Tony Moreno, a retired cop from Brighton Heights in the North Side, was the first candidate to announce he would be running against Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh’s 2021 mayoral race. In September 2019, Moreno said he was running as a Democrat for the city’s top position and told TribLive, “I don’t have a social agenda. I don’t have a national agenda. I have a Pittsburgh agenda.”
But just a few months before that, Moreno’s Twitter feed (@realsteelmayor) was filled with open praise of Donald Trump, and open contempt for Democrats. From October 2018 to July 2019, Moreno tweeted “MAGA” five times. He also repeatedly referred to Trump as the “Great” President Donald Trump in several tweets.
In one tweet from July 2019, in a quote tweet of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Moreno wrote that Trump speaks for him.
“The great President Donald J Trump also has a responsibility to protect this country. They want to make it socialist and hate America . They try to impeach him, falsely accuse him and turn against American values. That’s what I would have said. He speaks for me.”
Moreno is currently seeking the endorsement from the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, as is mayoral candidate and state Rep. Ed Gainey (D-Lincoln-Lemington). Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is skipping out on seeking the endorsement this year.
The ACDC fell into a bit of controversy last year when the committee endorsed state Rep. candidate Heather Kass, who also had past posts showcasing support for Trump. After the Kass endorsement, Pittsburgh City Paper revealed there were also several Democratic Committee members within the county who also praised Trump on social media. ACDC bylaws forbid committee members from campaigning for non-Democrats.
A February 2019 tweet from Moreno includes the phrase “all day Democrat KKK” in apparent reference to a Black face scandal involving Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
“How come there are never old kkk black face photos of the Great President President Donald J Trump or any other prominent GOP member? All day Democrat KKK.”
In an interview with TribLive in January 2021, Moreno said he “didn’t like politics” and was motivated to run partially because he doesn’t see the city “going the right way.”
In an interview with City Paper, Moreno says those tweets praising Trump are not indicative of his current support or policies he endorses. He says he is a lifelong Democrat, and he says his past tweets were a “backlash response” to what he was seeing happening inside the Democratic Party.
“I realized that being a keyboard warrior wasn’t going to get the results I wanted,” says Moreno, who claimed he shifted his focus more on local issues and his mayoral run after he announced in the fall of 2019.
After 2019, Moreno stopped openly praising Trump, but still shared tweets from several right-wing accounts like actor James Woods and alt-right personality Andy Ngo. He also blamed Peduto for the property damage that occurred during a protest on May 30, 2020 and criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci’s coronavirus models in July 2020 after more than 135,000 Americans had died from the disease.
When asked, Moreno says that he doesn’t support Trump, and that his past social media history “is what is is,” but doesn’t represent his current political support.
“When you want to say something bombastic, you make it as bombastic as possible,” says Moreno. “I don’t have a MAGA hat or wave a MAGA flag, it was just something that I tweeted out.”
Throughout Moreno’s feed from 2018-2019 are links sharing articles from far-right sources like Breitbart and the Western Journal, whose founder reportedly questioned whether President Obama was Muslim. Moreno also takes shots at progressives, liberals, and “anti-Trump republicans,” in tweets. He also appeared to show support for Trump’s border wall proposal and, in December 2018, tweeted, “Build that wall.”
When asked about apparent support for Trump’s border wall along the U.S. and Mexico border, he said the wall is a different issue. Moreno is originally from Whittier in Orange County, Calif., and he says that immigration is important, and “it needs to be addressed in a big way.”
“I am from Southern California, and I saw the effect of an open border. Mass groups of people that were unchecked,” says Moreno. (The California-Mexico border is not open, and is highly guarded with fencing, walls, and checkpoints dozens of miles from the border. California, home to the country’s most dynamic economy, has a large share of immigrants. Current estimates put California’s foreign-born population at 11 million, and about 23% of those are undocumented.)
Moreno tweeted, “Dear liberals! The great President Donald J Trump wishes even you a happy Independence Day. Our flag, our country ! MAGA” on July 3, 2019.
He called former FBI director Robert Mueller a racist and a blatant white nationalist. He also called U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) a “racist communist progressive jester.”
Moreno is a retired Pittsburgh Police officer and is running on pro-police rhetoric. The Pittsburgh Police union (FOP Lodge #1) endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2016.
In the end, Moreno says he hopes that his social media activity doesn’t alter the support some have given him.
“I hope it doesn’t change people minds for the support they have given me,” says Moreno. “It is not the way going forward for what we are trying to achieve. Let’s take care of Pittsburgh and our citizens.”