Wagner, Peduto showcase supporters as Pittsburgh's mayoral television ad war begins

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Jack Wagner says the mayor's race is about taking the city to another level, and his campaign took the race itself to another level Wednesday as he became the first candidate to air television commercials.

City Councilman Bill Peduto, another Democratic candidate, will join the video fray today while state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, is expected to follow at some point as the days until the May 21 primary wind down.

Mr. Wagner's debut ad is a non-controversial 30-second spot that reviews his extensive background in public office and notes that as city council president in the early 1990s, he sponsored legislation to ban assault weapons, and as state auditor general he "took on the Wall Street banks." The latter point refers to a series of audits in which he warned against cities and school districts making complex and risky investments tied to the movements of interest rates.

As the air war began, the ground war continued as the Democratic candidates met for one more forum, this one sponsored by the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Project on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Wagner highlighted a group of West End supporters, including city Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, as the contenders continued their competition for high-profile endorsements. He appeared with about 20 partisans, including state Reps. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, and Dan Deasy, D-Westwood, former Pittsburgh school board member Evelyn Neiser and Rob Kaczorowski, the head of the city's public works department. The morning event took place at the Banksville headquarters of the Pittsburgh boilermakers union.

Ms. Kail-Smith praised the former auditor general as a public official with "the ability to put his ego behind him," saying that he had advised her on police-related legislation without seeking public credit for his role. She said that he would not face a learning curve in dealing with issues affecting neighborhoods south of the rivers because he had represented most of them over the years as a councilman and state senator.

Earlier this week, Mr. Wagner had been endorsed by former Mayor Sophie Masloff and city Councilman Ricky Burgess, while his rival, Mr. Peduto had accepted the endorsement of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

Mr. Peduto engaged in a bit of counter-programming a few hours later, as he discussed development in Beechview with several south-of-the-rivers officials who had endorsed him previously: state Sen. Wayne Fontana, state Rep. Erin Molchany and city Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

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Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.


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