NAACP McKeesport Unit combines fundraiser with candidates meet-and-greet

Photo by Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
| Monday, May 6, 2013, 4:06 a.m.

NAACP McKeesport Unit wants residents to get to know the candidates for city council, school board and other offices, instead of just seeing campaign signs on their way to the polls.

The organization hosted “Meet the Candidates” Saturday at a spaghetti dinner at the Common Ground Building along Ninth Avenue, with 17 days until the May 21 primary elections.

“It's for the citizens to come out to know their candidates,” unit president Ocie Paige said. “When we have the presidential election, the people come out in droves. When we hold these local elections, they don't come out. What I'm trying to do is get them to come out because these (candidates) are the people that affect us directly. The president doesn't affect us directly. From the county on down to the city and the school board, these people affect us.

“This is why I'm trying to hold these type of things, to get the people to come out. This is nice, what we have here today.”

Unit executive board member Alease Paige, the unit president's wife, said the unit does not endorse any candidates, but encourages all to get out and vote.

Proceeds from the dinner benefit a scholarship fund, with two to be awarded to McKeesport Area High School seniors at a human relations dinner in September.

She said the candidate forum was an impromptu addition to the spaghetti dinner.

“We just want to bring awareness to the public,” she said. “People asked (for the forum). We just kind of incorporated both (events) at the same time.”

Alease Paige said there is no candidate forum planned for November's general elections.

McKeesport council candidates in attendance were Alfred J. Tedesco Jr., V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery, the Rev. LaWana Simmons, Jamie Brewster-Filotei and James T. Barry Jr.

Arla Payne-Stinson and Patrick Chiaverini did not attend.

McKeesport Area school board candidates in attendance were Patti Wells Gruber, Scott P. Smith and Dennis Robinson. Trisha Gadson's daughter Ryah spoke on her behalf.

Not present were Thomas Maglicco, Patricia A. Maksin and David G. Donato.

Candidates talked about restoration and revitalization, their education and qualifications, and about making the city a cleaner and less violent place to live.

Candidates for school director highlighted academic achievement and hard work.

Others who spoke were McKeesport Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi, Allegheny County Council candidates Bob Macey and Arlene Jabbour and Allegheny County Common Pleas judge candidates Paul Cozza, Philip J. Murray and Mark Tranquilli.

The unit's second vice president Ted Kirby said Saturday's spaghetti dinner was a success because of those who helped organizing it.

“Everybody pitches in to the maximum,” Kirby said. “We all work well together.”

The unit hosted a “Meet the Candidates” two years ago at the Palisades.

“There weren't as many people out for the election,” Ocie Paige said. “I was a little disappointed in the crowd. The community didn't take interest in it. It's sad. The community needs to come out here and get involved.”

He said he hopes to have a candidate forum every two years during local elections.

“We're going to plan the next one and do some different things,” he said.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or

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