Jack Wagner is no stranger to comebacks, and his supporters weren't counting him out in the wake of his defeat in the Democratic mayoral primary.
"He's had losses before," said political analyst William J. Green, a longtime friend of Mr. Wagner, noting the Beechview politician's failed bids for mayor in 1993, lieutenant governor in 2002 and governor in 2010. "But he's obviously also had some victories."
Mr. Wagner, 65, wasn't showing his cards Tuesday night as he thanked veterans, firefighters, police and other supporters at a gathering that he hoped would be a victory party. He maintained the same cool demeanor he'd had during a hot day of campaigning.
Wagner concedes to Peduto
Democratic mayoral candidate Jack Wagner conceded to Bill Peduto. (Video by Rebecca Droke; 5/21/2013)
"The race is over," he said. "It's time to move on. That's the way I am in life. Tomorrow I'll get up, and it's a new day.
"I will be very involved in some way in our city and our region," he said.
He telegraphed disappointment with the state of political discourse. "Unfortunately, negative campaigning works," he said. "We don't want to admit that, but it's true."
But as a candidate and officeholder for more than 30 years, he wouldn't rule out another run.
"We have many challenges facing us as a city," he said. "For instance, United States Steel will make a decision within the next year as to where their corporate headquarters are. Obviously, if I would have been elected, I would have played a major role in making sure they stay in Pittsburgh. ... Anything I can do to have a positive impact on that issue, I want to."
Mr. Wagner approached 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday. That's better than the 27 percent he got in 1993, when he lost to Tom Murphy. The year after that drubbing, he ran successfully for state senator, a position that led to two terms in statewide office as auditor general.
Insiders wondered Wednesday whether he could bounce from a mayoral loss to mount a credible run for governor next year. He has valuable political assets, supporters maintained.
"He's had a wonderful 28-year career," said Mr. Green. "Not a taint of scandal. No rumors."
The candidate even managed the rare feat of bringing the city's police and firefighters unions together.
"I think Jack is such the right element for Pittsburgh right now, how could we not come together?" said police Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1.
Before Mayor Luke Ravenstahl dropped out of the race on March 1, Mr. Wagner was "getting involved more in veteran's issues," said Steve Halvonik, who was the spokesman for the auditor general's office.
Mr. Wagner founded the Sharing and Caring Golf Tournament, which is held in July and benefits disabled military veterans. He also raises money for the Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial.
"Long term," said Mr. Halvonik, "I don't think he's made a determination yet."
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord. First Published May 23, 2013 4:00 AM