Hoping to stoke a perception of momentum about his mayoral campaign, city Councilman Bill Peduto appeared with dozens of officeholders and union officials Thursday outside the City-County Building, Downtown.
The rally of figures who had endorsed him earlier was emceed by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who declared that, "We need a mayor who can work with everybody" and pointed to the surrounding array of city, county and state officials as evidence that Mr. Peduto was that person.
The endorsement showcase came a day after Mr. Peduto had aired his first television commercial challenging his chief rival, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner. It offered an implicit rebuttal to the sense of progress surrounding the last-minute Wagner campaign while countering one of Mr. Wagner's most frequent arguments in the race.
The Beechview Democrat has repeatedly denounced city government as dysfunctional and suggested that Mr. Peduto was part of the reason for that. While he never mentions Mr. Peduto, who has long feuded with the Ravenstahl administration, by name, the councilman is clearly the target of Mr. Wagner's indictment of city officials who fail to communicate and work with one another.
The tableaux of supporters from various layers of government and civic life was designed to support Mr. Peduto's contention that he had forged a new coalition to move the city forward. Speaking afterwards, Mr. Peduto acknowledged the strength of the Wagner challenge.
"I think momentum shifts in any campaign," he said. "We know that -- Jack getting into the race late -- obviously there's going to be an immediate shift to him, but once people start focusing on who represents the future, who is part of the past, who has a coalition that's built around the future of the city of Pittsburgh and who is being supported by those who supported the past administration, I think when people start focusing in on this race, momentum will shift again."
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, was among the parade of Peduto supporters who reinforced the portrayal of the councilman as a political bridge-builder.
"It is all about working together," he said.
On a day when the Democratic mayoral candidates would meet later for one more debate, this one sponsored by WQED, the Wagner camp responded with an emailed list of their own high-profile supporters coupled with the contention that Mr. Peduto lacks executive experience. Contrasting Mr. Peduto's legislative career with his resume as auditor general, Mr. Wagner said in the statement, "While my opponents and I may agree on many issues ... when it comes to the executive experience we need in city hall, there is a stark difference in this race."
The statement went on to quote state Sen. Jim Ferlo's contention that, "Given Mr. Peduto's divisive track-record and non-existent management experience, his ability to actually govern should be in question."
Mr. Ferlo, D-Highland Park, who briefly considered running for mayor himself after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl declined to seek re-election, is one of the prominent Democrats who threw their support to Mr. Wagner after the tumult of the mayor's exit and Mr. Wagner's late entry in the race.
Politics Editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412-263-1562.