State Rep. Ed Gainey declared victory in the Pittsburgh mayoral election Tuesday night, capping off a year of campaigning during which he defeated incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto in the Democratic primary and turned away an outsider Republican candidate in the general election. Gainey will be Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor.
He had 70% of the vote just after 11 p.m. Tuesday, with almost all mail-in ballots and 91% of in-person precincts reported.
“Let me tell you why this is beautiful. Because you proved that we could have a city for all,” Gainey said during his victory speech at the Benedum Center. “You proved that everybody can change.”
In conceding, Republican candidate Tony Moreno said his turnout underscores the success of his campaign.
“All those people from the outskirts who came and were fired up because they wanted change…” Moreno said during a speech Tuesday night. “We started building something that I think is going to make a huge difference in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh.”
Gainey launched his candidacy last January as a challenge to Peduto, who sought a third term. Progressive figures like state Reps. Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato joined Gainey in saying the city needed new leadership, and financial support from a healthcare worker union PAC helped him win a shocking upset.
Tuesday, he denied Republican nominee Moreno’s attempt to make history. Pittsburgh has not had a Republican mayor since the 1930s, and it won’t for at least another four years.
Gainey’s campaign focused on justice, outlining plans to make Pittsburgh “a city for all.” Pledges to demilitarize the police, bring inclusionary zoning citywide and make UPMC pay taxes will now be put to the test on Grant Street.
“If one man tells you he can change a city, then they’re not telling you the truth,” Gainey said Tuesday night. “If we partner together, if we build a city that we want to see, that’s called buy-in.”
Henry Latimore, a 74-year-old Black resident of Gainey’s neighborhood who voted there Tuesday afternoon, said he supported Gainey because of his campaign promises to address housing, particularly in that eastern section of the city.
“I think he will do things for the city that are not being done right now,” Latimore said. “And he brings people together. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say something divisive.”
Just one Pittsburgh City Council member, Deb Gross, supported Gainey in the primary. But eventually all nine members backed him this fall, and the group will now work with Gainey to chart a path forward for the city as it considers Peduto’s proposed budget for 2022.
Council is considering legislation that would require more administration officials to be confirmed by council and to give council members more power over development in their districts.
Moreno, the Republican candidate, received 29% of the vote — unusually high for a GOP nominee in deeply-Democratic Pittsburgh — after running a campaign denouncing the political establishment on either side of the aisle. Moreno ran and lost in the Democratic primary but received enough write-in votes from Republican voters to appear on the ballot.
Moreno said he wasn’t going to run for office again, after a grueling campaign that started in 2019. At the start of interviews with PublicSource over the past six months, he would often say that the rigors of the campaign were challenging.
Some Moreno supporters are talking about how to move forward with a campaign similar to his own, he said. He also described his campaign as nonpartisan and said it wasn’t clear if that effort would be under the Republican banner or something else.
Gainey will be sworn in on Jan. 3. Before then, Council has to work with Peduto to pass a budget for 2022, which Gainey could propose amendments to in January.
City council’s makeup may be unchanged in January. Only one member faced an electoral challenge this year; Anthony Coghill led Green Party candidate Connor Mulvaney as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m not going to undercut the importance and what it would mean” for Pittsburgh to have a Black mayor, Gainey said Tuesday morning. “But what would mean more is when we as a region are competitive … Of course we understand the context of it, but more importantly, let’s be productive.”
PublicSource reporter Oliver Morrison contributed to this story.
Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @chwolfson.
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