Ed Gainey delivers his victory speech at the Benedum Center with his wife Michelle behind him. Photo by Ann Belser.

Ed Gainey will become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor after a landslide victory that brought out nearly 30 % of the electorate to vote in a local election.

Gainey, 51, a Democratic state representative from Lincoln-Lemington, defeated retired police officer Tony Moreno, 51, of Brighton Heights, with 70 percent of the vote.

The incoming mayor, in a voice that was still hoarse from the campaign, spoke to the crowd that had gathered Downtown in the lobby of the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts when it was clear that he had won the race despite not having received a concession call from his Republican challenger.

The Benedum Center marquee for Ed Gainey’s victory party. Photo by Ann Belser.
The Benedum Center marquee for Ed Gainey’s victory party. Photo by Ann Belser.

The son of teenage parents, Gainey grew up in the Pittsburgh Housing Authority’s East Mall Apartments, a high-rise apartment complex over Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Last night, the mayor-elect spoke of the difficulties his mother overcame to support her son, saying he wouldn’t be standing there if it had not been for her.

Gainey campaigned on the theme that while Pittsburgh has been named the nation’s most livable city, that’s not the case for everyone.

“Let me tell you why this was beautiful: because you proved that we could have a city for all,” he said to a crowd of more than 200 supporters who all had to show proof of vaccination for Covid-19 and wear masks to attend the event. “You proved that everybody can change. We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh: how siloed it is; how segregated it is. But today, you changed that. You made the city that we love believers. And I couldn’t do it without you. And that’s why I know that when we come together we can build the safest city in America,” Gainey said.

In a campaign that arose after the Black Lives Matter movement led to the defeat of incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto in the primary, Gainey spoke of the importance of the relationship between the police and the communities they serve.

“We can have police-community relations that don’t evoke a divide, but that unifies and multiplies. Where we all get along because we all understand that we need law enforcement, law enforcement needs community, and we want to celebrate each other. We are Pittsburgh. We can have a city that’s safe,” Gainey said.

Michelle Gainey, surrounded by family and friends, introduces her husband, Ed, as the next mayor of Pittsburgh at the Benedum Center. Photo by Ann Belser.

He also touched on the crisis of affordable housing in the city that is driving out families.

“We can have a city that’s affordable. We can have a city where we focus on affordability to move our families back into the city. And to build a city where everyone feels working-class families won’t be pushed out, forced out, but will get to stay in their neighborhood.”

Getting to the victory took an expensive campaign. Before the primary, the Gainey campaign raised nearly $400,000 and then more than $500,000 for the general election.

Gainey, who takes office in January, won the race with 48,430 votes to Moreno’s 19,552. Of the 388 precincts that reported — out of 402 in the city — Gainey won all but some precincts in Pittsburgh’s southern and western neighborhoods and a few on the city’s northern edge.

Ann Belser

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel...