In PGH: With turnout sparse, Peduto looks to fend off primary challengers

By: - May 18, 2021 7:47 pm

Despite temperatures in the high 70s and mostly sunny skies, turnout around Allegheny County during Tuesday’s primary election was sparse. Poll workers at sites in the city and the surrounding suburbs reported turnout in the double-digits, with some expecting more people to vote after work. 

Perhaps the most-watched race in the area was for Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayoral primary, which typically determines who will win the general election in November.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto is running for his third (and what he’s said will be his final) term, and has three Democratic challengers: state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny, retired police officer Tony Moreno, and community organizer Mike Thompson.

Peduto voted at midday at his precinct in the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood, telling reporters that Pittsburgh was in a “much better place” than it was when he first took the top office in 2013. 

He added that the race was a referendum on “what is a progressive, versus what is a socialist.” 

Gainey cast his vote in Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood, telling reporters afterward he was happy with the positive campaign he had run, in which Peduto raised nearly three times as much money.

“You can’t build a city by throwing dirt. Regardless of what was thrown at me, we walked with dignity and integrity,” Gainey said. 

In a video posted to his campaign Twitter account late Tuesday, Gainey urged supporters to get out the vote: “The time is now for us to make history,” he said; if he wins the primary and the general election in November, Gainey would be the city’s first Black mayor.

Kathleen Petrillo, 51, of Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood said she voted for Peduto. “He hasn’t been a bad mayor, I don’t always think he’s been my mayor, for the South Side,” she said, adding that she didn’t really like Gainey. 

Petrillo added that there were two ballot questions as important to her as the mayor’s race: She voted “yes” to the question of whether the City of Pittsburgh’s home rule charter should be amended to ban Pittsburgh Police from using no-knock warrants. Known as Breonna’s Law, the question was prompted by the shooting death of Breonna Taylor of Louisville, Ky., who was shot and killed by police officers who entered her home last year with such a warrant. 

Petrillo said she also voted in favor of the Allegheny County measure to curtail the use of solitary confinement for inmates at the Allegheny County Jail.

Tory Kuykendall, 27, said voting for Breonna’s law was important to her as well. She voted for Gainey, she said, because she doesn’t think Peduto has done enough for people of color in the city in his first two terms. 

“I didn’t like how he handled the Black Lives Matter protests last summer,” Kuykendall said. “And I don’t think new bike lanes are enough for Pittsburgh; a lot of people have been displaced in the city and we’re losing our culture. We need to work on that, not just keep the core constituents happy.” 

Allegheny County reported very few issues at polls on Tuesday. According to a running list of updates, as of 4:50 p.m., more than 85,000 mail-in ballots had been counted at the elections warehouse in the city’s North Side neighborhood.

Results from the mail-in ballots are expected shortly after 8 p.m., with the first results from in-person voting expected around 8:45 p.m.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly