For years, current foes Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner had at least one thing in common: Both were critics of the Ravenstahl administration.
Mr. Peduto has taken on the mayor on issue after issue on council, and in 2007, threatened to run against him before abandoning that bid. Mr. Wagner, from the Harrisburg office he just left, was less focused on the specific details of city government, but repeatedly criticized the administration's general direction as he said over and over that he was considering a bid for the office he first sought in 1993. Before Mayor Luke Ravenstahl upended expectations by deciding not to seek re-election, Mr. Wagner eyed the possibility of a fall campaign as an independent on the assumption that Mr. Ravenstahl was likely to prevail in the May primary.
But since the incumbent's decision to relinquish his office at the end of the year, many of his supporters have migrated to one of his antagonists, Mr. Wagner. No high-profile Ravenstahl backer has emerged in the Peduto camp.
In recent days, two of the mayor's more reliable council allies, Ricky Burgess and Theresa Kail-Smith, endorsed the former auditor general. Unions, including the IBEW and the firefighters, that had been in the Ravenstahl camp, have lined up behind Mr. Wagner. Senior administration officials, including Rob Kaczorowski, the public works director, Kevin Quigley, the department's assistant director, and Paul McKrell, the mayor's government affairs manager and former campaign manager, are also among those supporting Mr. Wagner.
Mr. Ravenstahl has not endorsed any of the contenders. His private choice for a successor was former county Executive Dan Onorato, who once lost to Mr. Wagner in a race for state Senate. Mr. Onorato disavowed any interest in the race.
There has been no similar discernible tide of Ravenstahl allies toward the Peduto camp or to those of the other Democratic contenders, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, or A.J. Richardson. The explanation of this trend from the two leading campaigns reflects the competing interpretations each would like to impose on the overall race.
Mr. Wagner's says he's happy to attract new supporters across the board and that ability reflects his capacity to build bridges to a variety of constituencies. Mr. Peduto is the implicit target of his repeated assertion that the current city government is marked by people who burn bridges and fail to communicate.
To Mr. Peduto, the movement of Ravenstahl allies to Mr. Wagner shows that, whatever their differences, both the mayor and the former auditor general are part of the "old Pittsburgh," that he characterizes as a drag on the city's future.
There's also a human, visceral dimension to this difference. Mr. Wagner may have been long-distance critic of the mayor, but he was not part of the often bitter trench warfare that characterized relations between the mayor and Mr. Peduto throughout the administration. Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Peduto are not just policy opponents. They genuinely dislike one another, an antipathy that filters down to many of their supporters.
After one news conference this week to show off some of his new supporters, Mr. Wagner disputed the suggestion that he was a particular beneficiary of the mayor's former allies.
"Some of the people here supported me when I ran for mayor in 1993; that's how positive those relationships were," he said. "I'm not sure where they were and who they were supporting prior to my candidacy."
Arguing that he had shown the ability to draw support from different points on the political compass, he noted that perhaps his most prominent endorsement, that of city Controller Michael Lamb, came from another frequent critic of Mr. Ravenstahl.
Asked if had any recent discussion with the mayor, he said, "I've seen him once, and I said hello to him. That's it."
"I want everyone's support," he continued. "I think we have a solid message about the future of Pittsburgh and fixing city government."
Mr. Peduto had spent years planning to run against the mayor. And he's doing his best to retarget his rhetoric to the newer opponent.
"There there is a cabal that was running the city under Ravenstahl that has adopted Jack," he argued. "It's the same team with a different quarterback ... the old regime is with Jack ... You will never see the change by just electing Jack Wagner because what comes with him is the entire Ravenstahl machine."
Mr. McKrell, who quarterbacked Mr. Ravenstahl's 2009 campaign, said had supported Mr. Peduto in his 2005 bid for mayor and again in his short-lived 2007 campaign but would vote for Mr. Wagner this time around. The councilman finished second to the late Bob O'Connor in the first race; he dropped out of the 2007 contest.
"Even though Luke and Jack don't have a relationship, Jack has cultivated relationships with people who supported Luke, just like he's done with Michael Lamb's supporters," he said. "Bill, on the other hand, seems to go out of his way to burn bridges with Luke and Michael's supporters."
Noting his past support for Mr. Peduto, he said, "The day I signed on to manage Luke's campaign in 2009 -- even though Bill wasn't running for mayor that year -- was the day that Bill began to cross the street rather than talk to me."
As she endorsed Mr. Wagner, city Council President Darlene Harris, also characterized Mr. Peduto as a figure who bears grudges against political foes.
Mr. Peduto insisted his record rebuts such charges. He noted that figures associated with Walnut Capital, the developers of the Bakery Square project in his district, had been longtime supporters of Mr. Ravenstahl but that he had nonetheless been unstinting in his support for it. Approaching that and other developments, he said, his only interest was in whether it was positive for his constituents.
"It didn't matter whose fundraisers you'd attended," he said.
Mr. Peduto acknowledged differences with figures he called "the Downtown business community," but declined to name.
"If you ask the people in the business community that I've represented for 20 years ... there's nobody who is a developer or a business owner or any type of a firm who would say anything but positive. There are, however, some in the Downtown business community who look on government a little bit differently."
Politics Editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.