African American candidates making their presence known in upcoming Primary Election

SUMMER LEE, VYING FOR U.S. CONGRESS

Heated battles for Congress, state House, Lt. Gov.

 

Pittsburgh is not “Chocolate City,” as Washington, D.C., was once dubbed.

Pittsburgh is not “The Black Mecca,” as Atlanta is now dubbed.

But one glance at the candidates running for elected office in the Pittsburgh region reveals that African Americans are looking to take over the political scene.

One prominent African American — Ed Gainey — took over the top seat at Pittsburgh City Hall in January, and by May 17, Blacks could be in the driver’s seat to win seats for U.S. Congress, Pa. Lieutenant Governor, and the state House.

May 17 is the date of Pa.’s Primary Election. In many cases, the candidate that wins the Democratic nomination in the Primary goes on to easily win in the November General Election, as was the case with Mayor Gainey last year. But when it comes to the statewide races, such as Governor, Lt. Governor and the Senate, there’s usually viable competition between the Democratic and Republican nominees in November.

“I think it is an amazing example of what a reflective democracy can be and should be,” said Miracle Jones, 1 Hood Media’s director of advocacy and policy, in an interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier, May 3, about the large number of Blacks running for office. “There, of course, is a whole ‘nother discussion about the (lack of) support these candidates are getting, the endorsements and the party backing that still reflects a huge disadvantage and barrier to Blacks running for office, especially (for office) outside of Black communities. But I think all of these Black candidates show what our democracy should be. It should be our new normal.”

AERION ABNEY, STATE HOUSE 19

MARTELL COVINGTON, STATE HOUSE 24

For the state House, Reps. Aerion Abney and Martell Covington, both African American men, won the special elections last month for Districts 19 and 24, respectively. They replaced Jake Wheatley (now with the Pittsburgh mayor’s office) and Mayor Gainey. While Reps. Abney and Covington are guaranteed to represent their districts until at least the end of 2022, they have to fend off other challengers on May 17 vying for the Democratic nomination for the November election. In the overwhelmingly Democratic, African American districts of 19 and 24, the winners of the May 17 Primary on the Democratic side will easily win the November election, and would begin their two-year full term in January 2023.

REV. GLENN GRAYSON SR., VYING FOR STATE HOUSE DIST. 19

In House District 19, Rep. Abney’s challenger is Rev. Glenn Grayson Sr., pastor of Wesley Center AME Zion Church, in the Hill District. Reverend Grayson is also African American. Both candidates have been knocking on doors, spreading social media messages, garnering support.

LA’TASHA D. MAYES, VYING FOR STATE HOUSE DIST. 24

 RANDALL TAYLOR, VYING FOR STATE HOUSE DIST. 24

In House District 24, Rep. Covington’s challengers are: La’Tasha D. Mayes, founder, President & CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice; and Randall Taylor, a community organizer and former Pittsburgh School Board member. Both of Rep. Covington’s challengers are African Americans.

MALCOLM KENYATTA, VYING FOR U.S. SENATOR

In the race for U.S. Senator, there are four Democratic candidates, one of whom is Black (Malcolm Kenyatta, of Philadelphia County). The other candidates are current Lt. Governor (and former Braddock mayor) John Fetterman, current U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, and Alex Khalil.

KATHY BARNETTE, VYING FOR U.S. SENATOR

The Republican side has a flurry of candidates, including former TV show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, Kathy Barnette, Dave McCormick and Jeff Bartos.

In the race for Pa. Governor, Josh Shapiro, the current state Attorney General, has a lock on the Democratic nomination, but come November, his Republican competition could be anyone from Lou Barletta, to Bill McSwain, to Melissa Hart.

AUSTIN DAVIS, VYING FOR PA. LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Shapiro has openly endorsed Rep. Austin Davis, of McKeesport, to be his Lt. Governor, even though in Pennsylvania, the candidates for Lt. Governor and Governor run separately in the Primary. Representative Davis, who is African American, has good standing in the Pittsburgh region for his tireless work to better the Mon Valley for both Blacks and Whites.

NEW CASTLE MAYOR CHRIS FRYE VYING FOR LT. GOVERNOR

JAMES EARL JONES VYING FOR LT. GOVERNOR

Representative Davis’ challengers for Lt. Governor are Ray Sosa and Brian Sims. On the Republican side, two African Americans are running for Lt. Governor — New Castle Mayor Chris Frye and James Earl Jones (Montgomery County). There are seven additional Republican contenders.

There are a number of state Senate races, but none involve Black candidates…

SUMMER LEE, VYING FOR U.S. CONGRESS

Which leaves the highly-publicized race for the remodeled 12th Congressional District. Pennsylvania now has 17 congressional seats, tied for fifth-most in the country, and every congressional seat is crucial for the votes needed to pass certain legislation. Most political experts believe that while the newly-redrawn 12th Congressional District now includes some of Westmoreland County’s Republican-leaning suburbs, the seat should still fall to a Democrat in the November General Election.

And this is why Pittsburgh TV watchers have been inundated with political ads over the past week chastising the Black female front-runner, Rep. Summer Lee. Most of the ads have been sponsored by a “super-PAC (Political Action Committee)” called the United Democracy Project. The person who stands to benefit from the attacks most is Steve Irwin, who is White. Three other African Americans are in the congressional race, too: Pitt law professor Jerry Dickinson; Executive Director of the Pa. College Access Program Jeff Woodard, and William Parker.

JERRY DICKINSON, VYING FOR U.S. CONGRESS (PHOTOS BY GAIL MANKER)

JEFF WOODARD, VYING FOR U.S. CONGRESS

WILLIAM PARKER, VYING FOR U.S. CONGRESS

Representative Lee, who has built a significant fan base through her activism and outreach in the Mon Valley areas of Braddock, North Braddock, Swissvale, etc., told the League of Women Voters that “in Congress, I’ll bring upon the same values and track record I’ve been dedicated to as an organizer, advocate and state legislator—bringing broad coalitions of folks together for environmental, racial and economic justice, so we can win real victories for all working people.”

Both Rep. Lee and Dickinson have been airing TV spots promoting their campaigns. But Jones, the 1 Hood Media director of advocacy and policy, told the Courier she wasn’t a fan of the attacks being levied on Rep. Lee by the super-PAC, especially when no other Democratic candidate for Congress was attacked.

“It shows that Black women who are running for office still face additional barriers and additional attacks that the male counterparts do not,” Jones said. “That is a problem, and hopefully people address it in the future. It’s not enough to get Black people to run for office if we’re going to allow them to be crucified and abandoned.”

 

 

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