City Councilman Bill Peduto beat out three other Democratic contenders Tuesday for a win in Pittsburgh's hotly contested mayoral primary.
Peduto is hoping to win the seat currently held by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who announced in March he was not seeking re-election. While this was a primary race, Peduto’s victory all but guarantees him the seat. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pittsburgh by a wide margin, and the city hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1934.
Peduto took the stage at the Federation of Teachers building on the South Side to a cheering crowd of supporters Tuesday night.
“You know what guys? We did it!” shouted Peduto, who with about 52 percent of the vote prevailed over former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, state Rep. Jake Wheatley and community activist A.J. Richardson.
"Tonight we are one step closer to a new Pittsburgh," Peduto said, “one step closer to realizing our potential, one step closer to making Pittsburgh the city we know that it can be.”
Josh Wander, the only Republican candidate, faced no primary opposition and will take on Peduto in the November general election.
Being the mayor of Pittsburgh is not a new ambition for Bill Peduto. He ran for the office in 2005 but finished second in the Democratic primary behind Bob O’Connor, who went on to become mayor before dying in office. Peduto has been the District 8 city councilman since 2002, and before that he was chief of staff to former City Councilman Dan Cohen.
Peduto calls himself a “Reform Democrat,” and during the election he focused on issues ranging from city finances, transportation and the perception of cronyism in city hall. At a mayoral forum at 90.5 WESA, Peduto said there are problems in city hall and they are deeper than the public knows. He said the current system has to change.
“By shifting that power paradigm from one that is been in power for 50 years to a new one that gives power to the community and the people who live in it,” Peduto said.
Peduto pulled ahead of Wagner in the polls leading up to the primary – though his lead was less than the number of undecided voters.
Wagner pointed to two main factors that led to his primary loss.
First, Wagner said negative campaigning in this race was initiated by the Peduto camp.
"Unfortunately, negative campaigning works," Wagner said. "We don't want to admit that, but it's true. I really believe that the media can do a better job analyzing campaign ads, and I mean that sincerely."
Second, Wagner said he was disappointed by voter turnout numbers, noting that Peduto garnered about 20,000 votes to win.
The former City Councilman and state Senator said he thinks the public may have underestimated the importance of the Democratic primary this year, given the higher turnout numbers in presidential and gubernatorial elections.
Competing with the sounds of the television in the small private suite at Savoy in the Strip District Tuesday night, Wheatley thanked his supporters, campaign staff and family for their work and said he’ll continue to advocate for Pittsburghers in the state capitol.
"That the unemployment rate in most of these marginalized neighborhoods, that we really do something to substantially change it," Wheatley said. "We talked about making investments happen in these corridors of marginalized neighborhoods. We talked about supporting after school programs."
Wheatley was the endorsed candidate of the Pittsburgh Black Political Convention and represents a district that covers wide swaths of the city, including the Hill District, the North Side, South Side and sections of Oakland, among other neighborhoods.
From 1998-2000, Wheatley served as executive assistant to then-city councilman Sala Udin. In 2002, Wheatley ran for state representative, defeating incumbent William Robinson, and is currently serving his sixth two-year term.