Pittsburgh elected its first Black mayor on Tuesday, handing over the reins of a rapidly changing city to a state lawmaker who shared a vision of unity, progressive change and who pledged to make it safer, more affordable and more diverse.

Ed Gainey, a state representative who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, beat retired Pittsburgh police officer Tony Moreno in the municipal election, giving a city famously deemed America’s most livable a leader who frequently asks: “For whom?”

Taking the podium as results gave him a commanding victory, Mr. Gainey said it’s important to show Pittsburgh’s children that it’s safe here, that it’s diverse here and that “we aren’t separated by divided lines, but we as one community — as one city — are here for them.”

“Let me tell you why this is beautiful: because you proved that we can have a city for all,” Mr. Gainey said. “You proved that everybody can change. We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh and talked about how segregated it is, but today, you changed that.”

As of shortly after midnight, Mr. Gainey led by more than 28,000 votes and was winning 71% to 29% over Mr. Moreno. About 98% of in-person precincts had been counted, as well as a “vast majority” of the near 100,000 voters who cast mail-in ballots, according to Allegheny County officials. The Associated Press called the race for the Democrat a few minutes before 10 p.m.

Mr. Gainey, 51, will succeed Bill Peduto, the two-term mayor whom he beat in May’s primary. It was a significant upset bolstered by grassroots energy and Mr. Gainey’s persistent message that Mr. Peduto hadn’t done enough to balance the city’s growth with inclusivity.

“Congratulations to Mayor-Elect Ed Gainey. I look forward to working with you and your team on a progressive transition for the betterment of all of Pittsburgh,” Mr. Peduto wrote on Twitter. “Here’s to the next chapter. Do great things!”

The history-making moment on Tuesday — anticipated for months because of the city’s dark blue Democratic makeup — came to fruition as Mr. Gainey’s supporters gathered at the Benedum, hoping to celebrate a man they said will bring the city together to usher in a new era.

It was clear that Mr. Gainey would win when the results from the vast majority of mail-in ballots were uploaded shortly after the time polls closed — with the Democrat taking a 18,000-vote lead, a gap that would be nearly insurmountable to overcome for Mr. Moreno through in-person voting alone.

The party-like atmosphere at Mr. Gainey’s gathering started quickly in the Benedum’s lobby and mezzanine under its bright chandeliers. The guest list included dedicated supporters and numerous members of the region’s Democratic establishment, from city council members to state legislators, many of whom bucked Mr. Gainey’s candidacy to back the incumbent in May.

This time, they were there to see the much-anticipated show: a win for Mr. Gainey, who will become the stage director of a vast city government apparatus in a strong-mayor city come January.

Mr. Gainey had staked his candidacy on a new vision for Pittsburgh, one where every resident is valued in the new economy, incentivized to stay and participate in its growth and treated equally by law enforcement. He preached safety, diversity and affordability in the final weeks of his campaign, arguing that — first things first — the city needs a comprehensive public health plan to combat the root causes of violence.

In his victory speech, Mr. Gainey stressed that he can’t do it alone — and that to create a city where everyone feels welcome, it’ll take buy-in from the community.

“If one man tells you that they can change the city, then they are not telling you the truth,” Mr. Gainey said.

He was up against a Democrat-turned-Republican in Mr. Moreno, who accepted a GOP write-in nomination after losing in the Democratic primary. Mr. Moreno was hoping to become the first Republican mayor since the 1930s. He argued that Mr. Gainey had the time to fix problems during his tenure in Harrisburg and as a board member with the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority but ultimately ignored them.

Mr. Moreno, speaking to supporters in Station Square, said the campaign showed that the city wants change and that it’s clear that what he built in his campaign — the “togetherness” it represented — will change politics in the city.

“Now, let’s get together and go forward in the future, Pittsburgh,” Mr. Moreno said. “Let’s cure these party problems. Let’s clear out the corruption. Let’s make sure that we’re all together. Let’s make sure that we don’t fight like this anymore.”

Mr. Gainey brings a background in city and state politics to the mayor’s office. He was a community development specialist in Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s administration, then became the 24th District’s state legislator in 2012.

Handing out campaign merchandise as guests entered was state Rep. Jake Wheatley, one of Mr. Gainey’s earliest endorsers and his colleague in Harrisburg. Mr. Wheatley applauded Mr. Gainey’s message of change, of inclusion and of the idea of “this city actually living up to its greatness.”

“What’s extra special — the cherry on top — is that he’s an African American born and raised here,” Mr. Wheatley said. “He’s going to inspire kids — not just kids, but the parents of the kids — that something great can happen even from someone who is born here.”

Austin Davis, a state representative who chairs the county’s legislative delegation, said Mr. Gainey laid out a “clear vision” for the city and called on Pittsburghers to unite behind him. Mr. Gainey’s win is a “pivotal moment” for a city where Black Pittsburghers have struggled to gain political power, Mr. Davis said.

“It’s a huge statement, and we are excited that somebody who looks like us is going to have the opportunity to lead the city and hopefully make it a city that’s truly livable for everybody,” Mr. Davis said.

Livability was a main theme of the near yearlong campaign, and in January, when Mr. Gainey launched his bid, he asked for a “better tomorrow” and said he thought city government could “uplift communities” if it chose. He talked of addressing the roots of crime, from poverty and the lack of opportunities to education and drug and alcohol use.

And to mark the first mayoral election cycle since a task force of community leaders said police-community relations in Pittsburgh were “in need of urgent repair,” Mr. Gainey routinely scrutinized “overpolicing” in neighborhoods of color and called for the city to deploy an equal number of officers neighborhood by neighborhood. He urged officers to interact with residents in non-incident environments and called for a greater investment in community policing.

“I know that when we come together — when we come together — that we can build the safest city in America,” Mr. Gainey told supporters Tuesday.

Julian Routh: [email protected]

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