Peduto, Lamb each to run against Establishment

Burton Morris

Those who do not learn from history lead really successful, happy lives.

Or something like that. Right?

Next year’s race for mayor of Pittsburgh started sizzling in recent days as Councilman Bill Peduto blanketed voters with campaign mailings, Controller Michael Lamb announced his candidacy and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl secured support from two major labor unions.

Peduto said he mailed 25,000 fliers to registered Democrats in the city, plus email, Twitter and Facebook postings that reached another 25,000 people, all of which sought monetary and volunteer support for his campaign.

Lamb, in response, said on Monday he will run in the May primary, a move analysts said might split the anti-incumbent vote.

“It will weaken Peduto’s chances and strengthen Ravenstahl’s,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. (Trib, Bob Bauder)


Are people really expected to give money to projects like this?

“The town has yet to oust a mayor at the ballot box in its entire electoral history… The incumbent has loads of money, power of course, enthusiastic support from certain unions and the business community… Downtown is growing, employment is high… And there’s another white male challenger just over the river carrying the exact same political reform banner that I am, only marching in the opposite direction. But why don’t you write me a big fat check anyway! It will be fun: opening a campaign office, hiring bright young people and cocky attorneys, playing with databases and maps. It will be like fantasy camp!”

Seriously, the fact that these gentlemen aren’t working this out — scratch that, the fact that others in the community aren’t forcing these gentlemen work it out –makes me think maybe Pittsburgh doesn’t merit some kind of highbrow political renaissance. The old ways are the right ways. Are you a party power broker? Have yourself a job. Are you voting against my favorite projects? Shame about those streets. Is your community desperately starved for resources? Step one is let’s be friends.

Movie Fanatic

We all saw Lincoln. It might have been nice to have a debate whether there’s anything wrong with politics as it’s always been, or whether it’s appropriate to start thinking of such things in tandem with telegraphs and horse-drawn carriages. In fact, it would have been just as nice to debate whether those perpetrating at “reform” are really any different, or simply desire the same plush, old-school power to use for themselves.

But with three? I barely had any faith in the media — in you people — to cover an election decently with two. With three, by the time you remind readers (sorry — lol — watchers) of everyone’s name and home neighborhood and describe the ambiance “bickering and squabbling,” there won’t be any column-inches left to nurture a narrative assuming you notice one.


For what it’s worth, however…

It being the end of November, I’m still not seeing how Michael Lamb’s candidacy adds up. Bill Peduto has a team and infrastructure well-seasoned and assembled that has scored clear electoral victories at the State Rep and City Council levels against establishment forces. He now adds to that apparently the support of the County Executive. He has a recognizable brand, he has engendered loyalty in constituencies by having taken and maintained tough positions on-air and at the Council table as a necessity. And I’m highly suspicious he starts out with more money in the bank already and more people working the assembly line. I just don’t see how Lamb is supposed to counter that by being a slightly more moderate figure, more things to more people possibly, a straight-shooter, practical, quick with a joke and to light up your smoke, politically cagey but institutionally aloof. He came in third in 2005 and didn’t get a lot of electoral exercise winning reelection as Controller unopposed in 2011.

In a two-way race conducted in a test tube? Shucks, Lamb might be the better political animal for taking down Ravenstahl — more gravitas, less threatening to some, less ornamented with Burton Morris shtick. But in the real world, with the pieces already on the table and moving? Bill Peduto is the challenger. He is the challenge, itself — the way into the citadel is an outsider’s gambit, there’s no reason to believe the conventional gatekeepers can be persuaded to mutiny. I let myself wonder aloud the other day whether Ravenstahl forces were hoping Lamb would enter the race. All I can say is, if Michael has received any big checks he’s not quite sure where they came from and why, he may want to do some research.

Or not. Whatever. I could be wrong. The next couple months could prove exciting and productive. Because as they say: the definition of cleverness is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

43 thoughts on “Peduto, Lamb each to run against Establishment

  1. Anonymous

    I think the fact that both of these guys seem willing to go down in flames rather than talk about a compromise is a sign that neither is as far above Luke's petty politics as we might wish. Luke sets the bar low, and there's still plenty of time for a deal. They have to know how this ends with both running, so what does it say if they do it anyway?

