europe with family but hasn’t decided her next career choice. She isn’t ruling out another run for public office and plans to keep her Pittsburgh residence. She said she would support Deemer in the primary.

“This isn’t going to be farewell,” she said. “This is just going to be a different life experience.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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