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Polls Open: Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto Faces Challengers From Conservative, Progressive Democrats

Emma Lee
Pittsburghers are going to the polls today to weigh in on who should lead the city, and if they approve of certain limits to the governor's ability to make disaster declarations.

On today’s program: Pittsburgh’s mayoral race comes to a head as Democratic incumbent Bill Peduto faces three contenders this primary election day; a look at two ballot measures that, if approved statewide, would limit the governor’s authority to make disaster declarations; and why families eligible for free or reduced school lunch are barely receiving state aid to make up for missed school meals.

Pittsburghers cast their ballots on who will lead the city
(0:00 — 5:37)

The polls are open till 8 p.m. this evening for the primary election, with the focus on municipal and county races.

The big race in Pittsburgh is for mayor, and incumbent Bill Peduto is vying for his third term, securing his place among a handful of previous mayors to secure three terms. Peduto won the primary in 2017 with 69% of the vote, and 2013 with about 52% of the vote.

“It’s tough to beat an incumbent mayor in the city of Pittsburgh, but by that third term, some of the enthusiasm starts to wear off,” says Chris Potter, WESA’s government and accountability editor. “There is a call both in Pittsburgh and across the country to diversify our leadership.”

The other big names on the Democratic ballot are State Rep. Ed Gainey, who is challenging Peduto from the left, while opponent Tony Moreno is challenging Peduto from the right. Also on the ballot is Oakland resident Michael Thompson. There are no Republicans running for mayor this primary.

Peduto has both outraised and outspent his opponents, and this election has seen a rise in outside spending groups.

“For every dollar Ed Gainey spent in April, Bill Peduto spent about $3.47,” says Potter.

One possible outcome, Potter says, is Peduto winning, despite being the second choice in many communities.

Statewide ballot questions are asking voters if they want to limit the governor’s disaster declaration power
(5:39 — 10:53)

In addition to local issues and positions, voters are also being asked to weigh in on four statewide ballot questions. Two would affect the authority of the governor and the legislature, and were brought forward as a response to how Governor Tom Wolf has used disaster declarations to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Over the course of the pandemic, Republicans charged the administration with being over-broad in exercising its authority and was not being sufficiently transparent in its decision-making process,” explains Pennsylvania Capital-Star editor-in-chief John Micek.

One measure would limit a governor’s disaster proclamations to three weeks at a time, while another would make it easier for state lawmakers to vote them down.

“Historically speaking, these constitutional amendment questions, when they’re put on the ballot tend to be passed, just because it’s such an opaque process,” says Micek.

He says COVID-19 was the precipitating event, but the measures are indicative of a longer power struggle between the Democratic governor and general assembly, although if passed, these rules would impact future governors, regardless of party affiliation.

Families are finally accessing Pandemic EBT promised last fall
(10:56 — 18:00)

Pennsylvania’s human services agency has started to send more than $1 billion in federal aid to families. It’s meant to make up for the missed free and reduced-cost school meals children didn’t get while they’ve been learning from home. That means families will be getting money now for meals their kids would have eaten in September.

90.5 WESA’s Kate Giammarise and Sarah Schneider report on why it has taken so long for the money to get to families, and the hardship the delay has caused.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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