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Labor group won't endorse candidate for Pittsburgh mayor

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Friday, March 8, 2013, 7:00 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh mayoral candidates said they would seek support from individual unions after the Allegheny County Labor Council decided not to endorse anyone Friday.

“Although we're disappointed not to have been able to earn the endorsement of the labor council, we are going to now work to earn the endorsement of all the separate unions,” City Councilman Bill Peduto said. Labor Council President Jack Shea said two-thirds support was necessary for an endorsement. He wouldn't disclose how many members voted.

“Really, there wasn't anybody that took off and ran with it, and it's because every time you look at the papers there's a new candidate,” Shea said.

Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze and Controller Michael Lamb, 50, of Mt. Washington — the only declared candidates for the Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary election — were seeking the labor nod along with Council President Darlene Harris, 60, of the North Side and former Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Wagner, 65, of Beechview, who has been considering a campaign for mayor, said for the first time Friday that he is in the race to stay.

“I'm running,” Wagner said while leaving the IBEW Local 5, union hall at South Side Works where the labor council met.

Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh, said Wagner's presence likely influenced the endorsement vote.

“My read is Peduto expected that endorsement,” he said. “The fact that they didn't endorse anybody suggests that the entrance of Jack Wagner into this election affected the vote because he is a friend of labor.”

Harris said her late entrance into the race affected her chances for winning the endorsement.

“There were some people who had given their word to other candidates before I jumped in, and I understand,” she said.

Lamb's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The other three candidates who are considering a run did not apply for an endorsement. They are Sen. Jim Ferlo, 61, of Highland Park; state Sen. Wayne Fontana, 62, of Brookline, and Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson, 71, of Schenley Heights.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, 33, of Summer Hill dropped out of the race last week, citing nonstop media scrutiny over an FBI investigation into the city police bureau and the effects of public life on himself and his family.

The labor council represents about 100,000 union members and has been a powerful voice in Pittsburgh elections, but doesn't have the same influence that it did decades ago, Shuster said.

“This is not the Pittsburgh of 30 years ago where unions carried the weight,” he said. “Probably there is some influence, but the difference between winning and losing the election is not going to be on the basis of whether or not you win the endorsement.”

Candidates for mayor along with those seeking endorsements for City Council seats and Allegheny County judgeships appeared throughout the day for 10-minute closed interviews with labor council members.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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