By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The first attack ad in the mayor’s race was launched Wednesday by Bill Peduto against Jack Wagner.

Peduto ad: “Wagner wanted to cut health care for 100,000 people, even for children.”

Wagner watched the ad with KDKA political editor Jon Delano in the KDKA Newsroom.

“The public is smart enough to understand that the candidate that is desperate and initiates a negative campaign is behind in the polls,” said Wagner, after viewing the ad.

But what about the specifics, accusing Wagner of siding with Republicans on budget cuts?

“Cut health care for 100,000 people?” Delano asked Wagner.

“Simply not true,” he said.

Wagner says he supported efforts to streamline government, but not these cuts.

The Peduto campaign stands behind its ad, noting, “The net result of Wagner siding with Republicans to reduce spending on so-called ‘welfare programs’ harmed children, seniors and veterans.”

There is another attack.

Peduto ad: “Jack Wagner voted for automatic pay increases that raised his salary by $17,000 and then voted to raise his pension 50 percent.”

Wagner did do both more than a decade ago, but he says a small cost-of-living hike was better than a large pay grab — and favors a pension roll-back.

“As auditor general, I sounded the alarm four or five years ago that there must be corrective measures [to the pension],” Wagner said.

So will the former Marine now go after Peduto?

“I’m a tough guy. I can take it,” says Wagner. “But if necessary, I will punch back.”

Candidates never call ads like this negative — they prefer to call them comparative ads — and as long as they stay focused on issues — and nothing personal — the voters take them in stride.

Besides Wagner and Peduto, two other Democrats are in the race: A. J. Richardson and Jake Wheatley.

The primary election is May 21, less than four weeks away.

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