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Dispute Erupts In Democratic Party Over Replacing Late County Councilwoman On Ballot

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- When the late County Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko won the Democratic nomination for reelection to County Council, Allegheny County Democratic chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills had a problem.

Who should pick the replacement candidate for Danko on the November general election ballot?

Admitting the rules are ambiguous, Mills says only 24 Democrats -- the officers of each ward and municipality in the district -- should choose the nominee.

"Article 13 of our by-laws, section one, specifically says this seat, the way I interpret it, should be the chair, the vice chair, and the secretary," Mills told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

"Now that may not sound right as a democracy, but that is what our bylaws say," she added.

But others disagree, saying all 223 Democratic committee members in District 11 should vote.

"I think the entire Democratic Committee from all the wards and municipalities that are in County Council 11 should be permitted to vote," said newly-appointed Councilwoman Terri Klein.

Klein, appointed to replace Danko but not running for a four-year term, is not alone in that view.

Former county Democratic chair -- now state Democratic chair – Jim Burn agrees.

"When you look at that rule in its totality there is no doubt in my mind that you have to let every committee person vote," said Burn.

So why is this issue so important?

Well, first and foremost, there is no Republican nominee on the ballot for County Council from this district.

That means the person picked by 24 or 223 Democrats will likely be on county council for the next four years.

"Having fewer people vote than more people just goes against the whole spirit of the Democratic Party," said Sam Hens-Greco, chairman of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee.

Hens-Greco says if Mills limits the vote a lawsuit is likely.

"I would be talking to the members of my committee to determine whether they believe we should be filing a lawsuit," warned Hens-Greco.

For her part, Mills is now consulting with attorneys and will make her final decision next month.

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