Michael Lamb enters Pittsburgh mayoral race

City controller joins Peduto on the list of Ravenstahl challengers


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Decrying missed opportunities and failed leadership, city Controller Michael Lamb embarked Wednesday on a quest to oust Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"It's time to expect more than the status quo," Mr. Lamb said before dozens of supporters gathered in Brookline's Cannon Coffee. "I'll be a mayor who expects more."

Mr. Lamb is the second city official to announce a challenge for the Democratic nomination for the post. Earlier this month, city Councilman Bill Peduto kicked off his campaign with a combination rally and fundraiser that drew roughly 1,000 supporters.

"I'm ready to change this city and I'm ready for the fight, but I can't do it alone," the Mount Washington resident said as he urged voters to demand a higher standard of service from city government.

Mr. Lamb, 50, pointed to his five-year record as controller and his leadership role in the movement to overhaul Allegheny County government as evidence of the energy he would bring to the mayor's office.

He contrasted that record with those of "an absentee mayor and a councilman who talks a lot but hasn't accomplished much."

In challenging Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Lamb is taking on the power of incumbency as well as the city's political history. No sitting mayor has lost a bid for re-election in his lifetime. He is betting that he'll break that precedent even as he faces the prospect of having to battle for anti-Ravenstahl votes with Mr. Peduto.

Jack Wagner -- who just left office as state auditor general -- has said for years that he, too, is interested in the mayor's office, but it is unclear whether, or when, he might enter the competition. Mr. Wagner said that he will consider the race for the Democratic nomination but has also not ruled out the possibility of mounting an independent candidacy in the general election. So far, no Republicans have expressed an interest in an office last held by the GOP during the Great Depression.

Mr. Lamb's rivals offered low-key welcomes to his candidacy.

"We welcome the controller to the race and look forward to a vigorous campaign and exchange of ideas," said a statement from the mayor's office.

"Bill has nothing but respect for Controller Lamb," said Mr. Peduto's aide, Eric Hagarty. "Bill's focus right now will continue to be on building a coalition of political, community and labor leaders necessary to defeat Mayor Ravenstahl."

On the eve of Mr. Lamb's announcement, Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign announced that the incumbent had $781,510 on hand for his re-election bid. Mr. Peduto said last week that he had raised $330,000 for his challenge. A financial disclosure statement filed with the city reported that Mr. Lamb had $236,795 in his campaign account. Fuller details of the candidates' fundraising activity through 2012 are due to be filed Jan 31.

During a 10-minute speech, Mr. Lamb cited his Pittsburgh roots and lauded the inspiration of his parents. His father, Thomas Lamb, is a former state senator. Mr. Lamb, went to grade school and high school not far from where he stood Wednesday morning, at St. Catherine School, then at South Hills Catholic and Seton-LaSalle High School.

He graduated from Penn State University, earned a law degree at Duquesne University and a master's in public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He was a deputy to the late Allegheny County prothonotary, Michael Coyne, and took over the office on Mr. Coyne's death.

He was the campaign manager for the successful effort to bring a home rule charter to the county that replaced its former board of commissioners with the current structure of county executive and county council. He subsequently supported the row office consolidation movement that abolished his office along with the county's other formerly elected court record offices.

This is Mr. Lamb's second run for mayor. In 2005, he finished third in the Democratic primary behind Mr. Peduto and the easy winner, former Mayor Bob O'Connor. Mr. O'Connor's death the following year elevated Mr. Ravenstahl, then the city council president, to the office he still holds.

neigh_city

James O'Toole: 412-263-1562.


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