Electing Pittsburgh's First Black Mayor

Electing Pittsburgh's First Black Mayor

Electing Pittsburgh's First Black Mayor

Ed Gainey

State Representative Ed Gainey began his run to deny incumbent Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto a third term as an underdog. An incumbent Pittsburgh mayor had never lost an election. Peduto had a huge cash advantage and the backing of Pittsburgh’s powerful business and developer community. Worst of all, the first poll showed Peduto with a 68% job approval rating.

Ethan conducted research that helped identify key strengths for Gainey that also created sharp contrasts with an incumbent with an uneven record. We developed an aggressive earned and paid media strategy that:

Established Gainey as a reformer who will hold the police department accountable to keep everyone safe. Gainey’s strong reform agenda contrasted nicely with Peduto’s inaction, which the research revealed to be a startling weakness for the 2-term mayor.

Showed that Gainey would take on developers and big corporations hurting Pittsburgh’s quality of life and cost of living. Gainey’s push to make big corporations and developers pay their fair share and treat their employees right also highlighted Peduto’s campaign contributions from these bad actors, another weakness for him.

Cast Gainey as a change agent. By hammering home these contrasts, we were able to show that though voters were generally happy with the direction the city was headed, Gainey was the candidate who could make sure everyone in the city could get ahead.

This strategy, along with record turnout thanks to overwhelming support among Pittsburgh’s youth and Black voters, helped turn a double-digit deficit in March into a 7-point win by mid-May despite a 3 to 1 spending advantage for the incumbent. Mayor Gainey became Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor.

Partners: Isaac Goldberg and Westley Bayas at Berlin Rosen.