MICHAEL LAMB (Courier File Photo)
While most expected late-comers Darlene Harris and Jim Ferlo to drop out of the race to replace Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb’s withdrawal, after being among the first to announce, and winning the Democratic Party Endorsement, was somewhat surprising.
During an April 1 press conference, Lamb said he was dropping out of the Democratic Primary race to endorse Jack Wagner, saying the former state auditor general, state senator and Pittsburgh councilman is “the best possible candidate for the job.”
“I believe the best candidate is Jack Wagner,” he said. “Jack Wagner is both a friend of organized labor and of Pittsburgh's business community. And as someone who grew up in the same community as me, he understands that we need to focus on our communities as growth in all our neighborhood helps us all.”
New Pittsburgh Courier columnist Louis “Hop” Kendrick said he was disappointed Lamb pulled out, but agreed with his reasoning, saying since they would pull support from the same area, they could cancel each other out and give city Councilman Bill Peduto the victory.
“I thought, of the three, he represented the best chance for Blacks to be involved in city government,” Kendrick said. “If you look at the records of the other two, you can see they haven’t done anything. It’s a choice between Frank James and Jesse James.”
Though African-Americans state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, and school bus monitor A.J. Richardson remain in the race, Kendrick does not give either much chance.
“I’m going to speak with Jake and ask him to drop out,” he said. “I’ll see what he says. That will determine where I go.”
For his part, Wheatley doesn’t appear to be going anywhere yet. In a statement released shortly after Lamb’s announcement, Wheatley called Lamb a friend who always acted with integrity, and he respected his decision.
“But as we move into the last fifty days of this campaign,” he said, “Now more than ever I am committed to presenting to the people of Pittsburgh an agenda that will end the politics as usual and moves our city forward under the premise that we will only truly claim prosperity if all our citizens are prospering.”
Peduto issued a statement saying he respected Lamb’s choice, but now it’s the voters’ turn.
“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.”
With both the sitting mayor and now the endorsed candidate bowing out of the race, it remains unclear whether the Democratic Party will endorse or recommend one of the remaining candidates.
City Democratic Chair Eileen Kelly said she doesn’t remember such a circumstance arising before, and that she will review the committee rules on the matter.