PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's absence from public events in recent days is fueling speculation about his re-election bid as he stays behind closed doors.
Ravenstahl remained out of sight Thursday and the mayor's office isn't commenting, leaving others to try to explain his absences in the middle of his re-election campaign. He’s missed several planned public appearances connected to city business and campaign events.
Channel 11's Alan Jennings spoke with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party chair Thursday.
Jim Burn said he was with Ravenstahl at an event Saturday night and he "fully expects" the mayor to announce that he will not seek re-election.
"The mayor and I were together Saturday night at North Catholic for a fundraiser. We had some esoteric conversations about some situations on the ground. I think we all knew that the mayor was making some deliberations about his future,” Burn said.
Burn declined to speculate on reasons behind Ravenstahl's expected announcement, saying he didn't want to preempt the mayor. Burn said he and Ravenstahl have tried to speak Thursday but have missed each other's calls.
“The Democrats in the city of Pittsburgh will make a choice between the two current candidates and we'll go from there,” Burn said of the May 21 primary, in which City Councilman Bill Peduto and Controller Michael Lamb are running.
Kevin Quigley, a city public works employee and friend of the mayor, said the 33-year-old mayor will be holding a press conference in the next couple days to discuss "some issues."
Channel 11's Rick Earle has confirmed that Ravenstahl's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ravenstahl's campaign manager, Aletheia Henry, said he missed several events because his mother is ill. City Council President Darlene Harris said there were "some personal problems."
“My understanding is there were some personal problems, but that's all I know now,” Council President Darlene Harris of the North Side said as she left the Mayor's Office in the morning. She said she asked to speak with Ravenstahl or Chief of Staff Yarone Zober but was unable to. As City Council president, Harris would become mayor if Ravenstahl steps down.
Officials went in and out of the mayor's office in the City-County Building downtown Thursday, including City Solicitor Dan Regan, Zober, Councilwoman Theresa Smith, a mayoral ally, Harris, Bureau of Building Inspection Chief John Jennings and Joe King, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local No. 1.
“I am not the mayor, you should ask him,” Operations Director Duane Ashley said when Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle asked about Ravenstahl’s future. “There is nothing I can tell you.”
Reporters have been gathered outside the office since 10 a.m. Ravenstahl made his first appearance about 4 p.m., walking from one office to another.
Ravenstahl, of Summer Hill, who officially announced his re-election bid last Tuesday night before about 200 supporters at his new campaign headquarters in the Strip District, said he planned to continue policies that he began when he took office in 2006 after the death of Mayor Bob O'Connor.
Ravenstahl is running for re-election against Bill Peduto and City Controller Michael Lamb while dealing with a federal investigation of spending in the police bureau. He cited the investigation when he forced Chief Nate Harper to resign last week.
The investigation raised questions about the mayor's own spending. He said Harper gave the mayor's police bodyguards debit cards tied to accounts at the police credit union. Federal officials made copies of records from those accounts and city officials said they're trying to determine if public money went to those accounts.
Nobody has been charged in the investigation.
Ravenstahl said the guards used the cards for dining and hotels while traveling. He said the expenses were all legitimate.
Tonya Payne, the former chairwoman of the city's Democratic Committee and a key ally of the mayor as a councilwoman before she lost reelection in 2009, said party leaders hadn't been told whether Ravenstahl will make an announcement about his job status.
“We know as much as you do,” said Payne, 48, Uptown, who announced on Friday her candidacy to unseat R. Daniel Lavelle, the man who took the District 6 seat she once held.
Despite the speculation, Ravenstahl's campaign continues. Members of Shannopin Country Club in Ross on Wednesday night received an email inviting them to a March 5 fundraiser at the Rochester Inn for the mayor, whom the email says is a member.
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.