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Who Is Ed Gainey, Pittsburgh's 1st Black Mayor?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - He's now mayor-elect of Pittsburgh and will take the oath of office on Monday, January 3. But who is Pennsylvania Rep. Ed Gainey, a 51-year old from Lincoln-Lemington and the first Black elected mayor of a city that is still overwhelmingly white?

Gainey grew up in East Liberty and attended Peabody High School before attending Morgan State University where he got his degree in business management.

He served in various government agencies before winning a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2012, and then he surprised everyone by defeating incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto in the May 2021 Democratic Primary.

With 25,784 votes for Gainey, he narrowly beat Peduto with 22,029 votes before going on to crush his Democrat-turned-Republican opponent Tony Moreno with 70 percent of the vote on November 2 with 48,430 votes to 19,552, unofficially.

Gainey credits a broad-based coalition that gave him the victory over Peduto.

"We brought together a lot of different coalitions. You heard me talk about when I first ran. We wanted to unite Pittsburgh. We want to bring this city together so we intentionally reached out to everybody," Gainey told KDKA political editor Jon Delano shortly after winning the Democratic nomination.

"And we saw that coming together. Even on election night, it was amazing just seeing the diversity of people that were at the election night party."

Those same comments were made following the November victory.

Gainey credits a number of organizations, including some labor unions like the SEIU and liberal grassroots groups like Unite and One Pittsburgh. And he singled out younger voters whom he says came out to vote in larger numbers than usual.

He said the message is one of change for the city of Pittsburgh.

"Look at the unity in the different groups, different ideologies, coming together in the name of justice, in the name of wanting to see a better Pittsburgh. That shows you that change is here," Gainey said.

In an earlier interview with KDKA's Jon Delano, Gainey outlined some of the changes to expect, including in police-community relations.

Delano: "How is the police force going to change under Mayor Ed Gainey?"

Gainey: "There's going to be a couple of changes. One, we will not tolerate any officers that make racist comments. We're not going to do it. You can't grow a city on racism.

"Two, we will definitely be having police officers walk the beat. There's no question about that.

"Thirdly, we're not going to over-police communities. We have seen the trauma that has been brought to Black and brown communities. We will change that. And we believe that social workers need to go out on calls, and we're serious about that and will develop that."

Gainey said the key to reducing the crime rate in these communities is a more respectful police force.

"We have to rebuild the trust that has eroded between police and community. We have to. If not, we can't get better. So at the end of the day, that's what I'm focused on. It's how we build better relationships, and I'm willing to do that," Gainey said.

Some of the other changes Gainey is promising could impact UPMC and other large nonprofits.

Delano: "Will you be suing UPMC and other nonprofits to pay their fair share?"

Gainey: "We want them to pay their fair share. We will take the action that is necessary. If that means going to court, then we have to go to court."

Throughout his campaign, Gainey said that UPMC and others cannot avoid paying taxes simply by calling themselves nonprofits. And given his agenda, he says the city will need the money.

"We want the tax revenue," Gainey said. "The city needs the tax revenue. There's no question about that. There are disparities in this city when it comes to the Black and white community that need to be addressed."

Gainey and many who supported him accuse Mayor Peduto of being pro-development and allowing the displacement of low-income residents.

Delano: "Do developers, those who want to construct new office buildings or housing in the city of Pittsburgh, do they have anything to worry about from a Gainey administration?"

Gainey: "I've said it before and I'll say it again, we're going to make this city affordable. We're going to make sure we're investing in affordable housing. We want to pass inclusionary zoning."

Inclusionary zoning means requiring all developers to set aside some housing for low-income residents. Gainey says that's key to growing the city of Pittsburgh.

Another big difference from Peduto, says Gainey: he won't travel the nation or the world.

"Eighty percent of my time is going to be in the city of Pittsburgh. Now, if there some conferences I have to go to or if we're recruiting business here, of course, I want to be an ambassador for that," Gainey said.

"But I have to make sure that Pittsburgh is moving properly and that requires me to be present."

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