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Fitzgerald says Bill Peduto filed to run for mayor, donates to campaign

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 10:28 a.m.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto (right) talks to his chief of staff Dan Gilman at the Allegheny County Courthouse after speaking at an Allegheny Regional Asset District meeting, Thursday, September 27, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto check his smartphone at the Allegheny County Courthouse after speaking at an Allegheny Regional Asset District meeting on Thursday, September 27, 2012. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Councilman Bill Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze announced in January 2013 that he has collected $329,671 toward his campaign for mayor. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto intended to send “a clear signal” to other potential challengers of Mayor Luke Raven-stahl by having the county's top elected official announce his 2013 mayoral campaign committee.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald sent an email to supporters on Thursday morning, saying he gave People for Peduto an $8,000 donation, its inaugural contribution and the maximum allowable under the city's campaign finance law, shortly after Peduto filed paperwork to form the committee.

“It's a clear signal. You can't run for mayor of the city by yourself,” said Peduto, a Point Breeze Democrat like Fitzgerald. “You need to be a part of a team, and what we intend to have is the largest team of any of the candidates, including the mayor.”

Other potential Democratic candidates saw the signal — and blew right past it.

“My decision won't be based on what anybody else does. It'll be based on what's best for me and the city of Pittsburgh,” said City Controller Michael Lamb of Mt. Washington.

Like Lamb, state Auditor General Jack Wagner, a former councilman and state senator from Beechview, said he's “seriously thinking about running for mayor,” and Fitzgerald's show of support for Peduto doesn't change his calculus.

“If I do run for mayor and I'm fortunate enough to win, I will work with anyone in the best interest of Pittsburgh, including Mr. Fitzgerald,” said Wagner, whose state term ends this year.

Fitzgerald's contribution to one of Ravenstahl's chief antagonists occurs after months of rocky relations between the county's top elected officials. Ravenstahl criticized Fitzgerald's plan to use Regional Asset District money for Port Authority and Fitzgerald's decision to raise property taxes in 2011.

Ravenstahl speculated that's why Fitzgerald backed Peduto.

“I'm ready to run next year and talk about our vision for Pittsburgh in creating jobs, lowering crime, improving our neighborhoods and making this a livable city,” Ravenstahl said. “From my perspective, this announcement would not affect us at all.”

He and Fitzgerald said politics won't harm city-county relations.

“I'm always willing to work with the mayor or City Council,” Fitzgerald said.

“I'll be able to separate that from my government philosophy,” Ravenstahl said.

Yet by announcing Peduto's campaign, Fitzgerald's email took a shot at the mayor and other potential candidates, said Gerald Shuster, political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“This is so overt,” Shuster said. “It's making a statement that ... almost makes the relationship unrepairable, politically.”

Fitzgerald insisted that he wasn't endorsing Peduto. For one thing, Peduto won't officially announce his candidacy until after the November election, so there's no campaign to endorse, Fitzgerald said.

“Bill was a big supporter of mine,” Fitzgerald said. “He helped me immensely in the county executive race, and I don't forget those kinds of things. I'm loyal to the friends who help me out.”

Asked whether he would donate the same amount to Ravenstahl's campaign, he said: “We'll have to see. ... Nobody else has asked me.”

The Democratic primary all but decides the mayoral race because of the party's 5-1 registration advantage. The last Republican mayor in Pittsburgh was John Herron, who served from 1932-33. The 2013 primary is scheduled for May 21.

It's too early to say whose support Fitzgerald's announcement might draw into Peduto's camp, Shuster said. Peduto's chief of staff, Dan Gilman, is positioned to run for his boss' District 8 council seat if Peduto runs for mayor. Gilman isn't ready to commit but said he would “consider his options” next year if Peduto runs.

Tom McIntyre, secretary-treasurer of the Pittsburgh Building and Construction Trades Council, said the organization isn't backing mayoral candidates yet. City politicians say they consider the union's endorsement critical to winning elections.

“I have absolutely no way of knowing which way anybody is going at this point,” McIntyre said. “We have to get through (the presidential election) before we start worrying about that.”

Mike Wereschagin and Bob Bauder are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Wereschagin can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com. Bauder can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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