Bill Peduto didn't ride his street sweeper to his primary victory party Tuesday night. It seemed, rather, that the Democratic nominee for mayor swept in on the winds of change.
Mr. Peduto, who two days ago rode a street sweeper through Market Square to underscore his promise to clean up city hall, received a raucous ovation from a crowd of hundreds at Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers headquarters on the South Side.
He had led the returns all night.
"Tonight, we are a step closer to the new Pittsburgh, one step closer to realizing our potential, one step closer to making it the city we know it can be," he said on a stage jammed with key supporters from organized labor, community groups and various levels of government.
Mr. Peduto, who is making his third bid for mayor, savored the moment but kept his remarks brief because of the climbing temperature in the packed room.
"I just want to stand here for like half an hour," he said to his mother, Eva Peduto of Scott.
Many in the crowd were longtime apostles for change who supported Mr. Peduto's call to transform a city hall battered by allegations of police corruption and the gaffes of young Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
"Tonight, it's not just about Bill Peduto," campaign aide Kevin Acklin, a former candidate for mayor, told the crowd. "It's about us."
Mr. Peduto made no references to Mr. Ravenstahl or the parade of controversies attending his administration. Instead, Mr. Peduto focused squarely on the future.
"We see the potential that Pittsburgh has, and we have the energy and the innovation to make it happen," he said.
Mr. Peduto will face Republican Josh Wander in the fall, but the Democrats have an overwhelming registration edge.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, an early supporter, introduced Mr. Peduto. He said Mr. Peduto wasn't just an East End candidate, as some of his critics charged, but one who appealed across geographic and demographic lines for the good for Pittsburgh.
"Bill Peduto had a message that resonated on the North Side, in the Hill District, on the South Side and certainly in the South Hills," Mr. Fitzgerald said in a swipe at mayoral candidate Jack Wagner, a Beechview resident.
Mr. Peduto, who decided not to seek re-election to the East End council seat he has held since 2002, wagered all of his political capital on the mayor's race. Mr. Peduto has been Mr. Ravenstahl's nemesis since 2006, when the latter ascended from city council president to mayor with the death of Bob O'Connor.
As was the case with Mr. O'Connor, Mr. Peduto long has pined to be mayor and often rued the series of controversies -- from the 2010 blizzard to the 2011 Washington Boulevard flooding to the current police corruption scandal -- on Mr. Ravenstahl's watch. Mr. Fitzgerald said Mr. Peduto gambled his political career because he couldn't stand to see Pittsburgh led by Mr. Ravenstahl for four more years. Mr. Peduto finished second to Mr. O'Connor in 2005 and dropped out of the 2007 race because of Mr. Ravenstahl's financial advantages and other strengths.
This time, too, Mr. Peduto faced long odds because of Mr. Ravenstahl's popularity and campaign machinery. When Mr. Ravenstahl bowed out amid the police corruption scandal, another formidable adversary surfaced in Mr. Wagner, the former city council president and state auditor general.
Mr. Peduto forged ahead with the support of an amalgam of groups, including environmentalists and labor organizations, such as the city paramedics union, unhappy with Mr. Ravenstahl. Mr. Peduto seemed to be helped, not hurt, when a committee chaired by Mr. Ravenstahl bankrolled campaign ads criticizing him.
Mr. Peduto is a policy wonk -- he issued at least 100 policy proposals during his campaign -- and that level of detail resonated with some supporters.
"I was so impressed with his level of knowledge about our schools and his understanding of issues teachers care about. He brought up safety. He brought up after-school programs," teachers union President Nina Esposito-Visgitis said.
Bob Olinger, president of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 3, said the 48-year-old Mr. Peduto had "young people energized.He has a lot of good ideas for moving Pittsburgh forward."
Throughout the evening, Mr. Peduto's party had the feel of a large block party with supporters munching hot dogs and pretzels and downing bottles of water. About 10 p.m., when Mr. Peduto was expected on stage, a recording led supporters in a rendition of "We are the champions" and, in a dig at Mr. Wagner, "Hit the road, Jack."
Mr. Peduto took no shots at Mr. Ravenstahl or his campaign opponents, who also included state Rep. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District and Sheraden activist A.J. Richardson. Rather, he said he's open to working with them over the next four years and thanked them for their candidacies.
"It's never easy to enter the ring," he said.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548. First Published May 22, 2013 4:45 AM