It took Bill Peduto less than two hours to declare victory on Election Night: With the election a foregone conclusion, the mayor-elect gave his victory speech at around 9:40 p.m., to the cheers of an audience gathered at Homewood's Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum. By another reckoning, though, the announcement was nearly a decade in the making.
In that time, Peduto had lost one mayoral run and abandoned another, headed a council majority, and then lost it. This year's victory came only after he'd painstakingly built a political operation that helped elect allies in races across the city.
And that may have been the easy part.
Asked by a reporter what it meant to win the November election with 84 percent of the vote, Peduto answered, "I have my work cut out for me."
But he was, he said, glad for the journey: "I think back to 2005" — his first mayoral bid — "and I think I would have been a terrible mayor."
"We weren't with him back then," agreed Gabe Morgan, state director of the Service Employees International Union's local 32BJ, on Election Night. When Peduto joined council as the representative of the affluent East End, in 2002, he boasted of being the knowledge-worker's representative: An early initiative involved supporting after-hours clubs in the interest of creating a vibrant nightlife. More recently, though, Peduto touted a "prevailing-wage" bill for workers in tax-subsidized buildings, and backed Hill District residents seeking neighborhood benefits from the new Penguins arena. "We saw Bill, who represents the wealthiest in the city, fight the hardest for working people," Morgan said.
And Peduto, who was repudiated in black neighborhoods throughout the city in 2005, won many of them this year, thanks partly to allegiances with black leaders like state Rep. Ed Gainey. Few missed the symbolism of Peduto's decision to hold his celebration in one of the city's most neglected communities. As Morgan put it, "We define progressive as where you hold your victory party."
But future challenges were evident even that night. While some of Peduto's rivals — including City Council President Darlene Harris, and councilors Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess — attended his party, no honeymoon lasts forever. Burgess, who represents Homewood, wryly said, "I'm glad my advocacy has brought so much attention to Homewood. I'm looking forward to disproportionate resources being steered into this community."
Meanwhile, as Barack Obama can attest, the progressive voters who make up Peduto's base can become disenchanted quickly. Peduto had been brushed back in October, when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that he and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were pondering a shift that would move Port Authority bus routes to the periphery of Downtown. The idea had been proposed before, but never fails to generate a populist backlash — this time, it took fire even from transit-backers whom Peduto has championed. (For his part, Peduto says an overhaul is a long way off — and if it doesn't make transit more convenient for riders, he'd stick with the status quo.)