  2. Anonymous

    Yinz guys are funny. If Bill and Lamb cut a deal, its Lincolnian (not a word) politics at its best, a compromise in hopes of a better tomorrow. If Lamb (not Peduto, just Lamb) stays in the race he is vilified, even if he is doing it for the right reasons (like, maybe he thinks he will be a good Mayor and has a plan for our future). In the meantime, no comments on Bill's mentor, Tax-Gerald, and his old timey strong arm moves to raise money for his buddy, using no-bid, patronage contracts to get 'er done.

  3. Anonymous

    Judging by your twitter feed, you, Mr. Count, you are somewhat reveling in the black comedy re-re-reruns of human nature, are you not? As if Lamb and Peduto weren't enough…Hans-Greco vs. Gilman?


    Yep. Game of Throne's gonna be of ever more horrifically entertaining and practical significance in the political analysis this year.

  4. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 3:36 – I think I'd make a good mayor. I have a plan for the city. Doesn't make it a good idea for anybody except the incumbent that I run. We're not talking about “villainy”, we're talking about delusion and Shakespearean farce.

    As to Fitztaxald (if you're going to malign him, malign him right) it's an interesting article. I don't see how a specialty professional consulting contract like that ought to have been or ever has been bid out — do you want the lowest bidder telling you how to run public works? — but Heidelbaugh may make a solid point about paying someone who's been so close to the dept for a professional analysis. Maybe dude can just show up to a hearing and offer his thoughts.

    Anon 2:13 – Again, I'm blaming delusion, human frailties, lack of perspective. Promises made. After four candidates declared today, Peduto can't very well go back and stay in his office, and I'm sure Lamb has made promises to people that there would be work and glory coming this spring. Some of those people would likely have to be part of any “deal”. I agree there's time. Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich also announced they were running for things.

  5. Anonymous

    Wow Bram we live in different worlds. Peduto has infrastructure and money?? SInce when. Bill is great at creating the impression that he has those things but then it is always revealed that it is BS. To beat the incumbent you have to step up and punch him in the mouth every day. Bill showed last time that he was afraid to do that. It remains to be seen if Lamb will do that but at least he has actually won a city election. Seems to me he's got far more going on than Bill but you need to get out of Peduto's council district to understand that.

  6. Anonymous

    Anon 5:47- you don't know about Bill's infrastructure? Just ask him. He's got loads of infrastructure. He already sent out a big mailing. Infrastructure. He isn't wasting money on new photos, using his slimmed down 2006/high school yearbook pix. That's called intellectual infrastructure (see the recent photo in this article to see why its smart to use the old photo May the best Bill Peduto win. Everybody else out of the pool.

  7. Anonymous

    I just look at 2007 when Bill said “I won't run because I'll have to go negative” while Mike was beating the council prez and the county commisioner by 2 to 1 margin. Bill has tried to grow his base by trying to take credit for other candidate's victories while Mike has grown his base through the hard work of actually meeting and talking with voters.

  8. Bram Reichbaum

    My kingdom for commenters with proper Christian names.

    As to challengers needing to be willing to “punch people in the mouth everyday”, go negative, 2007: yes yes yes, amen. And I feel like Bill has that base covered in a day-to-day sense. But I think we're willfully forgetting what life was like in early 2007. Most Pittsburghers thought Ravenstahl was Bob's grandson and had been willed City Hall as part of his estate. After not just real grief and loss but the tumult of bitter 5th floor recriminations, nobody wanted to see the cherubic 26 year old blessing assaulted without provocation. Wasn't “Give the kid a chance” the slogan on sides of buses that year? It was a very, very unique situation.

    And if the knock is “no guts no glory”, we have to note that Mr. Lamb didn't even think about running that year, or voice any particular concern about city leadership at that time. It seems like it's folks who wouldn't vote for Peduto to win free lunch at Applebee's who are the ones convinced his not running in '07 is revelatory of some huge character flaw.

    Besides, it's six years ago. There is a lot to talk about from those actual six years.

    Anon 6:27 – I can entertain the idea Bill's bank and barracks might be hype and naught else, but very soon there will be campaign finance statements which should settle things. I probably should have made clear in the post, in addition to his campaign staff and Fitzgerald's support I was referring to the SEIU and whatever else they're calling themselves these days. Say what you want about them but they're an infrastructure, and one with no dearth of scalps decorating their mantle.

