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Pittsburgh mayor's campaign dwarfs opponents' meager fundraising

Tom Fontaine
| Monday, May 15, 2017, 3:48 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, City Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the Rev. John Welch are competing in the Democratic primary for mayor.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, City Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the Rev. John Welch are competing in the Democratic primary for mayor.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spent more than 15 times as much money as his two primary opponents combined in his bid for a second term, Allegheny County Elections Division records show.

The primary is today. An incumbent mayor seeking re-election hasn't lost in the city's modern political history.

One of Peduto's challengers, City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, said she has never spent much money in her runs for public office over the past two decades.

“I can't be bought” by campaign contributors with special interests, said Harris, 64, of Spring Hill.

Contributors haven't exactly lined up to donate to her campaign. County elections records show that Harris' campaign committee received three contributions totaling at least $4,000 this year — adding to the $25,903 that it had in the bank when the year began.

Contributions of less than $500 since May 1 aren't reflected in the county's online database.

“I haven't had time to have a fundraiser,” Harris said.

Harris' committee spent $10,771 through May 1, including $10,000 on a fee required to seek the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's endorsement and $221 on stamps, records show. The county committee endorsed Peduto, 52, of Point Breeze.

It appears that some of Harris' campaign spending isn't reflected on the latest campaign finance reports, as required by law.

“I've used money out of my purse (for some expenses). ... Nothing over $100,” Harris said.

The other challenger in the race, the Rev. John C. Welch, 56, of Homewood received contributions totaling at least $37,462 and spent $27,985 this year, records show.

Peduto's spending dwarfed that of his challengers.

His campaign committee received at least $215,236 in contributions, including about 100 donations of $1,000 or more; and it spent $603,564 since the beginning of the year, records show.

Among the biggest expenses through May 1, Peduto's campaign paid $194,200 to Washington, D.C.-based Buying Time LLC for production costs; $90,419 to Washington's Putnam Partners for media production; $67,667 to pay staff; $52,478 to Pittsburgh's Ampersand Consulting for various campaign activities; and $51,842 to Washington's Lake Research Partners for polling and research.

“We haven't taken anything for granted. We can't underestimate anyone or anything,” said Keyva Clark, Peduto's campaign manager.

Harris seemed surprised that Peduto spent so much money on polling.

“Why in the heck would he would do all that polling when he's got (two opponents) without any money?” Harris said.

When asked for a prediction about Tuesday's race, Harris said, “They say there's never been an incumbent that lost, so we'll see what happens.”

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847, tfontaine@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @FontainePGH.

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