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Why Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Ended His Reelection Bid

Just 11 days after launching his reelection bid, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced he is no longer seeking a second full term. In front of a room packed with reporters, Ravenstahl said he began his political journey ten years ago as an ambitious and determined 23-year-old.

“The city I ran for office to represent in 2003 no longer exists,” he said, “it’s so much different today, it’s evolved into a bigger and better place, it’s become a place that’s recognized as America’s most livable, it’s become better.”

The mayor repeated what he said last week – that he was not a target of the FBI investigation of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau and unauthorized financial accounts. 

“And over the course of time, I know without a doubt that I did nothing wrong, and that was not why this decision was made,” he said, “I know folks won’t believe that, maybe you guys [the media] don’t even believe that, but over time the truth will prevail.”

The reason he did give for not seeking reelection was the grueling toll the office took on his personal life. Plus, he said he disliked the “nastiness and politics” of the job.

“I don’t think it was a burn out or a lack of desire or lack of interest, it was just simply the toll that it’s taken on me personally and my family personally, it’s difficult to describe unless you live it.”

Ravenstahl said there was no silver bullet or specific reason for not seeking reelection, but added it’s a feeling he’s had for a long time, and fighting for a long time. He said it was a decision that should have been made several months ago, and that his “timing isn’t so good.”

In 2006, as City Council President, Ravenstahl became mayor upon the death of Mayor Bob O’Connor.  At age 26 Ravenstahl became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. Over the years he has received much criticism over his age and his social life, which includes casino and South Side bar visits. Ravenstahl said he believes his age was a challenge during his tenure.

“I would disagree with the lack of maturity. I’m not going to apologize for my age, I’m not going to make excuses, but I think it clearly was an issue, good, bad or indifferent. It’s why I was on the David Letterman show, it’s the reality of the situation. I think my age did play a role in things, I have no anger toward anyone because of it. I’m proud of my record.”

Ravenstahl said he was not prepared for the public nature of the job, and is still uncomfortable with it in some respects.

Ravenstahl outlined successes of his mayoral tenure. He said he’s proud the city is no longer bankrupt, more people are employed, and the population is increasing for the first time in his lifetime. He said the achievement he’s most proud of is the Pittsburgh Promise. He also thanked his family, friends, and supporters.

“Thank to the people of Pittsburgh, I can proudly say that this North Side boy has lived his dream.”

Ravenstahl will finish out the remaining 10 months of his term, though he didn’t lay out any exact plans for that time.

“It’s premature to get specific about it, but the ability now to make decisions without having to worry about reelection or alienating a constituency is a good feeling and it may allow us to do some things that are, perhaps, bolder than what somebody running for reelection might consider.”

He did not endorse either of the men running against him, and instead said he has another preferred candidate who has not announced a run for Mayor. When asked if it was his brother, he and his mother shouted a very fast, “No!” Ravenstahl also said if his preferred candidate were to run and win, he would not consider a job in that administration.

Ravenstahl has a degree in business administration from Washington and Jefferson College, but said that at this point he’s not clear exactly what he’ll be doing and has nothing lined up career-wise, but he said he’ll stay in Pittsburgh.

“My next job, my first job will be t-ball coach,” he said, “I will be excited this April to coach my son’s t-ball team. I won’t be paid for that position, but that’s my first gig.”

Overall Ravenstahl said he’s happy and at peace with his decision to not seek reelection, and said he’s excited about his future.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.