Peduto secures Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor
In a repudiation of Pittsburgh's embattled mayor, Democratic voters chose to replace Luke Ravenstahl with his chief foe, Bill Peduto.
The councilman from Point Breeze fought off Ravenstahl's attack ads, political veteran Jack Wagner's late challenge and entrenched opposition from local politicians including City Council's president, to win the four-way Democratic primary on Tuesday with more than 50 percent of the vote.
Preliminary results showed him with a 52 percent to 40 percent lead over Wagner, the former state auditor general. State Rep. Jake Wheatley received less than 8 percent and Sheraden activist A.J. Richardson less than 1 percent with 99.25 percent of precincts reporting.
“We did it!” Peduto told the cheering crowd at the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers headquarters in the South Side. Elected officials including County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, an early supporter, surrounded him.
“We stood up and we said our rivers are not seas and our hills are not mountains. We are one Pittsburgh, and we'll fight for a new Pittsburgh,” Peduto said.
Wagner called Peduto to concede at about 9:55 p.m., Wagner's spokesman said. Turnout appeared to be lighter than in the 2009 Democratic primary, with about 44,000 votes this year, compared with more than 45,400 then.
Wagner said he was disappointed in the results and that negative campaigning made the difference.
“I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be an integral part of continuing to improve our city,” Wagner told supporters at the IBEW Local No. 5 Hall in the South Side.
Squirrel Hill Republican Josh Wander, 42, ran unopposed for the GOP nomination. Democrats outnumber Republicans about five to one in the city, and a Republican hasn't won a mayoral race since the Great Depression.
“We see the potential that Pittsburgh has and we have the energy and the innovation to make that happen,” Peduto said. “Just as our grandparents built a great city in an earlier age, we have the opportunity, moreso we have the responsibility to build our great city once again.”
The Democratic race settled into a contest primarily between Peduto, 48, and Wagner, 65, of Beechview, within a few weeks after Ravenstahl dropped out on March 1. Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District, never reached double-digit support in opinion polls. Richardson, 36, missed several public forums after police charged him with drunken-driving on April 3.
Peduto, a 19-year veteran of city politics, pledged to shake up the established power structure. Wagner, who was a state senator and a City Council president from 1990-94, campaigned on his deep relationships with government leaders at all levels.
Both spent more than $900,000 as of May 6, when the last campaign finance reports were due.
Wheatley said the party needs to come together for the general election match-up against Wander.
“I will be advocating for the election of a Democratic mayor come November,” Wheatley said.
Richardson said he's undaunted by the results.
“In four years, I guarantee you I'm going to run for mayor again,” Richardson said.
Much of the mayor's race took place as the Ravenstahl administration appeared to crumble. A federal corruption probe forced police Chief Nate Harper to resign. Ravenstahl said he wasn't a target of the probe, though his bodyguards and administrative assistant later testified before a grand jury. He made few public appearances after his withdrawal.
Ravenstahl's spokeswoman said he planned to spend Election Day with his son. His political committee spent $160,000 aiding opponents of Peduto, his chief political antagonist since they faced off in the 2007 mayor's race.
Peduto used the attack to link Wagner with the mayor. Wagner denied the claim, repeatedly accusing Peduto of lying.
The next mayor will inherit a city that, for the first time in more than a generation, is growing. Downtown development continues at a pace unparalleled in decades while neighborhoods from Lawrenceville to East Liberty enjoy an economic resurgence.
The city has about $1 billion in unfunded pension liabilities but racked up a $22.8 million surplus last year. In addition, Peduto could be the first mayor in 10 years to manage city finances without state oversight. The mayor's salary is $108,131.
Staff writers Bob Bauder, Adam Smeltz and Bill Vidonic contributed. Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or [email protected].