Pittsburgh mayor's race is now starting to take shape
Next year's race for mayor of Pittsburgh started sizzling in recent days as Councilman Bill Peduto blanketed voters with campaign mailings, Controller Michael Lamb announced his candidacy and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl secured support from two major labor unions.
Peduto said he mailed 25,000 fliers to registered Democrats in the city, plus email, Twitter and Facebook postings that reached another 25,000 people, all of which sought monetary and volunteer support for his campaign.
Lamb, in response, said on Monday he will run in the May primary, a move analysts said might split the anti-incumbent vote.
“It will weaken Peduto's chances and strengthen Ravenstahl's,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. Coleman said Ravenstahl's chance would improve greatly if Auditor General Jack Wagner, 64, of Beechview runs. Wagner's last term as auditor ends in December, and he said he is seriously considering a mayoral campaign.
Meanwhile, Ravenstahl, 32, of Summer Hill continued collecting support from organized labor with endorsements from two politically prominent unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66. The city firefighters union, a powerful force in politics, endorsed Ravenstahl earlier.
“The mayor's always been there for us, the way we see it, and the city's going through a great round of development in the Downtown region as well as in the neighborhoods, and a lot of that provides opportunities for operating engineers and their families,” said James Kunz Jr., the Local 66 business manager. “Primarily for that reason, we don't see a reason that we should be changing mayors.”
Lamb, 50, of Mt. Washington said he has a $500-per-person fundraiser planned Dec. 12 for the Engineers Club, Downtown.
“I have every intention of running, and I'll be publicly announcing that very soon,” he said. “We've been raising money. We're putting a team together, staff and hiring professionals.”
Steelers President Art Rooney II and labor leaders held a fundraiser on Nov. 15 for Ravenstahl that cost up to $1,000 per person, said Michael Dunleavy, business manager and financial secretary for IBEW Local 5, who helped organize the event. Ravenstahl estimated the event raised at least $50,000.
“Mayor Ravenstahl looks forward to the opportunity to tell Pittsburgh's story — how far we have come since he has been mayor and his plans to build on our success,” campaign spokeswoman Dietrich Kelly said in an email.
Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is hosting a fundraiser for him on Dec. 13. Fitzgerald, who pledged $4,000 to the Peduto campaign in September, did not return a phone call.
Peduto said his weekend mailings were designed to generate support before his official announcement in December. He declined to disclose when that might happen, but last year he said he would make the announcement during his annual holiday party in the East End, which is scheduled for Dec. 13.
“We're asking for the people's support now,” he said. “We're asking for the institutional support now. We're building a (campaign) that will have the strongest foundation, because that's the only way you defeat an incumbent.”
Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at Pitt, said the response to Peduto's mailings will indicate how much support he has.
“It says, ‘I am a formal candidate, and I need your support, and I need your support in terms of time and effort, as well as dollars,'” Shuster said. “If he has any chance of being a formidable opponent, he's got to have a good organization behind him in order to run a formidable campaign.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.