Pittsburgh likely chooses its first Black mayor Ed Gainey

"We want a city that is an example of what modern America looks like today," Gainey told NBC News

Pittsburgh is on the way to officially electing its first Black mayor as Ed Gainey, a five-term Pennsylvania state representative, proved victorious in the Democratic primary contest on Tuesday. The deciding vote will come in the fall.

NBC News reported that an incumbent was toppled for the first time since 1933 when Gainey, a Democratic progressive, won on his platform of improving police and community relations, racial equity, expanding affordable housing, and reversing the departure of Black residents.

“The message that we’re sending is that we want a city for all,” Gainey told NBC News. “We want a city that is an example of what modern America looks like today.”

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Gainey beat Mayor Bill Peduto, an outspoken progressive Democrat who was elected eight years ago, with 46 percent of the vote. The city’s Black population represents only a quarter of the total population.

T.J. Rooney, former chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party called Gainey’s win “impressive,” according to NBC News.

“It speaks well for the organizing strength of the progressive movement in parts of [southwestern Pennsylvania],” Rooney said.

According to The New York Times, nearly 7,000 Black residents left the city between 2014 to 2018, which led to discussions about the negative effects of gentrification. A city-commissioned report found that Black residents in Pittsburgh, particularly Black women, had a lower quality of life compared to Black people in other U.S. cities. A report in 2019 said the majority of arrests were of Black people.

“It appears to be an imbalance in the (police) actions in contrast to the overall demographics of the city,” said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizens Police Review Board, at the time.

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During his campaign, Gainey said Peduto didn’t make the city more livable for residents and noted the dwindling Black population.

“We don’t just need a brick-and-mortar renaissance, we need a people renaissance, where people actually feel that they have access to opportunity in the city and want to be here,” Gainey said. “That’s what beings unity. That’s what brings togetherness, the ability to believe that it’s an equitable system.”

“And that’s what we want to work on. That’s the city we want to be known for. So that when elected officials talk about Pittsburgh, they understand and look at how people are flocking here because they believe there’s opportunity. When we create opportunity for all, then we’ll live up to the billing of being America’s most livable city,” Gainey added.

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