CroquetThe rule of thumb for local elections has never been truer than this year -- the smaller the race, and the fewer who care, the nastier the fighting will be. Example 1A is the district justice race in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill and the environs.

To underscore just how slap-happy the fight has become, much of it has been taking place in the hardly Octagon-like world of the P-G Letters to the Editor page. On Saturday, two wrote in criticizing Doug Shields for a negative mail piece suggesting opponent Hugh McGough would only work part-time as the area's DJ, and work the rest of the time at his private legal practice. "Mr. Shields has no basis for his claim, and it is disappointing, to say the least, to see him resort to such measures," one letter said.

Today Shields returned with his own letter defending his criticism, and noting how McGough has ran twice previously for the bench:

I ask further, is this office he now seeks just a steppingstone for yet another campaign to run for Common Pleas Court?

Here is my commitment: If elected, I will not have any other outside employment. I will be a full-time magisterial district judge putting forth 100 percent effort to serve the constituents of the 14th and 7th wards and will not seek any other elected office while I serve the full six-year term of magisterial district judge.

On the one had this is pretty clever by Shields -- he's hitting McGough for being a lawyer when he's the only candidate in the race without a law degree (the other candidates are attorneys Dan Butler and Joe Weinroth). But complaining that McGough runs for office too much? Shields's main argument for why he should be a DJ despite his lack of JD is that his own political experience makes him superior at mediating disputes.

And let's not forget that the only reason there is a seat to run for at all was because of back-room politicking of judicial leadership, reversing plans to eliminate the seat after the former judge's retirement.

We should note this isn't the only Shields here in the bowels of the P-G. Remember how Rich Fitzgerald claimed in his wacky Marcellus fundraising email from last week how Doug's wife Briget was making calls for his opponent Mark Patrick Flaherty? Briget -- like her husband -- is known for her strong anti-drilling stance, and wrote Early Returns late last week to deny Fitzgerald's charge, and demand a retraction from Fitzgerald.

Her note was in comments here.

Ms. Shields has also lately gotten into the fight over the McGough mailer, but that goes further down into the rabbit hole than even Early Returns is prepared to go.

Photo: Settling scores in rough-and-tumble East End


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