Jack Wagner concedes to Pittsburgh mayoral challenger Bill Peduto

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 8:13 a.m.

Former state Auditor General Jack Wagner conceded to Pittsburgh mayoral challenger Bill Peduto for the Democratic nomination about 9:55 p.m. Tuesday.

Peduto has 52 percent of the vote to Wagner's 40 percent, with 99.5 percent of precincts reporting. State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has 8 percent and community activist A.J. Richardson has less than 1 percent. Wheatley conceded about 9:30 p.m. Peduto will face Republican Josh Wander, who ran unopposed in the primary, in November.

“We did it,” Peduto said. “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.”

Wagner assured supporters he is not going anywhere.

“I'm going to be an integral part of continuing to improve our city,” he said. “I know all of you will, also.”

In Pittsburgh City Council races, Dan Gilman has a sizable lead over Jeanne K. Clark and Sam Hens-Greco in District 8, which covers the city's eastern neighborhoods. Gilman has 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Clark and Hens-Greco have 16 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

In City Council District 4, incumbent Natalia Rudiak has a slim lead over Johnny Lee. Rudiak has 52 percent to Lee's 48 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Rudiak declared victory about 9:30 p.m. District 4 covers many of the city's southern neighborhoods.

In City Council District 6, Councilman Robert Daniel Lavelle is leading Tonya Payne, a former city councilwoman, and Franco “Dok” Harris, a former mayoral candidate. Lavelle has 53 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Payne has 29 percent and Harris has 17 percent, according to preliminary returns. District 6 covers the lower North Side, Downtown and the Hill District.

The polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday for voters deciding hundreds of municipal races in Western Pennsylvania, highlighted by the Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced March 1 he would not seek re-election, only 11 days after announcing he would run. The frontrunners to replace him, Peduto and Wagner, gathered with supporters Tuesday night to monitor the results.

Although voter turnout was below average at many polling places, the Wightman Annex in Squirrel Hill was seeing higher numbers than it did in the primary four years ago.

As of 4:30 p.m. 180 voters appeared to pull the lever as opposed to the 190 in 2009, according to poll workers.

Election judges elsewhere in Western Pennsylvania didn't have as much to do.

By 9:30 a.m., only 16 people had voted at the Dormont Presbyterian Church.

“I've worked elections here since 2007 and have never seen turnout this low. At this rate, we'll be lucky to have 10 percent of voters,” said William Ainsworth, an election judge.

Experts predicted tepid response, noting the lack of federal and state races on many local ballots, an assessment Ainsworth seconded.

However, voters who did show up at the polls were excited to vote for their candidates, particularly in the Pittsburgh mayoral race, the most visible contest in the area.

Self-proclaimed “super voters” Andrew and Janeen Ellsworth of Bloomfield were among the 40 people who voted at the Shadyside Honda Dealership by 8:40 a.m.

“We always vote,” Andrew Ellsworth, 34, said. “We have to vote. It's civic duty.”

The couple said they both voted for Peduto.

“I'm a little nervous but I also feel good about today,” said Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze while casting his vote at St. Bede's in Point Breeze. “We have worked hard and now it is in the hands of the voters.”

Wagner cast his ballot at Gualtieri Manor in Beechview.

“I feel optimistic. Obviously I'm losing my voice. I think that's a good thing, but today is a very important day for Pittsburghers, for Americans, to get out and vote,” he said.

Wagner, 65, Peduto, 48, Wheatley, 41, and Richardson, 36, are battling for a rare shot at a soon-to-be vacant mayor's office.

“I feel great,” Wheatley said. “We've done the job, provided a vision and a clear choice. Now it's up to the voters. We hope they come out and vote their best interests and then we will be victorious.”

Primaries typically determine the next mayor because of voter registration disparities. There are 164,741 registered Democrats in the city, compared with 30,502 Republicans. Pittsburgh has not had a Republican mayor since the Great Depression.

That history rarely spurs primary voting, however. Only 26.6 percent of city Democrats turned out in 2009 for the last mayoral primary, down from 38.8 percent in 2005 and 39.6 percent in 2001.

Election Judge Judy O'Connor, widow of late Mayor Bob O'Connor and mother of City Councilman Corey O'Connor, was disappointed at the turnout.

“I don't know why it's not busier,” she said. “I feel this is an important race. It's our mayor's race.”

Allegheny County's numbers are even worse, with less than 20 percent of registered voters punching ballots in 2009.

The lack of foot traffic in St. Alexis Parish's cafeteria in McCandless bore that out.

The polls opened at 7 a.m. but by 9:30 a.m., only 20 people — 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — had voted.

“Not too many people, I guess, were interested in judges and the school board. You figure that's where they're paying their taxes and they'd want to get the right people in there,” said Election Judge Dave Kusserow.

At the Wightman Annex both Brian Davis and Ron Bandes were running to fill the spot of election judge.

“Normally the Judge of Elections isn't contested. Usually, the challenge is getting one person to try and do it,” poll watcher Eric Marchbein said.

Across the Beaver County line in Ambridge, few voters turned out despite council and school board races.

Through 12:30 p.m., just 46 voters cast ballots in the 5th Ward voting precinct inside the Ambridge Area High School gymnasium, said Election Judge Ross McCoy.

“It makes for a long day,” McCoy said.

Loretta Taucher, however, took pride in her role in guiding the future of her community.

Taucher, who said she was older than 70 but declined to give her exact age, said no particular issue brought her to her polling place at St. Ignatius Church in Scott.

“I vote,” she said. “My mother would roll over in her grave if I didn't vote.”

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