Ravenstahl makes his mayoral run official
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Mayor Luke Ravensthal, left, and his wife, Erin, listen yesterday as Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, announces his support for Mr. Ravenstahl in the mayor's planned run for the seat in 2007.
Click photo for larger image.
Seeking to create an early sense of invincibility, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced his candidacy for his post, and rolled out three big endorsements and a Web site yesterday, in the wake of poll numbers showing him in a strong position.
His principal rival so far, city Councilman William Peduto, sought to pierce the incumbent's aura, challenging the mayor to take a stand that might not please a key city union.
Two others who had been considered potential candidates -- state Rep. Dan Frankel and Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald -- took their hats out of the ring, while former county Commissioner Mike Dawida said he's polling and may disclose plans next week.
Mr. Ravenstahl, mayor since the Sept. 1 death of Bob O'Connor, was flanked by Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle as he made his bid official at the top of the Regional Enterprise Tower, Downtown.
"I'm confident that Luke is the individual at the right time and the right place to lead Pittsburgh," said Mr. Onorato, a lifelong friend of the 26-year-old mayor's family and a fellow North Side Democrat.
"We have seen the consequences when we have somebody who can't work with the state and federal delegation," said Mr. Doyle, D-Forest Hills, in an obvious reference to Mayor Tom Murphy, who criticized legislators. "I don't see any reason to break up a great team."
The mayor's campaign later distributed a statement of support from Corey O'Connor, son of the late mayor, saying his father's legacy "will be in good hands with Luke."
The mayor's office e-mailed press coverage of the endorsements to all city departments.
Mr. Ravenstahl touted an "ambitious, and yet achievable" agenda that he will be expected to flesh out between now and the May 15 Democratic primary, which will anoint a favorite to serve out the last two years of Mr. O'Connor's term.
"We must grow jobs and our economic vitality by embracing technology, nurturing our academic institutions, supporting our health care industry and our financial institutions," he said. "We must retain our young people, our best and our brightest. It's something that as a young mayor, I know a lot about."
He said he'd continue "doing more with less," while delivering "neighborhoods that are safe and clean" by increasing police presence and public works activity.
So far, his Web site, www.lukeformayor.com, consists of a call for volunteers and donors.
Mr. Peduto said his record and the mayor's are like "black and white" on fiscal and reform issues. He said he was the first city official to call for a declaration of fiscal distress for the city, and sought more stringent restrictions on council spending than Mr. Ravenstahl did when he was council president.
"There is a vast difference between the image that is being portrayed on the [city] Web site, the billboards and the constant P.R., and Luke's voting record," the councilman said.
At a council budget hearing, Mr. Peduto repeated his call for the administration to reopen the contract with the firefighters union and seek savings.
Told by Fire Chief Mike Huss that there were "risks" associated with reopening the contract, he shot back that state law governing distressed cities restricts contracts and eliminates any downside.
"I would hope that whoever is advising the mayor that he could lose in arbitration would allow him to read Act 47," Mr. Peduto said.
Mr. Dawida promised "a very positive campaign" if he runs, centered on his 17 years in the Legislature and four in county government.
"If I do this, it'll be because I believe we need more experience, and these are very challenging times for the city," he said.
The number of candidates could affect the course of events, starting with the Pittsburgh Democratic Committee endorsement vote, likely to occur in February, said committee Chairwoman Barbara Ernsberger. That endorsement translates into foot soldiers and financial support, she said, and if support is split many ways, there's no telling who will get it.
The race for dollars starts now.
"We haven't really hit it too hard, to be honest with you," the mayor said. He said he might have just $10,000 in his campaign fund, and noted that past winners have spent $1 million or more.
Mr. Peduto said he has "commitments of over half a million" dollars and would raise funds during the rest of the year so he can make a strong showing when campaign accounts are disclosed Jan. 31.
A poll commissioned by Mr. Ravenstahl's election committee and taken in mid-November found him well ahead of rivals, with 73 percent of those surveyed reporting positive feelings toward him.
That jibes with what Councilman Jim Motznik says he is hearing in South Hills neighborhoods, potentially a key battleground.
"I hear from the people in my district that we need new direction and young leadership," he said.
Other political cognoscenti said there's a lot of race to run.
"There's an image out there, and [the mayor's] name recognition is pretty high, but I don't know if there's a sense yet of his philosophy or his positions," said Mr. Fitzgerald, of Squirrel Hill. Mr. Peduto, he said, "has a very good grasp of the issues."
"People still want to kick the tires with [Mr. Peduto], as well as the new mayor," Mr. Frankel said.
Last year, Mr. O'Connor won handily in part because of his geniality and familiarity.
"This race," Mr. Frankel said, "will be driven more by issues than by personality."
First Published December 5, 2006 12:00 am