This article appears in Print, a media partner of NEXTpittsburgh that covers Pittsburgh’s East End.
Herbert Hoover was president the last time a Republican was elected mayor of Pittsburgh. With that in mind, the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 18 has become through the years, the de facto general election for mayor of the City of Pittsburgh.
There are four candidates for mayor this year on the Democratic primary ballot; incumbent Bill Peduto of Point Breeze is being challenged by three men — Ed Gainey of Lincoln-Lemington, Tony Moreno of Brighton Heights and Mike Thompson of South Oakland.
This being an odd-numbered year, there are local elections in every municipality. Depending on where you live, there are elections for members of council, township commissioner or supervisor, school directors, magisterial district judges, tax collectors, constables and judges of elections. If you count candidates for judicial races and school boards who have cross-filed for both the Democratic and Republican ballots separately, Allegheny County has a spreadsheet of 2,038 candidates in the May primary.
Before Pittsburgh voters can get to the marquee mayor’s race on the ballot, they will have to wade through the judicial races.
The Democratic primary statewide has one candidate running for supreme court justice, which has one opening on the seven-member court, but the Republicans have three candidates for that one position. Superior Court, which also has just one open seat, is just the opposite. In that race, there are three candidates on the Democratic ballot and just one on the Republican ballot. The Commonwealth Court has two open seats for which four Democrats are vying, but just two candidates will be on the Republican ballot.
The biggest slog of the ballot is for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. There are nine open seats on the court this year with 39 candidates running in the Democratic Primary and 28 on the Republican side. With cross-filing allowed in the race, 27 of those candidates appear on both the Democratic and Republican ballots.
In another Allegheny County race, only Democrats will see candidates for sheriff, and there are no contested primaries for Allegheny County Council.
Only two of Pittsburgh’s City Council races are contested. All of the candidates for council are running as Democrats.
In the primaries for Pittsburgh Public Schools, all five of the districts that have races have contested primaries on the Democratic ballot. Republicans will only see the incumbents’ names; none of their challengers cross-filed.
If you are not registered for a party, you can still vote because every ballot will also have three questions that ask if the state constitution should be amended.
The first two questions are direct responses by the legislature to Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the pandemic. The first question, if passed, would allow the state legislature to terminate or extend a declaration of an emergency by the governor. The second question would only allow a declaration of a disaster emergency to be in effect for 21 days without the approval of the legislature. The third question is a response to the appointment of a conservative majority to the Supreme Court and would codify civil rights for race or ethnicity in the state constitution so those rights would be protected in the state no matter which way a federal court rules.
The final statewide question would allow fire and ambulance companies, including those that are entirely volunteer, to take out loans to modernize their equipment.
There is one countywide ballot question for Allegheny County residents asking whether the county code should be amended to “set forth standards governing conditions of confinement at the Allegheny County Jail” but the ballot does not say what conditions it concerns. The measure is about solitary confinement and would prohibit solitary confinement in the Allegheny County Jail except when the jail is locked down, for medical or safety emergencies or for protective separation requests.
The city also has its own ballot question asking whether Pittsburgh Police should be barred from executing the so-called “no-knock warrants” in which they break down doors without knocking and announcing that they are police.
Before you vote
Residents had to have registered to vote by May 3 and have until the end of business on May 11 to request absentee or mail-in ballots. If you did request an absentee or mail-in ballot, that ballot has to reach the county’s department of elections by 8 p.m. on May 18 to be counted. If you mail it, you have to use a stamp or the USPS will not deliver it. Remember to place the ballot inside the secrecy envelope, or it will not be counted.
Voters who want to vote in person can find their polling place or check their registration status by looking it up online through the Pennsylvania Department of State. You can also file a complaint there or by calling 877-868-3772.
Check your county website for more information and sample ballots. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. You must be in line by 8 p.m.
Ann Belser publishes Print, Pittsburgh’s East End newspaper. She can be reached here.