Promising to "break the shackles of the old rusty political machine forever," city Councilman Bill Peduto embarked on his third campaign for mayor Thursday night.
Following an introduction and endorsement by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Mr. Peduto opened his challenge to incumbent Mayor Luke Ravenstahl with a recitation of his record in council and, borrowing a campaign theme from former President Bill Clinton, a promise to use the mayor's office to "build a bridge to the 21st century."
Mr. Peduto, 48, made his formal entry into the race with a brief thematic speech before a crowd that organizers said was more than 1,000 in the Crucible Building in the Strip District. He said his campaign would make the case that same kind of development progress that his East End district has seen can be duplicated in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Mr. Fitzgerald offered more pointed remarks. Without mentioning the mayor by name, he stirred echoes of his earlier criticism of Mr. Ravenstahl's work habits as he praised Mr. Peduto's work and "seriousness."
"Governance is hard work," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "It's not about going to movie premieres; it's not about going to Steelers games ... [it's] not about going golfing."
From Mr. Peduto's standpoint, Mr. Fitzgerald made a still more valuable contribution to the campaign a few hours earlier has he co-hosted a fundraising event at the Rivers Club. He said the day's haul was $250,000.
"That's a real number," he said.
Both officeholders said that Mr. Fitzgerald's endorsement would be followed by those of other prominent political and labor leaders in the weeks to come.
Mr. Ravenstahl has yet to make a formal announcement, but he has made no secret of his plans to seek another term.
City Controller Michael Lamb also plans to enter the race. More uncertainty surrounds the plans of state Auditor General Jack Wagner, a former Pittsburgh council member and mayoral candidate. He has said repeatedly that he is considering a bid but has yet to take any visible steps toward launching a campaign.
Mr. Peduto and Mr. Lamb both first sought the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2005, finishing well behind former Mayor Bob O'Connor. Mr. Peduto embarked on another campaign in 2007 but withdrew in the face of Mr. Ravenstahl's strong popularity in the months after he assumed the mayor's office after Mr. O'Connor's death.
Mr. Peduto has represented his East End district since 2002. He succeeded Dan Cohen, for whom he had worked as chief of staff. He has also worked as a political consultant and was the Western Pennsylvania political director for former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel.
Mr. Peduto and Mr. Ravenstahl have clashed repeatedly in their years in city government on issues ranging from pension financing to whether the city should continue to be under state budgetary supervision.
Mr. Peduto was an early advocate of state supervision of the city's finances under the Act 47 legislation for distressed municipalities. Mr. Ravenstahl maintains that the city's fiscal picture is now strong enough to shed the distressed status. Mr. Peduto contends that the fiscal condition is still fragile enough to warrant continued state supervision.
On the eve of the Peduto announcement, Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Lamb announced key members of their campaign teams.
Mr. Ravenstahl announced that Aletheia Henry, who supervised the Obama for America's Pennsylvania operation, will be his campaign manager.
Another Obama campaign veteran, Anne Batchelder, will be Mr. Lamb's campaign manager. Ms. Batchelder was the Obama campaign's deputy field director for Western Pennsylvania. Mr. Lamb also announced that Sadie Sterner-Restivo will be his finance director. Mrs. Sterner-Restivo comes to the campaign after a stint as campaign manager for newly elected state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Like the incumbent, Mr. Lamb said he will be making a formal announcement of his candidacy in the coming weeks.
Politics editor James O'Toole: email@example.com or 412 263-1562. First Published December 14, 2012 5:00 AM