Pittsburgh’s mayoral race is heating up: Black women elected officials throw their support behind Gainey

STATE REP. ED GAINEY is seeking to become mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. To do so, he’ll have to defeat incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto in the May 18 Primary Election.

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

Have you noticed? We’re almost to April. It’s starting to heat up.

But we’re not talking about the weather.

We’re talking about the race for Pittsburgh mayor.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto, though he would never admit, has to be feeling the heat from his Democratic challenger, State Rep. Ed Gainey.

Rep. Gainey, who is African American, is looking to become the first Black mayor in Pittsburgh’s 205-year history as an incorporated city. The New Pittsburgh Courier learned March 17, one day before the City of Pittsburgh turned 205 years old, that Rep. Gainey had earned the public support and endorsements of four Black women who are or were elected officials in the region.

STATE REP. SUMMER LEE, left, and Allegheny County Councilwoman Olivia Bennett are two of the four local Black women elected officials (current or former) who have publicly endorsed State Rep. Ed Gainey for mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. The Primary Election is May 18.

State Rep. Summer Lee, of the 34th House District, Allegheny County Councilwoman Olivia Bennett, Pittsburgh School Board Member Devon Taliaferro and former PPS Board President Regina Holley collectively threw their support behind Rep. Gainey, as it’s just six weeks before the May 18 Primary Election.

“Black women know all too well that many Pittsburghers have been left behind or left out,” echoed Councilwoman Bennett, in a release obtained by the Courier. “I’m supporting Ed Gainey because we need a mayor who will take real action to end the inequities that hold our communities and our people back.”

Representative Lee, who has co-sponsored House bills with Rep. Gainey, said that Rep. Gainey has the “courage to step up for our city,” as she believes new leadership is needed. “No matter how many ‘most livable’ lists Pittsburgh stands on, it remains an unhealthy and inequitable place for Black and working-class people. That’s why we also lead the nation in things like income inequality, asthma rates and Black maternal death,” Rep. Lee said in the release. “We know that when people use their power to demand better and commit to working together to achieve it, we can make a world that welcomes us all and where we all can thrive… I’m proud to back him (Gainey) and work together to truly make Pittsburgh most livable for us all.”

FORMER PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD PRESIDENT REGINA HOLLEY, left, and current school board member Devon Taliaferro said that Ed Gainey is the best choice to serve as Pittsburgh mayor. The Primary Election will be held, May 18.

Pittsburgh, a city which is overwhelmingly White (67 percent, while Blacks make up 23 percent and Asian Americans, six percent), watched Mayor Peduto handily defeat a Black candidate in the past two Primary Elections. In 2013, Mayor Peduto won 52 percent of the vote (23,650 total) to current State Rep. Jake Wheatley’s eight percent (3,508 total votes). Four years ago, it was Rev. John Welch who challenged Mayor Peduto, and while Mayor Peduto overwhelmingly won the Primary (69 percent), Rev. Welch garnered 17.5 percent of the votes (6,832), almost double Rep. Wheatley’s vote total.
In the 2013 and 2017 elections, there was always one other White Democratic candidate that received a significant vote total (Jack Wagner in 2013, Darlene Harris in 2017). Some political experts believe that more White candidates of substance can dilute the White vote and thus, boost the Black candidates’ percentages.

But this time around, it’s almost assuredly a two-man race (Tony Moreno, who is White, and Will Parker, who is Black, are also candidates, but with notably less notoriety than Mayor Peduto and Rep. Gainey). Rep. Gainey, the Peabody High School graduate and five-time state Representative, and Mayor Peduto, the Chartiers Valley High School grad and three-time former Pittsburgh City Councilman, most likely will be eating the vast majority of the mayoral vote percentage pie on May 18.

But which candidate will come out on top? Mayor Peduto has forged countless relationships to bring more affordable housing to Pittsburgh’s Black communities like Larimer and East Liberty. The mayor has worked closely with the city’s two Black Councilmembers, R. Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess, to institute a Housing Opportunity Fund and other initiatives that are meant to help Pittsburgh’s Black community. Councilmen Lavelle and Burgess seem to be pleased with Mayor Peduto, or at least enough for them to endorse Mayor Peduto to stay in office another four years.

But in a matter of weeks, it will be the first Pittsburgh mayoral Primary Election in the new era of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. African Americans are breaking barriers at record paces of late, with a segment of Americans of all ethnicities demanding that Blacks are invited to seats at tables they should have been at decades prior.

If Kamala Harris can be America’s first Black vice president (and woman vice president), then the commonly-used phrase among locals of “Pittsburgh will never have a Black mayor” could be retired forever…before we even get to the summer. The Democratic candidate who wins Pittsburgh’s Primary Election is virtually a lock to win the November General Election.

Rep. Gainey, whose House District includes Lincoln-Lemington, East Liberty and other East End neighborhoods, is projected to get most of his support from African Americans on the East. African Americans coming out in full force on the North, South and West sections of town are also key to a Gainey victory. He’ll also need support from Pittsburgh’s White community. While it’s difficult to project how much support Rep. Gainey will get from those not his ethnicity, the state Rep. has earned critical endorsements from: the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, making him the first African American to ever get a mayoral endorsement from the committee; the Service Employees International Union (Healthcare Pa.), a union that consists of nearly 45,000 health care workers and service employees in health facilities, and; regional activist collective One PA. Angel Gober, the organization’s Western Pa. director, called Rep. Gainey “a proven public servant who leads with humility and strength.”


“It is with great pride that I share my support of Rep. Ed Gainey for mayor of Pittsburgh!” exclaimed an excited Taliaferro, the PPS board member. “As I began my journey as an elected official, it was Ed’s leadership that always stood out to me. I am often inspired by his presence in the community, his ties to understanding the real issues that Pittsburgh communities face, and his efforts to advocate on their behalf is admirable.”

Rep. Gainey, when he learned of the public support from the Black women officials, said he was “honored to have the support of these incredible leaders, who are trailblazers in our community. Black women have been the power behind our most important political movements, so to have this support shows that our campaign has the vision and coalition that it is going to take to unite and transform Pittsburgh.”


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