Peduto closes gap on Wagner in Pittsburgh mayor's race, poll shows

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With results that may cheer the partisans of city Councilman Bill Peduto, a new survey finds a virtual dead heat in the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

In the poll, by Keystone Analytics, a Harrisburg consulting and marketing firm, Mr. Peduto actually had a narrow lead over former Auditor General Jack Wagner, but that was within the survey's margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. The results were: Mr. Peduto, 38 percent; Mr. Wagner, 36 percent; state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, District, 5 percent, and 22 percent undecided or refused to answer. A.J. Richardson, a community activist from Sheraden, did not receive any support in the survey of likely Democratic voters.

The telephone survey of 401 voters was conducted on April 22 and 23. That was just before the campaign took a negative turn with Mr. Peduto's first ad criticizing Mr. Wagner's record in Harrisburg. Over the weekend, Mr. Wagner shot back with a commercial assailing Mr. Peduto's tenure on city council. Both ads take liberties with the facts. The Peduto ad misstates Mr. Wagner's record on budget issues, while the Wagner rebuttal misleadingly challenges a Peduto attack on Mr. Wagner's votes on pay and pension increases. The campaign's sharper tone was amplified Monday with a new ad from an independent group targeting Mr. Peduto's stands on a variety of issues affecting African-American neighborhoods.

According to an earlier Keystone Analytics poll in early April, Mr. Wagner had started the month leading Mr. Peduto 38 percent to 30 percent. The new numbers showed little change in Mr. Wagner's support -- the difference between 36 and 38 percent is well within the margin of error -- but Mr Peduto did have a modest upswing.

While one in five Democratic voters was still undecided in the new survey, the two leading Democrats were familiar to almost all of the Democratic voters and their favorability rating were nearly identical. Mr. Peduto's favorable/unfavorable ratio was 65 percent to 17 percent; Mr. Wagner's 64 percent to 17 percent. How the barrage of newer, negative ads will affect those numbers will be one of the central questions of the final weeks of the campaign.

Intent on driving down Mr. Peduto's numbers, an outside group that appeared to have ties to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl began running negative TV advertisements on Monday. The group called the "Committee for a Better Pittsburgh" received a loan from the mayor's political committee in 2011 and shares a campaign treasurer with his brother, state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, D-Summer Hill.

The spot criticizes what it said were votes against development projects in largely black neighborhoods and against increasing pay for low-income workers. The Peduto campaign called the criticisms bogus and tried to tie the ad to Mr. Wagner, but his campaign said it had nothing to do with them. (Indeed, outside groups are barred from coordinating communications with campaigns.)

Outside groups have commonly advertised in presidential and congressional campaigns in the Pittsburgh market but never before in a mayor's race.

Mr. Wheatley responded to the poll at an event in Harrisburg Tuesday morning: "Polling is simply name recognition in a current time and space in an election cycle. Who has the most support on May 21 will determine who will be the next mayor of the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "We didn't base our decision on getting into this race on a poll and we're not going to base any of our decisions on a poll."

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Politics Editor James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562. Timothy McNulty: or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.


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