    Anon 5:47 – I live on the North Side (not far from Kirk Burkley I had thought? Thank you for the burrito joint!) so I'm not in Peduto's district, unless the implication is that the Internet is part of District 8. At any rate now and again I bump into folks who turn out to be favorably disposed towards Peduto. And plenty of people who profess not to like Luke (but who always say something painful like, “With one party we have no choices!”), and many more whose only political concern is the NHL lockout. But only once in the past 8 years (in 2005) has a wild, non-politico Lamb fan appeared unto me. Anecdotal? You bet. But I'm having a hard time picturing what hordes of Lambambaniacs might even look like. Whereas hordes of Peduoistas? They may set your own teeth on edge, but we all know exactly what those look like. You just cringed.

    My heavens we need some neutral public polling data! Where is Civic Science when you need them? Still push polling pot referendums?

  9. BrianTH

    I'm just an outsider looking in, but it seems to me the argument for B getting out of A's way for “the good of the challenge” depends in part on A actually having a non-negligible chance of beating Ravenstahl. And as of now, I am having a hard time believing that, due to a combination of decent macro-conditions (or whatever you call them as applied to a city) and the lack of a really significant scandal.

    Of course maybe B sees the situation differently, but maybe not, and in turn that raises the question of what B might acheive for himself by fighting the good fight even with the knowledge the challenge is doomed to failure this time.

  10. Anonymous

    Well, many of us here are staying Anon because we feel that established patterns of Establishment's punitive reactions to news from outside the bubble have warranted a sense of responsible protection of our various organizations and their worthy works.

    Six years of such negative conditioning against free speech might also provide the motivations for a forthright groundswell for regime change. Yes, by now we are all now far more fully informed of just what we have not to gain if we don't get some unified leadership to get behind.

    There, anybody who knows anything about my convoluted sentence structures knows who I am now.

  11. Bram Reichbaum

    BrianTH – Negligible is certainly not a word I'd apply. Not only are Luke's negatives in the requisite ballpark after Seven Springs, the tuition tax and the parking lease (I'd say that's about all the challenger gets for free, everything else he'd have to work hard for) but due to circumstances people have already voted for him twice or what seems like four separate times already. Fatigue starts to set in. A challenger just has to make it a referendum on him rather than on the city, flip the script, steal the renaissance narrative like it's a sack of jewels. The kind of thing you can only do if you have an incumbent cornered and all to yourself.

  12. Anonymous

    Nice touch of a pop(or pub)culture reference for the political analysis, Bram:

    Note to self – listen to more Billy Joel.

  13. Pittsburgh Prognosticator

    Lamb would have a fighting chance in beating Luke in a 1-on-1 matchup. Bill would not. We all know the reason why.

    Can somebody please offer Bill a job. I hear he has a graduate degree now. Does Coro need a CEO?

  14. Helen Gerhardt

    No, Prognosticator, some of not being long-time Pittsburghers, we do not all know the reason why, yet still have a stake in the results of this primary. Please enlighten us directly instead of sowing echoing hints for the insiders' club.

  15. Pittsburgh Prognosticator

    I was simply referring to the fact that Yinzers will not vote for an unmarried East End progressive.

  16. Bram Reichbaum

    Meanwhile, Bill is wroth over redistricting. From his twittermabob:

    “City council just voted 5-4 to change the proposed redistricting lines without any public process & only 30 minutes debate – unbelieveable!

    After year of work, City Council Reapportionment Report trashed by 5-4 majority w/ no public input, Councilmembers not even told before vote”

    I have to imagine five Councilmembers were told. Does anyone know who got hosed and how? Did Natalia just pick up a chunk of Brighton Heights or something?

  17. BrianTH


    To me, that wasn't very convincing on the odds of Candidate A (whomever you think that should be). Apparently this would be an unprecedented event in Pittsburgh's mayoral history (making me more than a little suspicious of your “fatigue” theory), and what I know about the history of such elections in general is that even poor approval polling many months in advance tends to get trumped in the end by “macro” conditions and the general incumbency advantage, barring a major scandal.

    You then say: “A challenger just has to make it a referendum on him rather than on the city, flip the script, steal the renaissance narrative like it's a sack of jewels.” But that's always the thing challengers need to do in these situations, and they almost always fail to do it, even when running as the sole credible challenger. It may be frustrating, but voters almost always end up giving enough credit or blame to the incumbent for relevant macro conditions such that they end up being pretty determinative of the outcome (barring major scandal).

