Pittsburgh Mayoral Race Draws Potpourri Of Five Democrats
PITTSBURGH — THE race for mayor of Pittsburgh looks like one of those glossy group photos in a political ad. Every slice of the population is putting in an appearance. This year Pittsburgh has a senior citizens' candidate who also happens to be a woman; a well-heeled corporate lawyer; a black candidate; an old-style Democrat who happens to be young; and a Gary Hart-style ``new ideas'' candidate.
All of these contenders are vying to become the Democratic nominee in this city's most wide-open mayoral contest in 12 years. The winner of Tuesday's Democratic primary is considered a virtual shoo-in for November; there are no Republican candidates.
``The election ... summarizes urban politics in Pittsburgh,'' says Ben Hayllar, a local bank vice-president and former aide to the late mayor Richard Caliguiri. ``Each candidate represents a different constituency.''
A poll last week by KDKA-TV showed Mayor Sophie Masloff, a septuagenarian and grandmother, leading the pack with 27 percent support - a full 10 points ahead of her nearest contender. Mayor Masloff was city council president last year when she was sworn in as mayor, replacing the popular Mr. Caliguiri, who died suddenly.
For several weeks, Masloff's main contender appeared to be attorney and county controller Frank Lucchino, who raised more than $1 million in campaign funds - an unprecedented amount for a Pittsburgh mayoral contender and double the amount raised by Masloff. During the spring, Mr. Lucchino heightened his visibility with several television ads and had been running neck and neck with Masloff in earlier polls.
But the latest KDKA poll showed him in a tie for second place with Tom Murphy, a local state representative who has highlighted the need for the city to advance its high-technology industry. Byrd Brown, an attorney and longtime black leader in Pittsburgh, drew a respectable 12 percent, while the Democratic Party's endorsed candidate, city controller Tom Flaherty, mustered only 11 percent support - less than the portion of undecided voters.
There seem to be few burning issues in the campaign. Masloff emphasizes her leadership experience and the recent reduction of the city's wage tax. Lucchino is pushing economic development, while Mr. Brown talks about the need to help Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and Mr. Flaherty stresses the city's need to get a fair deal from state government.
But campaign rhetoric has strayed at times to peripheral issues, such as who did and did not support the city's plan in 1985 to keep its professional baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, from moving to another city. In the end, perceptions of the candidates' ability, rather than their stand on issues, may determine the winner, political observers say.
``In their own way, all of the five are credible candidates,'' says Mike Margolis, political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh. ``As far as the voters are concerned, I think that they will be voting on the characteristics of the candidates.''