Coyne endorses Wagner in mayoral contest

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Calling Jack Wagner a "battle-tested" and "experienced candidate," former U.S. Rep. William Coyne threw his support to the former state auditor general Friday as the leading Democrats for mayor continued their competition for endorsements less than a month before the May 21 primary.

Later, another Wagner endorser, the Pittsburgh police union, issued a statement denouncing Mr. Wagner's opponent, city Councilman Bill Peduto, for using police images in an ad critical of their candidate.

Before his congressional career, Mr. Coyne was a member of city council, like the man he stood with on Friday. Their terms did not overlap, with Mr. Wagner joining council two years after Mr. Coyne had moved on to Washington.

"He's worked very hard; he brings executive experience to the quest for the mayor's office," the veteran Democrat said of Mr. Wagner. "I can't think of anyone more qualified."

Joining Mr. Coyne at the City-County Building news conference Downtown were several union officials who added to Mr. Wagner's roster of labor endorsements. Supporting his candidacy were representatives of Operating Engineers Local 35; United Mineworkers; Asbestos Workers Local 2; and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 29, the union, Mr. Wagner noted, where he was a member in his first job as a Duquesne Light meter reader.

Mr. Wagner's opponent, Mr. Peduto, had been campaign manager for former city Councilman Dan Cohen's unsuccessful 1996 challenge to Mr. Coyne. Mr. Coyne said that had nothing to do with his decision to endorse Mr. Wagner. Mr. Coyne originally had been a supporter of city Controller Michael Lamb before Mr. Lamb withdrew from the competition for the Democratic nomination.

On Friday, the Wagner partisans stood on the same spot where Mr. Peduto had made a show of his labor and political clout the day before. The Peduto gathering had spotlighted an array of new and old supporters, demonstrating, he said, the new coalition that he would bring to city government. Most of the dozens of Peduto supporters who appeared with him Thursday were already on record in support of his candidacy. Newer to his list of backers were state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills; state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill; and Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District.

As the campaign maneuvering continued Friday, the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, issued a news release criticizing Mr. Peduto over a commercial in which he was shown walking with actors in police uniforms while a narrator stated that he had cut his own salary to save police jobs. Justifying that point, Mr. Peduto said that in 2003, during the administration of former Mayor Tom Murphy, he sponsored legislation to impose cuts in other parts of the city budget to allow the recall of 100 police officers who had been laid off. After the measure failed, he said he voluntarily cut his own salary.

The statement from FOP president Mike LaPorte called Mr. Peduto's use of the police images in his ad "unethical and insulting."

Sonya Toler, a spokeswoman for Mr. Peduto, rejected that characterization. She said it would have been improper to use actual police officers but that the use of the actors was simply a logical way to back up the ad's narration.

"If we had implied we had the support of the police, that would be a different situation," she said.

The campaign of state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, another candidate for the Democratic nomination, announced that he would appear Monday with one high-profile supporter, state Rep. Dwight Evans. The Philadelphia Democrat was the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination is community activist A.J. Richardson.

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


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