    Anyway, maybe you sincerely believe that Ravenstahl is unusually vulnerable despite the seemingly favorable fundamentals, but if you want to persuade Candidate B to clear the way for Candidate A, you would have to convince the presumably self-interested Candidate B that Candidate A really has a good shot to win. And I suspect most self-interested Candidate Bs are not going to find “Candidate A just has to flip the script!” convincing on that subject, because at least when it comes to evaluating the prospects of rivals, they tend not to give them the benefit of the doubt on beating the fundamentals.

    In short, Candidate A probably would buy what you were selling, but the problem is you need Candidate B to buy it, against his own interests, and that is going to take a pretty slam-dunk argument.

  18. Bram Reichbaum

    BrianTH – The desirability of Incumbent Q to Candidate B ought to have some bearing on B's decision making. We can make a slam-dunk argument that in a 3-way race, A and B each stand a 0.0000% chance. So even if we can only posit A's chances improve to 20% or 33% otherwise (remember Mitt Romney was about a 25-30%% shot this far out, events, surprises and narratives happen) how valuable to candidate B is a 20-33% shot of being rid of Incumbent Q?

    But the real question you raise is, what is candidate B's self-interest in this situation? A second bronze medal can't be of any conceivable benefit. And even with a silver, in four years others, newer, fresher will be in that picture. But if we can identify that self-interest we're one step closer to solving for X.

    But I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm the kind of guy who thinks Lamb probably just wants to be mayor, and that lots of folks largely desire and are capable of operating on the basis of what's good for the city. Differences of opinion exist as to what those are, but yeah — we're not necessarily crocodiles.

  19. The First Anon(of this thread, not ever)

    Bram, I don't think your 3 scandals stick. I feel most voters supported the student tax as a respectable, if destined to fail attempt at getting nonprofits to kick in.
    As for the parking/pension, the few of us that actually followed that understand that the Mayor's plan, while not agreeable, was A plan. Peduto led the charge to end it with no backup plan in place. New Years shenanigans ensued.
    Also, as a Public Safety employee, I would prefer politicians be out of towns for all disasters. That way they can't muck up the works with uninformed requests/demands. Although, this may have happened during Snowmageddon via phone anyway.

  20. The First Anon(of this thread, not ever)

    My conclusion to the above ramblings is that I agree with BrianTH: the Mayor has this pretty well locked up baring some serious screw-up/scandal.

  21. MH

    Politicians do have an annoying way of insisting that ambulances pick up people with fatal illnesses. Go figure.

    As for the election, I think Luke's chances of reelection may be better given that the lease failed than they would have been had it succeeded. He can tell workers and retirees pretty much whatever he wants how it would have solved all their problems and nobody else has to experience all of the actual problems the lease would have caused.

  22. Anonymous

    The First Anon: dont count Lamb out in a 3 way race. He has run successfully citiwide, has a positive “good government” type, good family, brother who is connected, and well liked in progressive circles, Irish community and business world. If Wagner runs, maybe not so much,though.

  23. Anonymous

    I agree with that. Who says you need to get Luke one on one to win? If Wagner is out and Lamb is the only candidadte from the South he could do it. If he comes in second to Luke in the NSide and second to Bill in the East, he's a winner.

  24. The Dude

    Since there seems to be a request for a pre-primary primary among self-professed “progressives” to determine which candidate is the Anybody-but-Luke option…The questions for Pedutoistas and Lambites are: do Lamb's votes go to Peduto if Lamb drops out? Do Peduto's votes to Lamb if Peduto drops out?

    Look at the Tea Party within the GOP primary fights, and its impact on the General Elections – very often, the candidate with the most intense support among primary voters is the absolute WORST candidate to win a General Election.

    If the Dem Primary for Mayor is seen as the General Election (which it might as well be in this town), the Pre-Primary for Progressives might actually put up a candidate who can't beat Luke.

    I'll be willing to bet that Peduto has more campaign money right now, and a more intense set of potential volunteers (especially among former Chuck Pinnacchio for Senate volunteers)…and absolutely no chance of building a following outside of his narrow “progressive” base.
    Lamb, on the other hand, has proven he can get the progresive vote in a city wide race AND get some blue-collar white votes. [Neither one seems to have much of a following among black residents who vote – notwithstanding the occaisional black staffer or black community leader throwing them some support.]

