On the surface, this election was an age-old political story of a progressive challenger building grassroots support and toppling an incumbent who had been in city government for more than two decades.
But Peduto was once a leading progressive on City Council in the 2000s and replaced a two-term mayor when he took office in 2013.
Peduto claims that he didn’t change much, but the electorate did.
The 22,029 votes Peduto got on Tuesday isn’t much lower than the 23,650 with which he handily won the lower-turnout 2013 primary. He attributed his loss, in large measure, to a change in the political climate that has made it harder for centrists to win, and to govern.
Peduto, reflecting Monday, said: “The rebel becomes the establishment, and every revolution has a counter revolution.”
His feeling may have been summed up by what he told Gainey when he called him around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to concede the election.
Gainey said of that call: “He said at one time he had the support of the youth, and he told me not to lose that. And I thought that was profound.”
Self-described Democratic Socialists state Reps. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, and Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, backed Gainey.
Peduto made a comment that raised a few eyebrows on Election Day, seemingly implying that Gainey stood for the socialist movement, saying “this election is a referendum on what is a progressive versus what is a socialist.” On Monday, he echoed that thought:
“I’m a Democratic capitalist, and I say so proudly,” the mayor said. “My politics have not changed, yet many of those who support me have, and they look at it as: ‘Why aren’t you, now, part of the socialist movement?’ And I never was.”
A campaign spokesperson said Monday that Gainey himself is not a socialist, “though self-described socialists were welcome and valued partners in his campaign coalition, which was ideologically diverse but anchored by a shared commitment to justice and equity.”
Peduto worried that increasingly polarized and strident politics was affecting every level of government.
“The very basis of democracy is based on compromise. And to govern in an executive position, be it president, governor or mayor, you have to be able to compromise.”
Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @chwolfson.
Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @richelord.