The mayor's race has taken a somewhat sharper turn in recent days. City Councilor Bill Peduto has suggested that Jack Wagner is the new face of the old guard, while Wagner has suggested that Peduto was part of a dysfunctional city government that enabled the errors of outgoing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Today, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale ended up in the middle of the fracas.
Earlier today, DePasquale issued the kind of back-patting press release that usually doesn't raise an eyebrow: a boast that, in the first three months of his term, he'd cleared a backlog of some 1,500 incomplete audits left behind by his predecessor ... Jack Wagner. DePasquale also boasted of economy measures like reducing the size of the car fleet auditors use to visit the municipal agencies, volunteer firefighter departments, and other agencies whose books they review.
DePasquale's release didn't mention Wagner by name, and spokesperson Susan Woods said the release wasn't meant to be a slight on his predecessor. "The auditor general has been talking about this since Day 1," she told me.
But a reporter's tweet about DePasquale's accomplishment was recirculated by Peduto fans, including his longtime lieutenant Dan Gilman. And this afternoon, Peduto's camp released a statement so het up about Wagner's record that it actually chopped off a sentence:
If you were over by the East End yesterday afternoon, you might have heard a strange yelping sound that didn't come from Frick Park's off-leash area. A new survey by upstart pollsters Keystone Analytics shows Jack Wagner beating Bill Peduto by a 38-30 margin. It's the first poll to show Peduto trailing anyone but Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the incumbent.
There are a few reasons to take this poll with a grain of salt. First, as I pointed out when Keystone showed Peduto leading, this is a new outfit that has never done political polling before. Their reliability remains unproven. Second, the same poll shows a margin of error of nearly 5 percent and 23 percent of voters undecided. With TV ads yet to be unveiled, that leaves a lot of room for all the candidates to maneuver.
You can also argue that the sample wasn't representative. Peduto's campaign has pointed out that the sample included few young voters: Only 7 percent were in the 18-to-34 age bracket -- and younger voters are much more likely to back Peduto. Of course, as we saw in 2009, in municipal primaries the city's electorate skews way, WAY old ... but even then, the percentage of 18-to-34-year-old voters was in the double digits. And in that election, there was little expectation that Luke Ravenstahl would lose against two ill-funded challengers. A more competitive race might draw more younger voters out.
And yet ... the most notable polling dynamic here may not be the fact that Wagner moved up, but that Peduto barely moved at all.
Although almost everything else about the mayor's race has changed over the past couple months, pundits have clung to one rock-solid certainty: Black voters could ultimate decide the winner. As the inimitable Chris Briem recently pointed out, black voters could make up nearly a third of the electorate on election day -- although as Briem also noted, "It just isn't true that they always vote one way or the other."
Now Sala Udin, and the fledgling Pittsburgh Black Political Convention, hope to change that, by "provid[ing] a unified voice of African Americans in Pittsburgh" when it comes to choosing the next mayor.
Udin, a former city councilor, stood before a crowd of dozens that included black leaders ranging from the NAACP's Tim Stevens to La'Tasha Mayes of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice. And their message to mayoral candidates, Udin thundered, was "You will respond to our needs and to our demands for a quality of life in Pittsburgh, or you will not be elected to high political office."
City Controller Michael Lamb, whose campaign for mayor never seemed to find its footing, dropped out of the mayoral race today -- and endorsed Jack Wagner instead.
"Our government has to be better, smarter, and more efficient, and we're going to have to build on the strengths that we already have," Lamb said during a brief address at his campaign's Greenfield headquarters. He cited a litany of problems the city faced, including wage disparities between men and women, and racial achievement gaps in city schools. And then he said he was dropping out "because I love Pittsburgh, and a race with so many candidates is blurry and difficult for people."
"[T]he fact of the matter is there is a real choice for mayor," he continued. "I don't want the conservation for our next leader to be generalities. We need a real dialogue to ensure that we get the best possible candidate for the job. I believe the best candidate is Jack Wagner. [He] is both a friend of organized labor and of Pittsburgh's business community. And as someone who grew up in the same neighborhood as me, I know that he understands that we need to focus on our communities, as growth in all of our neighborhoods helps us all."
Wagner, he added, "is thoughtful, deliberate, he doesn't pander. And he's totally independent. He makes up his own mind."
