PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — On two hours sleep after an long flight back from the Holy Land in Israel, former Auditor General Jack Wagner showed up at a meeting of the Allegheny County Labor Council late Friday afternoon.
It’s an important stop for anyone serious about running for mayor of Pittsburgh.
And Wagner — a former City Council president — is serious that because of the incumbent mayor’s decision, he’s got a good chance to lead this city.
While Wagner was in the Holy Land in Israel, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl decided not to run for re-election.
“Big change. No one expected that. I didn’t certainly,” Wagner told KDKA political editor Jon Delano. “And it opened a door for the primary election.”
Wagner says Ravenstahl’s decision made him rethink how he could serve Pittsburgh.
“I changed gears very quickly and made the decision in Israel to basically run for the Democratic primary and the Democratic nomination for mayor.”
Wagner, a Beechview native, has strong ties in the city.
“I love Pittsburgh. I have a passion to improve it. We have a great city and I would like to build upon its greatness. And I truly believe our local government can do better working in cooperation with the private sector, the nonprofit sector, the foundation community, neighborhood groups, our labor community.”
A Vietnam War veteran with a purple heart, Wagner says Pittsburgh can do better with a leader positioned and experienced at all levels of government and who can work across party lines.
“We have certain members of the General Assembly in important positions and a governor from our area. I want to maximize that potential,” he said.
Wagner says city government would change under his leadership.
“We need to fix Pittsburgh financially and structurally,” he added. “Some of the problems we’ve seen in the last month can be fixed. There’s no doubt in my mind. But you can’t have instances where people are using credit cards that no one knows anything about it.”
Wagner sees himself as a consensus candidate — someone who works well with everybody.
He now joins two other announced candidates , Councilman Bill Peduto and city Controller Michael Lamb.
A number of others are circulating petitions but have not declared their candidacies.
Wagner concedes he may be behind Peduto and Lamb in fundraising and organization, but says he has passionate supporters who can help him win on May 21, primary election day.