PITTSBURGH — State Rep. Ed Gainey is on his way to becoming Pittsburgh’s first black mayor.
In a historic upset, Gainey defeated Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in Tuesday’s primary.
Gainey is the first challenger to unseat an incumbent Pittsburgh mayor since 1933.
“It’s the bridges we built, the coalitions we built. We believed in one another, never quitting,” said Gainey a short time after Peduto conceded the Democratic nomination.
According to Gainey supporter and Allegheny County council member Bethany Hallam, the race came down to two issues: affordable housing and police reform. She cited the Black Lives Matter protests last year.
“The tide is turning. There’s a new sheriff in town. I unfortunately had to watch my friends get tear gassed and have rubber bullets shot at them at the hands of Bill Peduto’s police class,” said Hallam.
Gainey has said he doesn’t want to defund police but rather improve community relations.
In a statement, Bob Swartzwelder, president of the city’s police union told Channel 11, “It’s too premature to comment. Mayor Peduto remains the mayor and the FOP will work with the new mayor when he takes office.”
Gainey also faces the challenge of working with a city council with only one member who backed his campaign.
The movement, tied to a progressive group called Unite, that propelled Gainey to victory has defeated political heavyweights like Dom and Paul Costa, John DeFazio and now Peduto who has served as the mayor of Pittsburgh since 2014.
In an emotional concession speech, Peduto tied his past to Gainey’s win.
“We put together a coalition that helped to change the city of Pittsburgh forever. In that work laid the groundwork for a new generation of progressive leaders,” Peduto said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Peduto supporter, acknowledged the movement.
“It’s a changing political climate here in the city of Pittsburgh. It’s becoming younger and more progressive,” he said.
Gainey, 51, is serving his fifth term representing the 24th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
“I’m honored, humbled, and proud that the people of Pittsburgh have placed their faith in me by making me their Democratic Nominee for the office of Mayor. This election made history, and I’m ready to go to work building a Pittsburgh where all can belong, contribute, and succeed,” Gainey said in a statement.
While there was no Republican candidate on the primary ballot, a third party or write-in candidate could emerge to challenge Gainey in the November general election.
Pittsburgh hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1930s.
If you’d like to hear more from Gainey and Peduto’s primary night speeches, watch below.