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Peduto takes on Trump in first ad of mayoral election

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is making the first ad buy of the 2017 mayoral campaign — and if you didn’t know better, you might think he was running against President Donald Trump, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The 30-second spot begins with the first-term mayor standing in front of Heinz Field, addressing Mr. Trump directly: “Mr. President, you say you’ll make American Great again,” he says. “Well, Pittsburgh has defined greatness.”

Over a montage of sports history and images of urban vitality, Mr. Peduto ticks off a number of positive developments — including “billions in new investment [and] more police and firefighters.” He then concludes, “But Mr. President, if you keep trying to cut healthcare and afterschool programs, even a Patriots fan like you should know that won’t play in Pittsburgh.”

The accompanying image shows Mr. Trump — his hair looking a bit more toupee-like than usual — embracing the Patriots QB who has torched the Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes in recent years.

“Re-elect a good mayor” reads a banner at the end of the ad — the spot’s only explicit acknowledgment that Mr. Peduto is, in fact, running for re-election.

In a decidedly blue community like Pittsburgh, neither Mr. Brady nor Mr. Trump are likely to win popularity contests. Political consultant Matt Merriman-Preston, Mr. Peduto’s longtime political field marshall, said the spot portrays the mayor as “taking a leadership role” in standing up to White House policies hostile to cities.

“We’ve seen a proposed [federal] budget that would cut afterschool and other programs,” said Mr. Merriman-Preston. “These are things that would affect cities disproportionately, and they need to be the front line of defense.”

The ad does not mention the rivals Mr. Peduto will actually be facing on the May 16 ballot: city councilwoman Darlene Harris and the Rev. John Welch. Both professed to be unimpressed. “The last time I checked, Donald Trump isn’t running for mayor, and Bill Peduto isn’t running for President,” said Rev. Welch.

“At least the commercial shows that he knows how to find the North Side of the city,” Mrs. Harris said.

The ad echoes Mr. Peduto’s accurate campaign boast that staffing in the police and fire bureau is higher now than at any time for more than a decade. It also asserts that “we got up off the mat and grew our city for the first time in 50 years” — though Census estimates have shown the city’s population continuing a long-term slide, due largely to an aging population. Mr. Merriman-Preston said the claim referred to business investment and increased economic activity.

Mr. Peduto’s claim to have “affordable housing in every neighborhood” may raise some eyebrows. Rev. Welch in particular has charged that Mr. Peduto has done too little to stop displacement in burgeoning areas like East Liberty

Mr. Merriman-Preston said that the mayor has “taken steps to ensure that people have affordable housing in every neighborhood.” In February, Mr. Peduto signed executive orders to improve access to affordable housing through subsidies and other tools. The city has also established an affordable housing trust fund, though the fund currently lacks a revenue stream.

The new commercial was crafted by Putnam Partners, the same firm that produced a widely acclaimed 2013 election ad that featured Mr. Peduto driving a street-sweeper. This year’s ad will begin airing on TV and social media platforms Tuesday, said Mr. Merriman-Preston, who called it a “significant buy” of over $100,000.

That’s may be more than the combined total of what Rev. Welch and Mrs. Harris have to spend in the entire campaign. Rev. Welch has raised less than $30,000 for his bid: Mrs. Harris has not filed a campaign finance report this year, despite a city ordinance requiring monthly disclosures. She began the year with just under $26,000, according to county records.

Chris Potter: cpotter@post-gazette.com; Adam Smeltz: asmeltz@post-gazette.com.

A full transcript of the ad follows:

Mr. President, you say you’ll make America great again.

Well, Pittsburgh has defined greatness.

We got up off the mat and grew our city for the first time in 50 years with billions in new investment, more police and firefighters, job training for thousands of new jobs and affordable housing in every neighborhood.

But Mr. President, if you keep trying to cut healthcare and afterschool programs, even a Patriots fan like you should know that won’t play in Pittsburgh.