Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here We Go, Your Honor, Here We Go

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to visit the home playing field of a Pittsburgh Steeler who wears a black robe rather than a black football jersey? It is almost certain to happen in Allegheny County in a few months. A local athlete with a familiar name from the 1980s appeared on the ballot in the race for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County yesterday, and came out a big winner in both party primaries:

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Dwayne D. Woodruff took the most votes on the Democratic side and second most on the Republican ticket.

"Once we got beyond my experience on the football field, people heard my thoughts on what it takes to be a good judge and I think we were well-received," said Woodruff, who got his law degree while still playing for the Steelers in 1988.

Let's be honest here. How many people actually know anything about the candidates for judge in any election? The only time you hear any news about a judge is when he/she has his/her own legal troubles. Unless you go to public meetings and hear the candidates speak, you may never have a clue as to their political affiliations, or their careers as attorneys.

How many people who voted for Woodruff know anything about him except that he used to play for the Steelers? The Trib asked a couple of locals about their selection:

Republican Joe Giglio, 64, of Shadyside, used a process of elimination to weed out potential judges. He voted for Woodruff "not because he was a football player, but because he is a minority and when I have any doubts about who to vote for, I will always vote for a qualified minority," he said.

Ashleigh Kuhn, 21, a political science major at the University of Pittsburgh who voted in Penn Hills, said she voted for Woodruff "because he was a former Steeler. That's good enough for me."

I'm not sure if the real news in the first paragraph here is that there is a Republican living in Shadyside, or that there is a city resident from any neighborhood who publicly admits being a Republican. As for the young lady in the second paragraph, do not scoff at her reason for voting Woodruff just because she is young and presumably naive. If you asked most voters, regardless of their age, why they voted for Woodruff, you would likely get the same response.

This is not to suggest that Dwayne Woodruff should not have garnered such a huge vote total on both sides. He didn't run into the locker room and change from a football uniform into a judge's robe. He has been a practicing attorney for several years. He had one advantage over the rest of yesterday's candidates about whom most voters remain politically ignorant: Name recognition.

Which makes the election of an inexperienced candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania in 2006 seem more possible than ever before. Gee, does anyone around here remember Lynn Swann?

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