‘Plucked up like a grape,’ towns near Pittsburgh find themselves in unfamiliar political landscapes

Sean Meloy, candidate for U.S. House District 17, meets voters at a political event in Wilkinsburg. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)


A new congressional map puts communities like Wilkinsburg into districts that look less like them overall.


by Charlie Wolfson, PublicSource

The mayor of a small town introduced his constituents to candidates for state and federal offices while complimentary hot dogs sizzled on a grill and cans of Pepsi sat on ice. The event had a grounded, refreshing feel to it, in an age when so much of politics takes place online and on television.

April 30, a sunny Saturday afternoon, a few dozen Wilkinsburg voters heard from and could actually shake hands with their Democratic primary candidates — Chris Deluzio and Sean Meloy for Congress, and Abigail Salisbury and Summer Lee for state House. Dontae Comans, the mayor, took the stage along with his young daughter (and some of her toys) and said regardless of the political topic of the event, he was glad to bring Wilkinsburgers together. 

The names and faces of the candidates, though, may have been a surprise to some in attendance. Less than two months earlier, through the once-a-decade redraw of Pennsylvania’s congressional district map, a process known as redistricting, Wilkinsburg was transferred from Pittsburgh’s mostly urban district to a more suburban and rural one. Now, while the borough contemplates its future as an independent entity, its voters must become acquainted with a new political landscape in which their needs will likely compete with those of suburban and rural areas. 

“I feel like we were plucked up like a grape out of a cluster and put in with another bowl of fruit,” said Renee Haynes-Johnson, a Wilkinsburg resident who helped organize the April 30 meet-and-greet. “What exactly do we have in common? How do we relate?”

Voters gather at Harold Young Sr. Parklet to hear from Wilkinsburg Political Candidates
Voters gather at Harold Young Sr. Parklet on April 30 to hear from candidates. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)

Wilkinsburg, along with some of Pittsburgh’s other eastern neighbors including Edgewood, Churchill and part of Swissvale, is now part of the 17th congressional district, which is mostly comprised of voters to Pittsburgh’s west, including Beaver County all the way to the Ohio border. 

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