When Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced last week he would not seek re-election, it seemed to set up a two-man race between declared candidates Councilman Bill Peduto and Controller Michael Lamb for the Democratic Primary.
Then the floodgates opened.
Yesterday, sources close to state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D- Hill District, said he would be circulating nominating petitions for the Mayor’s race. Calls and emails to Wheatley and his office seeking confirmation have not been returned. If confirmed, Wheatley would be the first African-American mayoral candidate since Carmen Robinson ran as an independent in 2009.
Louis Kendrick, who ran in 2005, said he doesn’t think Wheatley will run.
“All the Blacks with any clout have already hitched their wagons to another horse,” he said. “They aren’t going to change now.”
Even as that news was breaking, Pittsburgh Council President Darlene Harris, who holds Ravenstahl’s old council seat, declared she is getting into the race.
Last week, State Auditor General Jack Wagner said he might join the race as an independent following the May Primary. Then he hinted that he might run in the primary, but has yet to make a firm commitment. His niece, County Controller Chelsa Wagner said he would make an announcement after returning from Israel next week.
Now comes word that state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D- Lawrenceville, is joining the race. His office in Harrisburg confirmed that he’s begun collecting petition signatures.
Kendrick said even with the support of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Peduto would be damaged by Ferlo entering the race because they would compete for the same geographic and demographic votes.
“They both appeal to the progressive green and gay voters out in the eastern end of the city, so they could cancel each other out,” he said. “But if Wagner gets in, he and Lamb will battle for the South Side votes.”
Ravenstahl, said in his press conference that he was not stepping down due to FBI investigations of corruption within the police bureau and that he has been told he is not the target of any investigation. He said the job had just become too much for him, but he is glad to leave the city in better financial shape than he found it.
He also hinted that he would be throwing his support, and sizable campaign war chest behind a candidate other than Lamb or Peduto. Ferlo is the only candidate, so far, who might be counted among Ravenstahl’s allies.
The deadline for filing petitions is March 12.