The move may come as a surprise. Lamb's somewhat wonky, government-reform progressive campaign strongly resembled that of City Councilor Bill Peduto -- so much so that some observers worried the two men would split the votes of reform-minded voters. But Lamb backed Wagner, who has quickly become Peduto's biggest rival -- and who has already garnered the backing of unions and politicians that previously supported Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
During a brief Q&A session with reporters, Lamb said that he spoke with Wagner over the weekend about dropping out -- a conversation Lamb says he initiated -- but none of the other candidates. He denied that there were any deals concerning his own political future, and reiterated that "There's a choice here -- Jack has great relationships both with labor and in business. Bill doesn't."
Not surprisingly, Peduto's camp responded somewhat tartly. "Voters have a clear choice to make," it said in a statement. "Pittsburgh needs a strong leader who has demonstrated a real commitment to ending waste, fraud and abuse -- someone who has revitalized neighborhoods and secured the city’s finances. We have built a new coalition of people who understand what Pittsburgh can be. I'm looking forward to continuing to earn the support of voters all over the city and working to reach this vision together."
The message was much frostier than the one Peduto issued after Ravenstahl dropped out: In that message, Peduto expressed sympathy for "how difficult of a decision this was," adding the campaign "would like to extend our sincere best wishes to Luke Ravenstahl and his family."
Lamb was the endorsed Democrat in the race, and his withdrawal would seem to make the party endorsement moot. That would mean that Democratic committeepeople are free to publicly back anyone they wish. But Eileen Kelly, who chairs the party's city committee and was on hand for Lamb's withdrawal, says she's reviewing the party by-laws to see if the party can hold another endorsement vote, so someone will have the nod from party elders.
"To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened before," she said.
This morning, mayoral candidate Jack Wagner racked up a set of key labor endorsements. The Fraternal Order of Police and firefighters union joined Teamsters Local 249 and Operating Engineers Local 66 to back Wagner on the steps of the City County Building.
Wagner called the support a "very important day in the campaign for Pittsburgh," and taken together, the unions represent the bulk of city union workers. (Though Bill Peduto previously garnered the paramedics union, which has often been the odd man out in the city's public-safety sector.) Also notable was the backing of state Sen. Jim Ferlo, who was briefly a candidate himself after the surprise withdrawal of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, an ally who
had put Ferlo on the Urban Redevelopment Authority board. (See editor's note below.)
Ferlo and Wagner both served on council for a time beginning in the late 1980s — not always amicably. And while on council, Ferlo was a leading advocate for increased oversight of the police — a position that often put him at odds with the FOP. But he was unfazed to find the union backing the same candidate today: "I wouldn't take the union endorsement as meaning that Jack isn't going to take on the issue" of reforming the department," Ferlo said. If anything, he added, "The fact that he has the respect [of police] means he has the ability to engage with police" on reform.
For his part, FOP President Michael LaPorte told reporters that the union backed Wagner due to his "impeccable reputation for integrity." He also praised Wagner for wanting to remove the city from Act 47 oversight — which has governed city spending on labor contracts and other expenses — and Wagner's openness on other issues. Wagner has, for example, suggested that the next police chief in the scandal-rocked bureau should be hired from within: And while LaPorte said overhauling the system "may require somebody from the outside," he added "You never want to be an organization that doesn't provide an opportunity to climb up the ladder ... We have a lot of qualified people in our department." LaPorte also said Wagner was "not opposed to" lifting a residency requirement that requires police to live in the city — something LaPorte said would make it easier to attract and retain new recruits to the department.
In fact, Ferlo claims Wagner is the only candidate in the field with the ability to reach out across various city constituencies. "There's a vacuum here in the city, and there's only 7 weeks [until the election] ... I think we need to emerge with a mayor that has some consensus" for governing. (One reason Ferlo says he dropped out was the likelihood that if he won, he'd still only have a minority of the vote.) PArt of Wagner's appeal, says Ferlo, is that Wagner has been out of city politics and thus can rise above factional disputes ... and he praised Wagner for not discounting "the positive contributions of the Ravenstahl administration."
Which raises a question: Given that Ferlo was a Ravenstahl backer — as were some of the unions who also endorsed Wagner today — is Wagner now the "Ravenstahl candidate" in a Ravenstahl-less field? Ferlo said he couldn't speak for who Ravenstahl was backing, but added that as the state's auditor general, Wagner had earned respect across the aisle for being "an equal-opportunity critic" of government lapses. He said he didn't expect that to change.
"I think [Wagner] is going to be his own man," Ferlo said.
Editor's note: Originally, this story indicated that Ravenstahl put Ferlo on the URA board: In fact, Ferlo was originally installed on the board during the brief term of Ravenstahl's predecessor, Bob O'Connor. Ravenstahl has twice reappointed Ferlo to the URA since then. Also, originally I wrote that the unions that endorsed Wagner today represented the bulk of city workers; in fact, I should have qualified that to say they represented the bulk of UNIONIZED workers. Apologies for those mistakes.
