The primary election was held on May 19, 2009. In the Democratic primary, incumbent Mayor Ravenstahl defeated challengers Patrick Dowd, a Pittsburgh city councilman, and Carmen Robinson, an attorney and former police officer.
The Republican primary had no names on the ballot for the office of mayor. Ravenstahl, a Democrat, won the Republican mayoral nomination with 607 write-in votes; no other candidate had the 250 write-in votes required to become the Republican nominee.
Ravenstahl, having been nominated by both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, appeared on the general-election ballot with both affiliations. He was joined by two other candidates: businessman Franco 'Dok' Harris (the son of Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris), who ran under the Franco Dok Harris Party, and attorney Kevin Acklin, who ran as an independent. Ravenstahl's relationship with lobbyist John Verbanac became a campaign issue.
Ravenstahl defeated both Harris and Acklin by a wide margin, winning over 55 percent of the vote.