Mike Doyle in the 14th: The low-key incumbent gets the job done

By the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial Board

To demand action on gun-control legislation, Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills, staged a 26-hour sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives in June. It was an unusual step into the spotlight for Mr. Doyle, who is neither flashy nor a leader of his caucus. He has benefited the 14th District, however, and we endorse his bid for a 12th term.

In the Nov. 8 election, Mr. Doyle, 63, faces Republican Lenny McAllister, 44, a Penn Hills resident who works as a political analyst both locally and nationally. The district encompasses 74 municipalities in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, including Pittsburgh and many of its southern and eastern suburbs.

Mr. McAllister is a charismatic speaker whose story of grit  — he worked his way from deli clerk to college graduate and political pundit — is worthy of emulation. He rightly criticizes the dearth of African-American House members from Pennsylvania. He admirably speaks of carrying an “uplifting message” to struggling communities.

However, he has not been visible enough this campaign season to oust an entrenched incumbent, and he is wrong to suggest that Mr. Doyle has hit his ceiling after 22 years in Congress. Seniority and networking matter in Washington. The affable Mr. Doyle has used those tools to the district’s advantage, and if he continues to do so, some very productive years remain ahead of him.

Mr. Doyle’s low profile may have as much to do with political reality as with his personality. He is an inoffensive Democrat from a safe seat. There’s no need to be flashy or to lead the charge for his caucus.

He has a thorough appreciation of his district’s economic needs. He opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying of President Barack Obama, a proponent of the potentially harmful trade deal, “he’ll not have my support on that.” Mr. Doyle was a founder of the Robotics Caucus, which was instrumental in establishing National Robotics Week, annually held to showcase robotics technology, promote the field to students and champion research and development funding. He helped to establish the 200,000-square-foot Energy Innovation Center in the Lower Hill District, bringing together economic development specialists, researchers, entrepreneurs and students under one large roof. He finagled a $19 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to build a 3-acre pedestrian-friendly deck over Crosstown Boulevard, helping to reconnect Downtown and the Lower Hill after decades of separation induced by construction of the Civic Arena.

Mr. Doyle spent years courting the grant, showcasing a tenacity that may be his most politically effective trait. His initial efforts rebuffed, Mr. Doyle went to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to find out why the proposal fell short, then shelved proposed street improvements in favor of the innovative cap over the Crosstown.

Mr. McAllister points to struggling Mon Valley communities as evidence of Mr. Doyle’s shortfalls. True, many have not bounced back from steel’s decline the way Pittsburgh has. But Mr. Doyle is working on improvements in the suburbs, too, helping, for example, to deliver $10 million for a ramp connecting the Rankin Bridge to the 168-acre Carrie Furnace redevelopment site.

Continuity will help build momentum in the 14th District. That is why voters should re-elect Mike Doyle.


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