PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s decision not to run for re-election has spurred seven fellow Democrats and one Republican to file petitions to appear on the May primary ballot.
City Councilman Bill Peduto and former council president and state Auditor General Jack Wagner are among the Democrat petitioners. They spent Tuesday’s filing deadline trading barbs and threatening legal action over whether it’s legal for Wagner to use his $300,000 auditor general’s campaign war chest to run for mayor.
The other Democrats are city Controller Michael Lamb, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, City Council President Darlene Harris and a man identified only as A.J. Richardson, who lists his occupation as a “school bus monitor.”
Josh Wander, a consultant and state constable, is the only Republican. The city hasn’t elected a mayor from that party since the Great Depression, however, and even better-known Republicans have fared poorly in mayoral races in recent decades.
Ravenstahl’s decision to leave office has created perhaps the most wide-open mayoral race since 1989 when Sophie Masloff – who, like Ravenstahl, first inherited the office when the incumbent died – defeated four Democrat challengers.
Ravenstahl, now just 33, became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city – and Pittsburgh’s youngest-ever mayor by far – because he was City Council president when Mayor Bob O’Connor died of brain cancer in 2006. Masloff, by contrast, was 70 when she held the same position at the time of Mayor Richard Caliguiri’s death in May 1988.
Ravenstahl won a special election in 2007 to finish O’Connor’s term – after Peduto aborted a short-lived campaign – and was re-elected to a full, four-year term in 2009. On March 1 he announced he would leave at the end of his term because of the “grueling demands” of the job and their impact on his family. Ravenstahl divorced his high school sweetheart in 2011, saying she was uncomfortable in the mayoral limelight.
The mayor has denied an ongoing FBI probe into city police finances hastened his departure, which was announced just days after he asked for the resignation of police chief Nate Harper. But Ravenstahl said dealing with speculation that he’ll be criminally implicated had taken its toll.
“I’ve done nothing wrong, and that will be proven over time,” Ravenstahl said.
Ravenstahl has hinted that he’ll back one of the other Democrats in the race – but made clear that won’t be either Lamb or Peduto.
Lamb has already picked up the county party’s endorsement – though he was the only Democrat to seek the nod. Peduto, meanwhile, can boast support from some regional state lawmakers, including Sen. Wayne Fontana and Rep. Eric Molchany; Peduto’s council colleagues Natalia Rudiak and Bruce Kraus; and newly elected Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.