    To put it simply – Peduto's core supporters would almost all vote for Lamb in a Luke/Lamb matchup. Lamb's supporters would NOT break for Peduto as heavily in a Luke/Peduto matchup.

  25. Anonymous

    That makes sense. I look at more by geography. I'd say Lamb could get more votes against ravenstahl in Squirel Hill and Shadyside than Peduto could get in Brookline and Mt. Washington.

  26. Bram Reichbaum

    While I like the Dude's idea of looking at transferability of support, Anon's notion of “if he comes in second to Luke in the NSide and second to Bill in the East, he's a winner” argument defending the viability of a 3-way race strikes me as a shell game.

    I look at it this way. Ravenstahl as the incumbent starts with a FLOOR of 33% of the vote — that's just the employees, the pro-construction unions, the enfranchised community group members, the cronies and their family members.

    Similarly there's probably another 33% that's utterly irreconcilable towards Ravenstahl — your progressives, East Enders etc.

    That leaves 33% for all candidates to fight over. Even if “Candidate A” wins the irreconcilable third by a 20-point margin over “Candidate B” (a quite impressive feat itself! but ok…), that means he enters the money round with 20% of the vote. To win another 14% share out of the middle third, well: basically let's assume Luke is going to win SOME of the persuadables, so Candidate A needs also to win an outright majority (not a plurality, a majority!) of that third even as Candidate B soaks up more of what's left…

    That's a heck of a lot of standing out, rising above and over-performing for a challenger who's just as white, male, and a career politician as the rest of the field. I suppose if you had a new proposal on the order of the Pittsburgh Promise AND which neither opponent could agree to or co-opt (“We were actually discussing that very thing behind closed doors, they must have stolen it!”) such feats of over-performing might be borderline imaginable. But basically, no. No, no challenger can win in a 3-way race. I will not countenance the silly notion.

  27. Anonymous

    Bram, As a city employee, I think you're over counting the base. I work with pay rollers every day in my office and can tell you not one of them is voting for the Mayor. I don't know who they are for but it's not him.

  28. Bram Reichbaum

    4:12 – Sure, but are those (city) workers you speak of organizing? Those who can actively organize city workers without fear of reprisal, throughout the campaign, they'll have their co-workers ears, there will be negative messages about all candidates. And there will be an argument that at the end of the day Luke will find the money to keep your job, he'll sell something if he has to, the state will help him do it.

    I forgot “neighbors” and store and business owners among the list of employees, community group leaders, family and “cronies”. Neighbors are cronies.

  29. Anonymous

    And don't forget those people that think the mayor ha done a good job and want him to be mayor- you know that majority of Pittsburgh that you think were foolish enough to voted for him in 2007 and 2009. Against supposedly steep competition (millionaire entrepreneurs, up and coming City Council progressives, sons of legends and Harvard lawyers). Y'know. People/voters/citizens. Or as you call em if they dare to support Ravensahl, cronies.

  30. MH

    you know that majority of Pittsburgh that you think were foolish enough to voted for him in 2007 and 2009.

    Because of the one party system, the Caliguiri rule, and the off-year election, the incumbent mayor never has to face the strongest challenger in a general election where those most likely to be opposed to incumbents (independents) can vote. It's an incredibly stacked deck.

  31. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 6:52 – Patrick Dowd was the “steepest” electoral competition Ravenstahl ever faced (2009 primary) and Dowd had the yips, I suspect as well as an unwillingness to retain and heed top-flight political expertise (take note). DeSantis, Doc Harris and Acklin: these were mere phantasms.

    What I'd like to learn more about is how Ravenstahl unseated Barbara Burns for CD1 in what, '05? '03? Was it 100% outrage at Mayor Tom Murphy's late political gaffes: stadium funding, endorsement seeking? Some kind of carry-over mistrust of Burns from her days on the School Board? Or what?

  32. Anonymous

    Don't confuse DOK Harris with DOC Fielder, Bram. Although if we could get Kevin to change his name to DOCK Acklin it would be more fun to say and maybe he could make his next run for office on acid. And then of course, there's always DEB Acklin, although my money's still on RIK Sebak for mayor of QED.


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