In the annals of political cowardice and failed responsibility, Councilman Bill Peduto's decision to quit the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the May 15 primary must rank very high.
Certainly, beating Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was never going to be easy, but that's not the point. This was a race that, even if pre-determined by a strong political tide, needed to be fought.
Pittsburgh needed this race to help define where it wants to go and which issues it counts as important. The youthful Mr. Ravenstahl also needed this race -- to temper his political steel in the cauldron of experience. While running, Mr. Peduto was doing the community a service that would be remembered even in defeat. By quitting, Mr. Peduto let more than his supporters down. He turned his back on the city, an act that will be recalled in shame.
Barring some later entry from an independent or a write-in candidate, Pittsburgh is left with no mayoral race at all. The Republicans, as hapless as ever in Pittsburgh, have no candidate for November. As far as Pittsburgh's most important office goes, democracy has been effectively suspended.
We are left with a neophyte mayor who got into office as a result of two accidents of fate -- the first political, when City Council could not agree on a president and elevated Mr. Ravenstahl as a compromise, and the second tragic, when Mayor Bob O'Connor fell victim to brain cancer and the new council president was elevated by virtue of his office.
Now no city resident will have the chance to pronounce on any of this for years -- and this at a moment when fresh evidence of Mr. Ravenstahl's youthful inexperience is also in the news (see below). To top it all, Mr. Peduto's excuse -- that he didn't want to divide a city still mourning Mayor O'Connor and that he was being forced to discuss his opponent's missteps -- treated Pittsburghers like children, not adult Americans who understand the democratic process, can deal with some division and might prefer it to this coronation.
If Mr. Peduto comes back as an independent, he now risks being seen as calculating and too clever by half. Voters know the old adage: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Yesterday, to his shame, Bill Peduto got the heck out.