Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd said yesterday that he is "very seriously, very carefully and very thoughtfully" considering a mayoral bid this year, raising the prospects of a crowded field for the office held by Luke Ravenstahl.
The councilman, elected in 2007 after a term on the school board, said he's thinking of running in the Democratic primary because the city "deserves a mayor with a vision who can manage, and who can lead to that vision."
He said last year's murder count, the highest in 15 years, and "stories [that] emerge monthly, sometimes weekly, that serve as distractions," have led him toward a challenge to Mr. Ravenstahl, with whom he has alternatively collaborated and sparred.
Mr. Dowd called 2008 "a galvanizing year," noting the election of Barack Obama to the presidency and the decline of the economy. "The mayor of Pittsburgh has sat on the sidelines and been disengaged," he said.
Mr. Ravenstahl said he would happily compare his record to council's. "If I had to step back, examining what City Council's vision was, it was billboards, it was take-home cars, it was minimal issues," he said.
"My agenda has been cleaning up our finances, and we are cleaning up our finances." The city got the third in a series of credit rating upgrades Friday.
"We have been putting more police on the streets," the mayor added. He said the administration has data showing an unprecedented amount of development going on, despite a sour national economy.
"I am focused on what it is I have to do, both as an administration and as a campaign," he said.
Council President Doug Shields, 55, of Squirrel Hill, said that he is giving "very strong consideration" to a bid.
Carmen L. Robinson, 40, of the Hill District, kicked off her campaign with a fundraiser Friday. She is a lawyer and former city police sergeant, and could not be reached yesterday.
Mr. Dowd, a 40-year-old former teacher from Highland Park, would start at a disadvantage in name recognition, time in city office and campaign funding.
"I have been in elected office as long as the mayor," Mr. Dowd said of Mr. Ravenstahl, 28, of Summer Hill, who was elected to council in 2003, became its president in 2005 and was elevated from that office upon the Sept. 1, 2006, death of Mayor Bob O'Connor.
Mr. Ravenstahl then won an uncontested 2007 Democratic primary and a general election, with 63 percent of the vote, to serve out the remainder of Mr. O'Connor's term, which ends this year. Now, he will run for a four-year term.
Mr. Dowd's campaign account contained $5,477 early this year. Mr. Ravenstahl's is believed to contain around $1 million.
"If I get in, I will get in because I believe I can win," Mr. Dowd said. "There are people who are more engaged than they've ever been politically."
Rich Lord can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1542.