And then there were 4. City Controller Michael Lamb exited the Pittsburgh mayoral primary Monday, leaving what had become a two man race between Bill Peduto and Jack Wagner.
“I am here today to announce that I am ending my race for Mayor. I am doing this because I love Pittsburgh and a race with many candidates is blurry and difficult and the fact of the matter is, there is a real choice for Mayor,” he said. “I don’t want the conversation for our next leader to be generalities; we need a real dialogue to ensure we get the best possible candidate for the job.”
Peduto is a City Councilman and the ideas candidate in the race. Wagner is the former Pa. Auditor General and the experience candidate.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley and community activist AJ Richardson are also on the Democratic ballot, though neither is expected to generate the resources necessary to be a strong contender.
Lamb endorsed Wagner. The two split a geographic base in the city’s South Hills.
“Jack Wagner has grown with every office he has held. He consults widely; he is thoughtful and deliberate; he does not pander; and is totally independent — he makes up his own mind. He makes decisions,” Lamb said.
Peduto didn’t mention past or present rivals in his response; rather he reasserted his core message.
“Voters have a clear choice to make. Pittsburgh needs a strong leader who has demonstrated a real commitment to ending waste, fraud and abuse – someone who has revitalized neighborhoods and secured the city’s finances,” he said. “We have built a new coalition of people who understand what Pittsburgh can be. I’m looking forward to continuing to earn the support of voters all over the city and working to reach this vision together.”
For a brief moment after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced his decision not to seek re-election, it seemed as though Lamb had a viable candidacy. But he failed to catch fired following the entry of Wagner and others into the race.
Two polls, one independent and another commissioned by Peduto, showed a two man race with Lamb several points behind in third. One Democrat said Lamb made his decision after an internal poll showed him the same picture.
Now, Peduto and Wagner must duke it out.
When Ravenstahl dropped, Lamb earned the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement by default. Now, it appears the committee is unlikely to get involved in the heated race.
As it stands at present, the committee’s endorsement of Lamb is nullified and the rules revert to those for an open primary.
A spokesperson for the party said leaders were working presently to determine their options, but no decision has been reached.
Observers agree that Wagner would have the inside track for if another endorsement was held, but it’s unclear who if anyone would call for a new vote.
Chair Nancy Mills is a Peduto ally via County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and does not appear likely to call for one.
State Rep. Ed Gainey was the chair of the Pittsburgh city committee and could theoretically have called for a city endorsement, but he resigned last week to endorse Peduto and the bylaws are unclear on who could call for a vote in his absence.