Bicycle, pedestrian and safe streets advocates are calling on mayoral candidates to support programs and infrastructure to make the streets and neighborhoods safer and more accessible.
The petition, according to Bike Pittsburgh's website, is to "tell the candidates you want to put an end to dangerous driving, that you want to make it safe for young Pittsburghers to bike or walk to school, and that you want our city to compete with all the other world-class cities investing in better bikeways and pedestrian facilities."
Interested in signing it? You can find the petition and more information here.
The air times are as follows:
— 3/25 7:00 p.m.
— 3/27 7:30 p.m.
— 3/28 6:00 a.m.
— 3/28 2:00 p.m.
— 4/1/ 7:00 p.m.
— 4/3 7:00 p.m.
— 4/4 6:30 a.m.
— 4/5i 4:00 p.m.
Viewers can also search for broadcast times on PCTV21's website and the broadcast will run until the Primary election. It will also be available on the station's on-demand player below:
Viewers can tune in online, or channel 21 for Comcast subscribers and channel 47 for Verizon subscribers. John Patterson, executive director of the station, says he anticipates recording and broadcasting future mayoral debates as well.
As former state Auditor General Jack Wagner enters the race for mayor, he is sitting on a sizable stash of campaign contributions. But if his fundraising in 2012 is any guide, very little of the money he'll use to launch his campaign in Pittsburgh actually came from here. Or from anywhere closer than Harrisburg.
City Paper looked at some $209,475 in campaign contributions reaped last year by Friends of Jack Wagner, the campaign committee that financed Wagner's previous runs for statewide office. Of that money, only 6 percent — $12,500 — came from a Pittsburgh-area ZIP code (one that began "15_ _ _"). By comparison, nearly $127,000 came from the Philly region (ZIP codes beginning "19 _ _ _").
What's more, Wagner's Pittsburgh-area money came almost entirely from three Downtown law-firms: Eckert Seamans, Reed Smith, and Buchanan Ingersoll. In all of 2012, he got a single contribution from an individual living in the Pittsburgh area — and that individual was a lawyer from Eckert Seamans.
Wagner's 2012 fundraising performance is a marked contrast to last year's fundraising totals for City Controller Michael Lamb, City Councilor Bill Peduto, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (who has since dropped out). As we previously reported, the vast majority of their money came from ZIP codes in and around the city.
As we noted yesterday, the field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor has grown to seven, which includes state Sen. Jim Ferlo.
But while he's filed his petitions, Ferlo says he's taking the time between the March 27 deadline to withdraw to fully consider a campaign.
"I don't know yet and I'm being very sincere," he tells City Paper. "My heart is in community activism and generating enthusiasm at the grass-roots level. To get involved not only in politics, but take back communities."
He touted his ability to drive economic development and capacity, in part by serving on the board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Ferlo says he filed nominating petitions to "safeguard the process by at least doing this as a transition to give some consideration to the issue."
Ferlo says he wanted to see how the field fleshed out, while considering the two years he has left on his Senate seat. He's "torn" about leaving Harrisburg, he says, where he's been an outspoken critic of liquor store privatization, Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling and the "corporate administration of Medicaid expansion."
"My intention to file was because ... of the surprising departure of the mayor...which left a lot of people scrambling," he says. Ferlo says he believes Ravenstahl could have won re-election until questions of alleged misappropriation of funds engulfed the police bureau. Such questions, he says, left "everybody still looking to say 'what is the essence of the issue? Clearly there is appearance of impropriety that left everyone conjecturing"
Ferlo says he also is "weighing the mechanics" of a campaign, including fundraising.
"All of my campaigns have been grass roots fundraising and organizing. I never bought a TV or radio ad in my life," he says. "The point is I've had to re-evaluate what I'm trying to do right now, plus I wanted to see who was going to file and what the dynamics of the race would be."
We no longer have to wonder who’s definitely running for Pittsburgh mayor. Seven candidates filed to be the Democratic nominee for mayor along with one Republican, Josh Wander.
Speculation has run rampant since Mayor Luke Ravenstahl dropped out of the mayor’s race last month. Both Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill Peduto and Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb filed their petitions as expected — Peduto with nearly 2,700 signatures and Lamb with more than 1,300 petitions.
Also running for mayor are current state Sen. Jim Ferlo, also a former councilman, City Council President Darlene Harris, State Rep. Jake Wheatley, and former state Auditor General Jack Wagner. A final Democrat, A.J. Richardson, a bus monitor from Sheraden also filed petitions.
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