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As Labor Day Kicks Off Election Season, Race For Mayor Of Pittsburgh Could Be More Competitive Than Usual

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Labor Day is traditionally the start of the campaign season, with just eight weeks before the Nov. 2 general election.

During the so-called off years like 2021, voters elect judges, county officials, school directors, and thousands of municipal officials.

The biggest local race is for mayor of Pittsburgh, with Democrat Ed Gainey, the odds-on favorite, versus Democrat-turned-Republican Tony Moreno.

"This is the most robust Republican effort I have ever seen in the city, and it should make it interesting," political analyst Khari Mosley told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.

"In the Tony Moreno campaign, I do see a level of effort I have not seen in the past," Mosley added.

The last Republican elected mayor of Pittsburgh was Charles Kline in 1929, so can Tony Moreno overcome a five-to-one Democratic registration edge to beat Ed Gainey?

"The dynamics of this race are truly in the favor of Ed Gainey. It is Ed Gainey's race to lose," Mosley said.

Mosley thinks Moreno is making a stronger case than most, but that Gainey is still poised to be the first African American mayor of Pittsburgh, a city that is overwhelmingly white.

So is race no longer an issue?

"There will be racial justice issues, police accountability, law enforcement issues, public safety that will be a part of it. But my hope is that it doesn't become the central issue of the race, where it's just Black versus white," Mosley said.

Reducing crime in city neighborhoods and downtown is a big issue both candidates are addressing. But other issues include housing, transportation, public schools, business districts, street repairs, and even snow removal.

Political analyst Ben Forstate said priorities differ depending on the community.

"We are a city of neighborhoods, and your experience with city politics changes from neighborhood to neighborhood. And I think it is something that really shows up in our elections. It showed up in the primary in the spring, and I think it will show up again in the fall," Forstate said.

Who turns out to vote is also key. Traditionally, the East End of the city has outvoted the neighborhoods south and north of the rivers.

Forstate says he is watching certain neighborhoods to see if Moreno can attract Democratic voters.

"Just how high his support is in areas to the south and north of the East End like the far south – Carrick, Overbrook, and the far Northside – Summerhill – those are neighborhoods to watch."

While the city picks a new mayor, statewide voters will elect a new justice to the seven-member state Supreme Court, a court that played a key role in the 2020 presidential election.

The candidates are Republican Judge Kevin Brobson from Lycoming County and Democratic Judge Maria McLaughlin from Philadelphia.

"We are a very closely divided state. We are a swing state, and these races are rarely blowouts," Forstate said.

With both candidates still largely unknown, it usually comes down to which party gets more of their voters out to vote.

"In these off-year elections, we tend to see that Republicans do better because generally, the Republican electorate is more consistent," Mosley said.

One issue that could play a role this year is abortion in light of the U.S. Supreme Court giving a temporary green light to Texas outlawing almost all abortions.

Brobson has been endorsed by pro-life groups while pro-choice groups have backed McLaughlin.

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