PITTSBURGH (AP) – City voters haven’t elected a Republican mayor since the Great Depression – and this year’s candidate has sold his house and is campaigning in absentia from Israel, where he works as a private security consultant.

Nonetheless, Josh Wander said he plans to return for four debates next month with Democrat Bill Peduto, a city councilman who is an overwhelming favorite to win the Nov. 5 general election, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ( ) reported.

In the meantime, Wander said his staff is conducting his campaign.

“As things calm down here, I will do my best to return with ample time before the election and participate in all the debate forums,” he said in an email to the newspaper.

Wander’s home was sold Sept. 4, but he said he’s maintained the city residency needed to run for mayor by renting another home. Even if that’s not the case, Allegheny County Elections Director Mark Wolosik said it’s too late to legally challenge Wander’s spot on the ballot, though someone could challenge his qualifications to hold office if he’s elected.

A political communications professor told the newspaper Wander’s absence is a slap in the face to Republicans, who are outnumbered by Democrats by more than 2-to-1.

“To knowingly be absent and to make public that my staff is going to run the campaign in my absence, that’s almost reaching the point of being absurd,” said Gerald Shuster, of the University of Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, hours after the newspaper reported Wander has been in Israel, his press secretary announced he was resigning. Nathan Catalano, a second-year law student at Pitt, said his decision had nothing to do with the newspaper’s story.

“I am first and foremost a law student,” Catalano said. “With Mr. Wander’s time restraints, I thought it was best we transition to someone who could be more full-time. This is something him and I talked about when I started the school year.”

Jim Roddey, Allegheny County’s former executive and chair of the county Republican party, said he got an email from the campaign telling him Wander was in Israel and doesn’t know how the candidate can campaign from abroad.

“Those are all questions that I would have for Josh if I were in contact with him,” Roddey said.


Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,   

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