IN AN EVENING FILLED WITH ANTICIPATION, Ed Gainey led wire to wire, and just before 10 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, at the Benedum Center, victory was declared. Ed Gainey was just elected the next mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, and the first African American to hold the position in the city’s history. (Top photo by Nick Childers/PublicSource; bottom photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
The Benedum Center in Downtown Pittsburgh is reserved for some of the best productions the country has to offer.
And on Tuesday night, Election Night, Nov. 2, 2021, it did not disappoint.
Only this time, the tune was different.
This time, an African American man who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, who is proud of his high school, Peabody, proud of his East End roots, proud to be a servant of the people…
On this night, this Black man made history.
Ed Gainey, the longtime state House member who had the confidence in himself to run for mayor of a city that’s never had a Black mayor in its history, was elected mayor in a landslide.
“We know how people have talked about Pittsburgh, have talked about how segregated it is, but today, you changed that,” the powerful speaking Gainey said to hundreds who congregated at the Mezzanine level of the Benedum Center, Downtown. “You made this city that we love believers and I couldn’t do it without you. And that’s why I know that when we come together, we can build the safest city in America. We can have a city where our kids don’t have to walk to school and see negativity, but see clean positivity, so when they enter the classroom, their minds can learn.”
While Gainey was the clear favorite to win the mayoral election, newcomer Tony Moreno was vying to take over the city’s big chair, too. Moreno lost the Democratic mayoral primary in May to Gainey, but decided to run in the General Election as a Republican.
That didn’t work too well.
Gainey had 70 percent of the vote as of 11 p.m., with most of the precincts reporting.
TANISHA LONG, MICHELLE GAINEY (WIFE OF ED GAINEY), AND MIRACLE JONES, AT THE BENEDUM CENTER, NOV. 2, 2021. (PHOTOS BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)
“Our goal is to ultimately leave our city in a better place for our children and our grandchildren, and the only way we can do that is if we get involved and stay involved,” Michelle Gainey, the wife of Ed Gainey, told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview at the Benedum Center. “It leaves an impression on my children that they can do what they want to do…it’s important for us to know that when you work hard, you put the time, the energy and the effort into it, and if you’re doing it for the right reason, in the right space, and you’re following what God’s plan is for you, you can do what you want to do.”
“This is a great day,” Ed Gainey told the Courier after his victory speech. “The one thing that I want to have, is a city where everybody feels they can have success and opportunity, where nobody feels left behind. We have to empower our working-class families, and that is something we’re going to do.”
Current Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, whom Gainey defeated in the May Primary, congratulated Gainey via Twitter: “I look forward to working with you and your team on a progressive transition for the betterment of all of Pittsburgh. Here’s to the next chapter. Do great things!”
Gainey’s message of having a Pittsburgh that’s a city “for all” seemed to resonate with the natives and the newcomers. Although Pittsburgh is now less than 23 percent African American, it’s Gainey whose upbeat, positive, let’s-win-at-life mentality brought out significant numbers of Black and White voters to fill the oval next to his name at the polls.
Affordable housing is a critical issue in Pittsburgh, along with the uptick in crime. Gainey, as a Pittsburgh native, seemed to garner the trust of the voters that he could help fix those issues best.
“It’s a shift in power,” Jasiri X, leader of 1 Hood Media, told the Courier exclusively at the event. “Look who backed Ed during the Democratic Primary. It was brand new organizations; 1 Hood, Alliance for Police Accountability, etc…for us, as Black-led political groups, we’re just tired of being treated like second-class citizens by the City of Pittsburgh. So we just decided that we’re not going to sit silently and continue to be made promises and nothing happen.”
Jasiri X pointed out that most of the Pittsburgh City Council members supported Peduto over Gainey in the beginning.
“But the grassroots folk, the community came together, and we were able to push this brother on through,” Jasiri X said. “We’re not going to just let people decide what our fate is going to be. We’re going to make sure Pittsburgh is livable for everybody, not just a select few.”
The masked partygoers at the Benedum Center got their wish. They witnessed history. But more importantly, they saw a Pittsburgh born-and-raised Black man rise to a stage many people thought could never happen in this town.
People yelled for Gainey, stopping him in his tracks for a quick photo, treating him like Willie “Pops” Stargell, Jerome Bettis or Hines Ward.
But then again, on this night, it seemed fitting for Ed Gainey to be treated like a celebrity.
It was his night.
ED GAINEY RESOUNDING WINNER OF MAYORAL ELECTION; BECOMES FIRST BLACK MAYOR IN
PITTSBURGH’S 205-YEAR HISTORY (PHOTOS BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)
ED GAINEY, WITH FATHER, JAKE TALTON
ED GAINEY WAS THE STAR OF THE SHOW ON ELECTION NIGHT, TUESDAY, NOV. 2, 2021. HE WAS ELECTED MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH.
REV. GLENN GRAYSON SR., WITH ED GAINEY, at the Election Night victory party held at the Benedum Center, Nov. 2. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)
TERRI BELL, JANIS BURLEY WILSON, CRYSTAL MCCORMICK
JEFF MARION, DEBBIE NORRELL