Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The More the Merrier for Peduto's Chances

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The More the Merrier for Peduto's Chances

Article excerpt

As this is the most wide-open mayor's race in a quarter century, it's incumbent upon all columnists to write the traditional horse- race column, ignoring all issues.

Were the election held today, Councilman Bill Peduto would win.

Yeah, I know the race isn't over until the last bingo dauber is distributed at a senior citizens center. I also know that lame duck Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's brunchtime bombshell Wednesday about challenging the tax-exempt status of mighty UPMC makes a mere mayor's race seem briefly insignificant.

But it wasn't lost on any candidate that it will be the next mayor who will likely be in court looking for millions of dollars in taxes from UPMC. Mr. Peduto immediately called his own news conference in the wake of the mayor's. Mr. Peduto called the mayor's announcement a good first step, but now he wants to see all large regional nonprofits held accountable. (He's looking at you, Highmark.)

I've already broken my promise on the issue-free column but here's why Mr. Peduto, an East End councilman for the past dozen years, has the upper hand: Every candidate who has entered the race - - or left it -- this past month only increased Mr. Peduto's likelihood of winning.

First, the mayor fled. That was huge. Even when they're carrying more baggage than Amtrak, incumbent mayors are tough to beat.

The thinking is that the city doesn't have enough "progressive voters" -- that's what politicos call pretty much any white Democrat with a college degree -- to elect someone like Mr. Peduto in a two- or three-person race. But there should be enough support when the electorate is split five or six ways.

"The more the race gets divvied up, the more Bill's organization is able to assert itself," a Democratic political consultant who didn't want to go on record told me.

Mr. Ravenstahl's only challengers had been Mr. Peduto and city Controller Michael Lamb, the same two who finished far behind Bob O'Connor in the 2005 mayoral primary.

Mr. Peduto's strength was in the East End then and now. His supporters are solidly with him, but it's not a large enough coterie to form a majority. His best hope is a crowded field like the one in 1989, when five top-tier candidates ran and incumbent Sophie Masloff won the primary with just 28 percent of the vote. …

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