Wagner first mayoral candidate to launch TV ad
The two front-runners in Pittsburgh's mayoral race are starting a nearly six-week TV commercial spending spree with biographical ads intended to introduce themselves to voters.
Former state Auditor General Jack Wagner began airing an ad Wednesday highlighting his work two decades ago as City Council president to pass an assault weapons ban and more recently to take on Wall Street banks, a reference to his state-level efforts to ban interest-rate swap deals, according to his campaign.
Councilman Bill Peduto said his campaign will begin airing an ad Friday by Washington consultant Mark Putnam, who crafted an acclaimed 30-minute commercial for President Obama's 2008 campaign.
Peduto's ad features his family's roots in Pittsburgh — his grandfathers worked in steel mills — and his desire to revitalize economically depressed city neighborhoods and vacant lots while adding jobs.
Wagner spokesman J.J. Abbott said Wagner chose to feature the assault weapons ban, passed in November 1993, because it demonstrates his ability to lead a legislative body through the briars of national controversy that attracted vocal opposition from gun rights groups.
“We wanted to get out early and remind people about Jack and what he's done,” Abbott said of the ad by Bronstein & Weaver Inc. of Bryn Mawr.
Aside from its symbolism, the ban had little time to make an impact because the state Legislature passed a law that stripped municipal governments of the ability to regulate firearms and ammo in 1994, the year Congress passed a federal assault-style weapons ban that lasted 10 years.
Abbott said the first ad run cost $50,000 to purchase time on KDKA, WTAE, WPXI and assorted cable stations. He expects additional buys.
Peduto and Wagner have said they anticipate it will cost more than $1 million, much of it spent on TV advertising, to win the race.
Peduto said during an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters that he has raised more than $700,000 and plans to reach $1.1 million.
A judge's decision last week allowed Wagner, 65, of Beechview to start his mayoral run with access to more than $300,000 he raised in a failed gubernatorial campaign.
Despite the judge's decision, Peduto reiterated his belief that Wagner's use of the $300,000 “is clearly cheating.”
Peduto planned to start airing his TV ad next week but accelerated its debut when the Wagner campaign bought airtime. Peduto estimated he would need to spend about $100,000 per week on TV buys until the May 21 primary.
Peduto said he has the advantage of a grassroots team.
“I've got support throughout, not only my base in the East End, but throughout this region of people who really do believe that I'll represent good government,” said Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze. “As of last Thursday, we've had 1,787 volunteers that have signed up directly with us.”
Others seeking the Democratic nomination are state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District, a retired Marine, and community activist AJ Richardson, 36, of Sheraden.
Josh Wander, 42, of Squirrel Hill is running unopposed on the Republican ballot.
None of the others is airing TV ads.
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.