Mayoral hopefuls crash Pittsburgh's Democratic endorsement party

Party meets to endorse candidates for mayor, council, Common Pleas Court

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Pittsburgh Democrats left their annual endorsement meeting Sunday with eyes on Tuesday's candidate filing deadline for answers to the question of how many candidates would emerge in the suddenly scrambled field for mayor.

Officially, the committee members now have their candidate, as city Controller Michael Lamb was the only one seeking their support. City Councilman Bill Peduto chose not to seek the party backing. The shifting pool of other potential candidates for mayor were locked out of the party balloting because its filing deadline had passed before Mayor Luke Ravenstahl stirred their ambitions with his announcement that he would not seek re-election.

Mr. Lamb said the endorsement would be an asset no matter how the field shakes out.

Allegheny County Democratic Party endorses candidates

The Allegheny County Democratic Party released its endorsement of candidates. (Video by Nate Guidry; 3/10/2012)

"There are few endorsements that carry as much weight as this does," he said. "With the committee behind me, I'm just excited to be able to get out into the neighborhoods and talk to people about Pittsburgh and really making Pittsburgh, the great city that it is, making it live up to its full potential for everyone."

Several of his potential rivals mixed with the committee members during the five hours of voting at the South Side headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Among them were Darlene Harris, the city council president, and state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. Former state Auditor General Jack Wagner was also working the crowd, apparently too vigorously for party officials, who asked him shortly after 1 p.m. to leave the IBEW voting site, since he wasn't a candidate or voter. Mr. Wagner, who had been considering a run for mayor as an independent in the fall, quickly switched his focus to the Democratic primary after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's surprise announcement March 1 that he would not seek re-election.

Another figure with roots in the South Hills, state Sen. Wayne Fontana, said he would make a public decision on the race shortly.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley said he was also circulating nominating petitions for mayor and planned to file them by Tuesday's deadline although he emphasized that he hadn't yet made a final decision on the race. He and other candidates who do formally file may withdraw until March 27. After that, it takes a court order to be removed from the ballot.

Allegheny County Councilman BIll Robinson said he was circulating nominating petitions for the race and would announce his decision shortly. City Councilman Ricky Burgess has acknowledged conversations about the possibility of running but has made no announcement if his decision if her has made one.

Mr. Peduto stayed away from the party gathering, although some of his supporters displayed signs outside. His campaign will try to counter whatever boost Mr. Lamb receives from the party backing with new endorsements from elected officials in the coming days.

While the suspense was drained from this preliminary round of the mayor's race, there were some surprises further down the ballot. In city council's 8th District, the East End seat Mr. Peduto is relinquishing, his longtime aide, Dan Gilman, with 33 votes, defeated Jeanne Clark, who had 23, and Sam Hens-Greco, 14.

In the only other contested city council race, the 2nd District, which extends from the Hill District through Downtown and parts of the North Side, former Councilwoman Tonya Payne defeated city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, the man who ousted her in the Democratic primary four years ago. The tally was 45 for Ms. Payne and 37 for Mr. Lavelle.

From a big field competing for the four openings on Common Pleas Court, the endorsements went to Mark Tranquilli, Jennifer Satler, Paul Cozza and P.J. Murray.

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Politics Editor James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562. First Published March 11, 2013 4:00 AM


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