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Pittsburgh mayoral candidates debate vote on Ravenstahl's elevation

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Re
Pittsburgh mayoral candidates (from left) Bill Peduto, Jake Wheatley and Jack Wagner take part in a debate facilitated by WPXI news anchor David Johnson on Monday, May 6, 2013, in the WPXI studios. The debate was presented by The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and WPXI-TV.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Re
Pittsburgh mayoral candidates (from left) Bill Peduto, Jake Wheatley and Jack Wagner take part in a debate facilitated by WPXI news anchor David Johnson on Monday, May 6, 2013, in the WPXI studios. The debate was presented by The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and WPXI-TV.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Re
Pittsburgh mayoral candidates (from left) Bill Peduto, Jake Wheatley and Jack Wagner take part in a debate facilitated by WPXI news anchor David Johnson on Monday, May 6, 2013, in the WPXI studios. The debate was presented by The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and WPXI-TV.

The two leading Democratic candidates for Pittsburgh mayor continued sniping at each other on Monday during a forum at WPXI-TV studios that was broadcast live on the network's cable news station PCNC.

Two weeks before the May 21 primary election, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, the front-runner, accused City Councilman Bill Peduto of voting to install Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as council president in 2006, a charge Peduto denied.

“You can't make things up, Jack,” Peduto said during the forum hosted by WPXI and the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania.

Peduto later said he voted against Ravenstahl in December 2005, but changed that vote in January 2006 because Ravenstahl had more than the five votes necessary to win.

Seeking the Democratic nomination are Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze; Wagner, 65, of Beechview; state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District; and community activist A.J. Richardson, 36, of Sheraden. Richardson did not attend the forum, which WPXI will rebroadcast on a date to be announced.

Tensions between Peduto and Wagner began to boil weeks ago after TV commercials from the Peduto campaign aired, challenging Wagner on his votes to increase lawmakers' pay and pensions while in the state Senate.

Ravenstahl joined in when a committee he chairs ran ads attacking Peduto's record as harmful to impoverished neighborhoods. Peduto on Monday continued attempts to connect Wagner to the Ravenstahl ads.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with those ads,” Wagner said. “I have denounced all negative campaign ads. Unfortunately, Bill Peduto started the negative campaign ads just a few weeks ago.”

Wheatley was content to let his competitors batter each other.

“I'm happy because I can stay focused on the things that matter to the citizens of Pittsburgh,” he told WPXI co-anchor David Johnson, who moderated the forum.

The candidates stuck to their platforms after things settled down.

Peduto argued that his plan of rehabilitating crumbling neighborhoods “block by block” and via community support would move the city forward.

Wagner stressed that his 30-year government career gives him the experience necessary to straighten out City Hall, where allegations of police corruption and acrimony with City Council have plagued the mayor's office.

Wheatley said the elimination of poverty is the only way to stop crime and violence and rebuild less affluent neighborhoods.

Johnson asked the three candidates whether they would continue any of Ravenstahl's policies.

Peduto said he would expand on the mayor's initiatives to make bicycle transportation easier and safer.

Wheatley said he would continue Ravenstahl's economic development policies that have led to new construction Downtown and in East Liberty.

Wagner agreed, saying he also supports an expansion of biking.

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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