Mondale, Hart campaigns came to Valley in 1984
The mid-Monongahela Valley has been the focus of political candidates on all levels of government throughout the years. Incumbents and hopefuls alike have brought their campaigns to the area.
So it was 29 years ago – on the weekend of April 7-8, 1984 – when the heated Democratic presidential race topped the primary election in Pennsylvania.
A three-man scramble among Walter Mondale of Minnesota, who served as vice president with President Jimmy Carter; U.S. Senator Gary Hart of Colorado, and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson captured the most attention of voters preparing to go to the polls on Tuesday, April 10. The winner would face incumbent President Ronald Reagan in the Nov. 6 general election.
Mondale, his party's front-runner, addressed a large rally at the Monessen plant of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. on April 7 as part of a last-minute campaign sweep throughout the state. One day later, Lee Hart, wife of the Colorado senator, made a strong pitch for her husband in a rally at Ernest E. Jobes American Legion Post 212 in Donora.
During the spirited gathering outside the 12th Street gate of the W-P Steel facility in Monessen, Mondale supporters emphasized that the former vice president was one of the major supporters of the federal loan guarantee for Wheeling-Pittsburgh that enabled the company to build the rail mill. They pointed out that because of his support for the rail mill, Mondale had been instrumental in keeping the area's largest employer in business.
Reporter Karen Peters of The Valley Independent wrote that Mondale told his Monessen audience that, “We put together a package which made it possible for this mill to be modernized and therefore competitive. I'm here to tell you that I'm proud of that accomplishment.” He also emphasized the importance of the steel industry in America by saying, “We can't be a strong country without it.”
Pushing his point that he is “a people's Democrat,” Peters wrote, Mondale told the crowd he believes, “the government should help the average American family. We should be able to provide a good life for the average American family. We need a president who understands that. I am a people's Democrat and I will be a people's president.”
Mondale toured the rail mill following his brief address.
Among those who urged the crowd to vote for Mondale in the primary were United Steelworkers of America president Lynn Williams, USWA District 15 director Andrew “Lefty” Palm, state Sen. Edward Zemprelli of McKeesport, state Rep. James J. Manderino of Monessen and Monessen mayor James Sepesky.
Williams said his union believed that Mondale “... represents the kind of policy that will rebuild the steel industry” and “turn it all around” in the United States.
A picture on the front page of The Valley Independent on April 9 showed Mondale being welcomed to Monessen by Manderino; Williams, Charles Yetsconish, USW District 15 staff representative; Tom Simon, president of USW Local 3403; Monessen city treasurer Charles Povich, and John D. “Jack” Fry, operations manager of the Mon Valley plant of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. Other photos spotlighted Sepesky, Palm and steelworker Steve Marinos among those in the crowd.
In speaking on behalf of her husband in Donora, Lee Hart said, “what we can do to put people back to work is uppermost in our minds.”
She acknowledged that Hart's campaign was “very nearly written off” in 1983 but the senator remained firmly committed to seeking the nomination.
“We kept going because we could sense what was going on out there,” Lee Hart said. “We knew there was a growing number of people out there who liked Gary's new ways of approaching the complex problem facing this country.”
“Another quality of my husband is that he ... looks for and accepts input from the people. He has a willingness to look at issues from a national point of view. He is not tied to any one (special interest) group. What this country needs is ... a president who knows what is best for this country.”
Hart also emphasized that the senator “believes in the nation's need for a strong domestic steel industry – one that provides for the modernization of plants and the retraining of furloughed workers to fill the needs and demands of the times.”
Fielding questions from the audience, Hart could not give the reason for her husband's vote of rejection for a federal loan to Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. A Hart campaign spokesman came to her rescue when he responded: “Senator Hart proposes a retooling of the (steel) industry using privately funded loans backed by the federal government.”
Among those coordinating the program in Donora and welcoming Hart to the event were Julie Fronzaglio, Connie Perez and Rose Wright. They were featured in another photo on The Valley Independent's April 9 front page.
Mondale won the Pennsylvania primary on April 10 with 47 percent of the votes. Hart finished second with 34 percent and Jackson was third with 20 percent. Mondale drew the overwhelming support of voters throughout the Mon Valley and Westmoreland, Washington and Fayette counties. Jackson's strongest showing was in Philadelphia, where he finished first. Mondale was second and Hart a distant third in the City of Brotherly Love balloting.
Mondale went on to clinch his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention July 16-19 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. His running mate was U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, who became the first woman vice presidential candidate in history for a major political party.
While Mondale garnered 56.41 percent of the vote by convention delegates, Hart managed only 30.92 percent and Jackson received 12 percent. Others receiving votes were Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern, John Glenn, Martha Kirkland and a young U.S. senator named Joe Biden of Delaware.
Reagan had no trouble being re-elected in November as he carried 49 of the 50 states. Mondale's only victory came in his home state of Minnesota.
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Deteriorating Monessen building under renewed scrutiny
- Recalling ‘White Friday’ storm that paralyzed Mid-Mon Valley in 1950
- Holiday movie gives Cal U students get 2 seconds of fame
- Small Business Saturday events grow
- Local homes tour will benefit Belle Vernon Area’s anti-drug program
- Mon Valley Leathernecks tackle Toys for Tots drive
- Monessen-native Sarra anchoring Navy football team’s defense
- Two-mill tax hike proposed in Monongahela
- Accounting career adds up for Fallowfield native
- Century-old Christmas tradition catching on in Mon Valley
- For some, pathway to Thanksgiving often bumpy