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Peduto, Coghill Start Reelection Campaigns With Big Cash Leads

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA
Anthony Coghill boasts a warchest of $100,000 — a notable sum for a city councilor seeking reelection";

Incumbents in two contested city elections, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and District 4 City Councilor Anthony Coghill, start the 2021 political cycle with large financial cushions.

According to annual reports filed earlier this week, Peduto ended 2020 with $184,887.78 in his campaign account. Peduto’s fundraising was modest last year, though he benefited from support by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other allies. He spent over $119,000 on payments to his own political consultants and on contributions to other candidates for federal office. His balance coming out of the 2020 election was far less than he had at the same point four years ago, when he had over $836,000 to tap. But Peduto is a proven fundraiser, and he begins the year with a leg up on his rivals.

Retired police officer Tony Moreno, who first announced his bid to challenge Peduto in 2019, finished last year with just over $26,000 in his account, bolstered by support from donors that include the local police union, a campaign tied to Peduto’s one-time City Council nemesis Darlene Harris, and $7,500 from a local dentist. (That last gift would appear to exceed the city’s limits on individual contributions, which are based on federal limits that constrain individuals from giving more than $2,900 to a candidate in any election cycle.)

State Rep. Ed Gainey, who formally announced his long-awaited bid in January, also filed a 2020 financial report for his fledgling mayoral bid, though it only covers activity in the last week of the year. Gainey raised just $2,600 in two contributions: a $100 donation from a campaign staffer, and another $2,500 from African Americans for Good Government, a committee Gainey established to help organize get-out-the-vote efforts and other activity on behalf of Democrats.

(Ironically, the group first surfaced in 2013, when Gainey and Peduto were allies; the PAC helped mobilize support for Peduto’s successful mayoral run, and Peduto described it as means by which Gainey could “become a leader in the city and the region.”)

But now that he has announced his bid, Gainey figures to make up much of the distance separating him from Peduto. The Gainey campaign said that in the two weeks since he launched his effort, he had received over $75,000 from nearly 450 donors, as well as developing “an energized base of grassroots support with over 300 volunteers.”

Gainey has a separate candidate committee that has financed his previous state House bids with $4,243.89 in it, but his campaign said his House campaign had not donated to his mayoral bid. The Good Government PAC had $20,694 as of late November, but the campaign finance ordinance requires candidates for city office to create a new committee when running for the municipal seat. And the city’s contribution limits also apply to any other committee a candidate might have, meaning Gainey could only transfer up to $5,000 from his state campaign to the local race.

In what is shaping up as the city’s only other notably contested race, first-term City Councilor Anthony Coghill sits on a whopping $100,498.53. Almost all of those contributions were raised in 2019, and $52,000 of the money was lent by Coghill, who owns a roofing business, to his own campaign. Still, even a $48,000 fundraising total would be huge by City Council standards. The other three councilors up for reelection this year – Theresa Kail-Smith, Daniel Lavelle, and Erika Strassburger, had less than $19,000 between them at the end of the year.

Coghill is the only council incumbent who is facing a known rival: A former City Council aide, Bethani Cameron, announced her challenge in December. While she missed a deadline to file a 2020 campaign-finance report with the county, she shared a report with WESA — one she intends to file with the county shortly — that says she raised just under $4,500 in the latter part of the year.  

The annual reports will be the last disclosure of campaign finances that voters will see until mid-March. The city’s Ethics Hearing Board, which oversees the city’s campaign-finance rules, has set filing deadlines for candidates to disclose their financial activities by mid-March, mid-April, and early May. The spring primary will be held May 18.

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.