Independent Erika Strassburger claimed victory in the March 6 special election for the District 8 seat in Pittsburgh’s City Council.
In winning the District 8 seat, which represents Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods, including Oakland, Point Breeze, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, Strassburger bested a field of three other candidates: Democrat Sonja Finn, Republican Rennick Remley and Marty Healey, an independent.
“I’m honored to have this opportunity. I will work hard to serve my constituents to the best of my ability,” said Strassburger, who in winning became the first female to hold the District 8 seat, a post formerly occupied by Councilman Dan Gilman. Gilman’s departure to become Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff prompted the election.
More than 4,600 voters turned out for the contest. According to unofficial results, Strassburger won nearly 64 percent of the vote, while Finn took almost 28 percent. Remley won 7 percent and Healy 1 percent of the vote.
“We fought a good fight, we’re disappointed in the loss but we are glad that we got a lot of people to come out and vote for Sonja,” said Tracy Royston, Finn’s campaign manager.
Strassburger’s historic win came on the heels of an endorsement by Peduto, whose website the day before the election lauded the candidate’s experience, values and understanding.
Strassburger, who was formerly Gilman’s chief of staff, spent nearly a decade as an environmental advocate at PennEnvironment.
“When it comes to protecting our environment, there’s no one better than Erika,” David Masur, the organization’s executive director, said several weeks before the election. “Erika put her money where her mouth is when it comes to protecting our environment and health — now, and for our kids and future generations.”
Apart from receiving high-profile endorsements, Strassburger’s campaign collected a considerable amount of cash along the way. According to the city’s campaign finance reports, People for Peduto, Friends of Rich Fitzgerald and Friends of Dan Gilman each contributed $5,000 to her independent bid.
All told, Strassburger raised close to $143,000, more than three times the funds collected by Finn, her closest rival, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Despite the fundraising disparity, Royston was encouraged by voter support for Finn, the Democrat.
“This is just the beginning and Sonja is excited to work to make Pittsburgh the best city it can be,” said Royston.
For her part, Finn dismissed the loss as almost preordained.
The campaign “went as it was expected to go before I got into the arena, with the council seat being handed down,” she said, according to the Post-Gazette. “But a lot of things wouldn’t have come to light if I hadn’t brought up some of these issues. Even just in terms of what we can do in the city — gun control, making the Amazon bid more transparent, universal pre-K education.”
At her victory party at Soba restaurant in Shadyside, Strassburger thanked her staff and volunteers. She also pledged to “pay it forward.”
“There’s a lot to do, from managing growth, cleaning up our water and air and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of our district are taken care of and continuing to offer constituent services,” said Strassburger. “I’m ready to get to work.” PJC
This article has been updated.
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.