With a convincing win for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Pittsburgh Tuesday, Bill Peduto was on the threshold of capturing the office he's sought in three campaigns and one that he pledged to use to replace the city's "machine" with a new, more progressive coalition.
Squirrel Hill's Josh Wander was unopposed for the Republican nomination for mayor, but the city's political demographics represent a daunting hurdle to him or any other Republican candidate. Barring the emergence of a strong independent challenger, the result made Mr. Peduto the overwhelming favorite to succeed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and take over the grand corner office on the fifth floor of the City-County Building.
Mr. Peduto has a commanding lead over former Auditor General Jack Wagner; two other competitors, state Rep. Jake Wheatley and Sheraden activist A.J. Richardson, trailed far behind.
Mr. Wheatley ended his long-shot campaign around 9:30 p.m. after it became clear that his numbers would continue to hover in the single digits.
Mr. Wheatley of the Hill District acknowledged he entered the campaign late and didn't have the financial resources to compete with Mr. Wagner or Mr. Peduto.
"We knew from the beginning it was an uphill climb for us," he said just before he conceded the election. "We were under-resourced. We got in the race late. We talked about a vision and a plan that all Pittsburghers can bite into," adding "had we raised a million dollars like the other candidates in this race, then it wouldn't even be close."
Mr. Wheatley said he will support whichever Democratic candidate appears on the ballot in the general election and will continue to raise issues facing marginalized communities.
Mr. Peduto's protege Dan Gilman looks to win the primary for the District 8 city council seat Mr. Peduto is leaving, while incumbents Daniel Lavelle and Natalia Rudiak seem likely to retain their seats.
Voters in the 42nd District of the state House of Representatives held a special election to choose a successor to Matt Smith, who was elected last year to the state Senate. Democrat Dan Miller appeared to be heading to an easy victory over Republican Dan Remely, while Libertarian George Brown was a distant third.
Locally and statewide, voters will also choose nominees for mayor, judge and school board in today's primary, where the turnout was light.
Voters notified Allegheny County election officials of several issues since polls opened this morning.
One involved hoagies.
Common Pleas Judge Donald Walko issued an order this afternoon reflecting a law that says candidates and others can't supply food to voters.
Why? Elections court received four or five calls reporting that people were giving hoagies to voters at a double polling place at the Pressley Street High Rise on the North Side.
Election officials didn't know who was handing out the sandwiches but seemed to find the humor in the event.
"In all seriousness, you can't do that at a polling place," Judge Walko said.
Other problems came before that one.
In Wilkinsburg, a polling place opened more than an hour late, and voters, including some on Twitter, complained about problems with ballot machines.
Mark Wolosik, the county's elections division manager, said the judge of election at the Kelly Elementary School polling place had to take a family member to the emergency room and dropped off the election suitcase for board members.
"They had all attended a training class, but they were a new board, and they had a rough start," he said, noting they opened shortly after 8 a.m.
A candidate for Wilkinsburg mayor, Todd Elliott Koger, filed an emergency petition about noon after learning his name was not on the ballot.
Judge Walko denied the petition without prejudice, saying the decision should rest with Common Pleas Judge Joseph James, who struck Mr. Koger from the ballot April 5 based on his statement of financial interest.
Mr. Koger said he wasn't made aware of Judge James' decision and learned only this morning that he wasn't on the ballot.
The votes in today's primary election could be held until the issue is resolved, if Mr. Koger's petition is approved, Judge Walko said.
In March, Wilkinsburg councilman Michael Lefebvre filed an objection to Mr. Koger's nominating petition, saying he was in violation of his statement of financial interest because he didn't list all creditors and real estate interests -- and didn't account for two tenants living at his address.
Mr. Koger said only his wife and daughter, who have different last names, live with him.
Candidates running for public office are required to file a statement of financial interest as part of their nominating petition.
Two special elections in the South Hills -- the 42nd House District and a Bethel Park home rule charter amendment -- affect roughly 50 polling places in the South Hills, Mr. Wolosik said. Neither is a primary, meaning people registered independent can vote in those elections.
In Mt. Lebanon, poll workers said an independent voter was turned away this morning, told the races were primaries for voters affiliated with political parties.
Another person almost had a similar result, but the poll workers allowed him to vote after someone alerted them to a yellow notice about the special election.
Poll workers in Mt. Lebanon said they planned to contact the woman they had turned away earlier.
At Mr. Peduto's polling place in Point Breeze, John Nagle, 73, said he was disappointed in what seemed like low turnout. Mr. Nagle wore a Peduto shirt but turned it inside out to go inside to go see the turnout numbers so far.
"I think everyone should vote," he said. "It's pleasant because it's a nice day. Everyone knows what they want to do because election was well advertised."
Earlier in Squirrel Hill at the Jewish Community Center, elections judge Ann Truxell said there was a line waiting when polls opened at 7 a.m.
"There has been a steady stream and it is slower than presidential year but higher than nonmayoral year," she said.
"I've been all over town," Mr. Wander said in Squirrel Hill. "There's not much happening anywhere."
Asked about the atmosphere at the polls, he said, "Very sad."
Asked why, he said, "Because of the apathy. I think that Pittsburgh needs to wake up. It's unfortunate that they're predicting 18 percent turn out. Only 18 percent of the population is going to choose the next leader of this great city, and that's unfortunate."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: email@example.com. Molly Born, Claire Aronson and Jacob Axelrad contributed. First Published May 21, 2013 11:15 AM