Ravenstahl Re-Election Run in Doubt

Article excerpt

An elusive Mayor Luke Ravenstahl kept Pittsburgh in suspense on Thursday, refusing to answer questions about his political future from frenzied politicians, reporters and people glued to social media.

"It's extremely likely" Ravenstahl will not seek re-election, said state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn of Millvale, who said he talked with people close to the mayor. He declined to guess why Ravenstahl might quit the three-way race.

Attorney Bill Goodrich of the North Side would not say whether he spoke with his friend but insisted: "The mayor is running for mayor. I would know if there was anything to the contrary."

"The whole day was like watching everyone chase a ghost," said Ray Bruder of Perry North. "No one really knows what is going on with the mayor."

Ravenstahl, 33, and his staff did nothing to squelch talk. His absence from several recent events, word from his campaign that his mother is sick, and the office's silence fueled speculation amid a federal investigation of police spending seven weeks before the May 21 primary.

"Democrats in the city of Pittsburgh will make a choice between the two current candidates, and we'll go from there," Burn said, referring to Councilman Bill Peduto, 48, and Controller Michael Lamb, 50.

Top staffers left Ravenstahl's office in silence, including Public Safety Director Michael Huss, Chief of Staff Yarone Zober and solicitor Dan Regan.

"I cannot tell you anything. I don't have any information," said Operations Director Duane Ashley.

An exit from the race would mark a stunning turnabout for Ravenstahl, who has spent virtually his entire 10 years in the professional workforce as a politician buoyed by a family with two generations of political involvement.

Ravenstahl's mother, Cynthia, 57, had heart surgery in 2002. His father, Robert Ravenstahl Jr., is a district magistrate, and his grandfather, Robert Sr., was a state House member and Democratic ward leader.

In Harrisburg, chief of staff Brian O'Malley for state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, the mayor's brother, said simply: "We don't have any comment."

Luke Ravenstahl became mayor by accident. City Council elected him as its president in December 2005 in a 5-2 compromise vote. Members said privately that he had the least political baggage. He became the city's youngest mayor on Sept. 1, 2006, when Mayor Bob O'Connor died of brain cancer.

The FBI investigation raises questions about Ravenstahl's spending while traveling with police bodyguards who had debit cards linked to secret credit union accounts. Last week, Ravenstahl emerged from a two-hour interview with FBI agents and forced police Chief Nate Harper to resign.

Prosecutors have charged nobody. Ravenstahl said investigators told him that he's not a target and that his bodyguards used the cards for legitimate expenses.

Questions intensified after a North Side candidates' forum on Wednesday in which Kevin Quigley, a Public Works assistant director and friend of the mayor, acknowledged the investigation but said Ravenstahl is dealing with personal issues and planning to hold a news conference. …