Please enjoy the following special guest post.
How the Peduto Campaign Made Pittsburgh Political History
By Matt Merriman-Preston
May 17, 2005—standing on the upstairs deck at Doc’s on Walnut Street—we knew we were part of something special. It was the most upbeat Election Night party for a candidate that didn’t win that I have ever been to—before or since. Bill Peduto, a City Councilman finishing only his first term, had come in a distant second in Pittsburgh’s mayoral primary election.
Eight-and-a-half years later, we are all witness to something that is truly ground-breaking and remarkable. November 5, 2013, Bill Peduto took 84% of the vote citywide, winning all 32 wards. The range was a minimum of 70% to as much as 97%. There were even 14 voting districts where Bill won 100% of the vote. In January, he will be sworn in as the next mayor of Pittsburgh.
As anyone who has ever driven in Pittsburgh knows, it’s never a straight line from there to here. There were friends and allies who came and went. There were elections won and elections lost. I went from serving the campaign as a field organizer (knocking on thousands of doors and organizing coalitions of voters) in 2005 to being Bill’s campaign manager in 2007. The longest and most difficult day of my career was sitting with Bill as he called supporters one-by-one—not to ask for their time or their resources, but to let them know that he was making the difficult decision to remove his name from the ballot.
But even then, we knew that this was just going to be a bump in the road. We continued to organize. Bill continued to serve as a city councilman with a vision for a New Pittsburgh.
In 2013, Bill asked me to continue my role in his campaign as a General Consultant with a special focus on direct mail and voter targeting. I never had any doubt that this was the year that Bill would come out ahead. We had built the organization, we had the team, and Bill had the vision that Pittsburgh needed to hear.
Like everything that he does, the victory in November came in a dramatic fashion. In addition to earning the largest share of the votes in modern campaign history, we did this at the time when the Democratic voter registration is at its lowest point. This was only the second time in modern history that the winner of a contested mayoral election in Pittsburgh has outperformed the Democratic voter registration in the City, and we did it by a stunning margin of 12%.
It honestly felt great on Election Night knowing that we had achieved this electoral win that we had been working on for years. But that’s not the best part of my job. Perhaps my favorite part is knowing that the best is to come. So many of us have been working so hard to help Bill Peduto get into office as the mayor of Pittsburgh, and now we can see what a progressive, neighborhood-focused mayor can do for our City.
“Matt Merriman-Preston is the architect of Pittsburgh’s Progressive Movement. He successfully ran the campaigns of Dan Gilman, Natalia Rudiak, Bruce Kraus, Erin Molchany, Ed Gainey, Deb Gross and others. Since 2005, when he took a leave of absence from his Ph.D program to work on my campaign, I have relied on Matt’s guidance to build a new coalition and a New Pittsburgh. Matt went on to earn his Ph.D in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, and ever since, he has been engineering upset victories for the people of Pittsburgh. He is my trusted advisor, the leader of a New Pittsburgh and my friend.”
– Bill Peduto