In the end, it was four times, not three, that proved the charm for Anthony Coghill.
The roofer-turned-City Council candidate succeeded today where for years he had not.
Coghill ended his lengthy quest to claim Pittsburgh’s District 4 council seat, besting a little-known Republican candidate in Cletus Cibrone-Abate and positioning himself to pick up where outgoing Democratic Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak will leave off when she vacates the seat Jan. 2.
What some — including The Incline — called “the only interesting council race” this year, began with Coghill’s defeat of Democratic candidate and Rudiak Chief of Staff Ashleigh Deemer in the May primary. Since then, Coghill continued to tout his “Back to Basics” campaign message focused on revitalizing District 4, which encompasses Beechview, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Overbrook and part of Mt. Washington, and ensuring the less glamorous functions of government — street pavings, trash cleanups and emergency services — are being adequately supported from within City Hall.
“To me City Council is a business, and I’m looking out for the fourth district now, that’s what I’m promoting,” Coghill told The Incline soon after his race was called.
Asked if he thought his lack of political experience would be an asset or a hurdle, he added, “I have real-life experience. I never went to college, my family never had the money, and owning my own business, I don’t think there’s any better experience than that.”
Coghill also said his short term goals, come January, include the creation or cultivation of a two-mile business district in Beechview. Long term, he hopes to lead efforts to quell or remedy the particularly acute opioid crisis gripping parts of District 4.
But for now, he said, “I’m just ready to get to work.”
This was Cibrone-Abate’s first run for public office and Coghill’s fourth for this particular office. Abate, who has previously volunteered on political campaigns, including President Donald Trump’s last year, described herself during the campaign as an unemployed community activist and a “voice for the voiceless.”
With the results coming in Tuesday and Coghill holding onto a sizable lead, Cibrone-Abate told The Incline, “I pray that Anthony does not become part of problem [once in office]. I pray that he is a solution and not more of the same.”
She added, “I hope to see that he can step out of the box and not become a part of the Democratic machine.” Cibrone-Abate also insisted that Pittsburgh’s liberal lean is leaving the city’s more conservative residents feeling disenfranchised.
“We’ve got serious issues of not representing the people as a whole,” she said. “Picking and choosing personal agendas. And we’re not going away. I’m not going away.”
She said she plans to run again. “This is only the beginning.”
At around the same time, Coghill was expected to begin making his way to an “Election Night Celebration” hosted by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee at the Steamfitters Local 449 building in Duquesne Heights.
It was sure to be as jovial a gathering as one might expect in a city with a serious Democratic majority and a slew of uncontested Democrats on the ballot. In fact, Coghill’s race was the only contested council race this time around.
Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto and incumbent council members Theresa Kail-Smith, Robert Daniel Lavelle and Dan Gilman — all Democrats — sailed comfortably to reelection.
But there were also intra-party grumblings in District 4, where not everyone was enthralled by Coghill and where write-in campaigns against him were being mounted — or at least teased — online in recent weeks. The reasons for this varied. Some thought Coghill wasn’t progressive enough. Others thought Deemer should have won the primary. Others yet questioned Coghill’s business-like approach to city governance.
But District 4’s write-in totals would do nothing to sway the outcome. With 94 percent of precincts reporting just before 10 p.m., Coghill had received nearly 80 percent of the vote.
Outside the polls in Beechview this afternoon, one resident told The Incline they’d voted for Coghill due to a lack of other Democratic options. Another said she liked the fact that he was local.
Indeed Coghill’s ties to Beechview, where he’s lived all his life, were frequently cited by voters there on Tuesday, and you didn’t have to go far to find those who said they knew him personally.
“I’ve known him for 35 years. He played ball with my brother,” Tom Grover, a Democrat, said before adding, “He’s always been someone to get involved. He’s not someone to shy away from something.”
Now Coghill, a private sector guy whose only public sector experience came as a part-time liaison for state Sen. Wayne Fontana, must learn a new sort of business. And while some remain reluctant to get behind him — a not at all unusual outcome in any election — others are convinced he’s the right man for the job.
This includes Tom Grover, who, when asked if he thinks Coghill will succeed in bringing positive change to District 4, replied, “I think he’ll definitely try.”