The third time was a charm for Bill Peduto on Tuesday -- that and overwhelming dissatisfaction with the outgoing Ravenstahl administration that energized the veteran city councilman even before the incumbent dropped out and rivals Jack Wagner and Jake Wheatley joined the race for the Democratic nomination to be mayor of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze first ran for mayor in 2005, when he was bested by the late Bob O'Connor, whose death put Luke Ravenstahl in the mayor's office. Two years later, when the young mayor sought to win a special election to finish O'Connor's term, Mr. Peduto pulled out of the primary, sensing futility.
This time, he played the long game, building on a grassroots level, pounding the status quo for ethical lapses and missed opportunities, and capitalizing on his alliance with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Early support from Mr. Fitzgerald helped Mr. Peduto win more votes than the other three candidates combined -- A.J. Richardson of Sheraden; Mr. Wheatley, a former city councilman now in the state House; and Mr. Wagner, the former councilman, state senator and Pennsylvania auditor general.
Backing from Mr. Ravenstahl's supporters provided resources and advertising for Mr. Wagner, but it wasn't enough to help him catch Mr. Peduto in what essentially became a two-man race. In fact, given the turmoil that punctuated Mr. Ravenstahl's administration, it may have done as much harm as good.
One low hurdle stands between Mr. Peduto and the mayor's office -- the general election. Unless someone launches a run as an independent, Mr. Peduto should have little trouble with the Republican Party nominee, Josh Wander of Squirrel Hill.
In selecting Mr. Peduto, the Pittsburgh Democrats who voted -- turnout was abysmal -- said they are ready for a big change. He is a hard-working student of best government practices and an advocate for tighter ethical standards and campaign finance limits. His approach, which has alienated some council colleagues and regional power brokers, promises more control over the renegade Pittsburgh Parking Authority, neighborhood by neighborhood conversations to determine needs and solicit ideas, and greater cooperation with the county.
Here Mr. Peduto will have to walk a careful path, working with the powerful Mr. Fitzgerald without diminishing his own authority.
The mayor-apparent should have allies on city council. His longtime chief of staff, Dan Gilman, won the Democratic nomination to succeed Mr. Peduto for council's District 8 seat, and another ally, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, was nominated in District 4. Both will face Republican opposition in the fall.
Tuesday's election may well be the final political curtain for Mr. Wagner, although he has not ruled out anything. He lost the race for mayor once before -- 20 years ago -- and went on to a career in state government that culminated in an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor three years ago.
Today, the focus is on Bill Peduto's fresh promise for a much-needed new era in the office of the mayor of Pittsburgh.