Group organizes black voters' endorsement convention in mayor's race
Some of Pittsburgh's black leaders are uniting to organize a popular endorsement of a mayoral candidate.
Headed by former City Councilman Sala Udin of the Hill District, a new group called the Pittsburgh Black Political Convention met on Thursday outside the City-County Building to announce it will hold a convention to decide the endorsement.
“This is something I've never seen before,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic strategist. “You've got to credit the people who are organizing this and taking an active step in encouraging the African-American community to pay attention and get involved.”
The convention is scheduled April 20 in Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Larimer, where black voters will pick one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the May 21 primary. They will choose from City Councilman Bill Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze; community organizer A.J. Richardson, 36, of Sheraden; former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, 65, of Beechview; and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District. Wheatley and Richardson are black.
“I think people all over the city want to see a leader who is inclusive and has special plans for inclusiveness,” said Udin, who left office in 2006. “With a wide open field, we have great opportunity for applying leverage.”
Organizers encourage all black registered voters in the city to attend the convention. The day before, the group will hold a forum for candidates to respond to what organizers call a “black agenda,” a list of issues facing the community. Blacks make up 26.1 percent of the city's population.
Udin said blacks have a unique opportunity to influence the election. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl dropped out of the race on March 1.
“I think there's a very good chance that the African-American vote that breaks one way or another in large numbers can determine who the winner is,” Mikus said.
He said candidates could stage get-out-the-vote campaigns for the endorsement.
“Even if it's skewed, anytime people are encouraged to get involved in the process, that's always a good thing for politics,” he said.
The Peduto, Wagner and Wheatley campaigns said they welcome the chance to participate. Wheatley said he would not expect the black community to automatically consider him or Richardson for the endorsement.
“I think every vote should be earned in this race, regardless of whether you're black, white, Asian, brown, or whatever,” Wheatley said. “You should have something that speaks to the needs of the city.
“I do have a confidence that I can go into that convention and articulate a vision that should be enough to win not only their support but this election.”
Peduto campaign spokeswoman Sonya Toler said Peduto looks forward to discussing his platform with the black community.
“The best thing about this is it's an effort for a group of African-Americans to have their voice heard in what is going to be a critical election for the city,” Toler said.
Richardson said he would consider participating, but he was leaning toward a boycott.
“I'm not in favor of terms like ‘black agenda,'” said Richardson, who this week left a mayoral debate and said he had to “regroup” hours after city police charged him with driving under the influence. “I don't think there should be an agenda that is only geared toward one group of people.”
Gerald Shuster, professor of political communication at the University of Pittsburgh, said candidates have to be careful in considering demands from one segment of the electorate.
“They're going to have to respect the black community and elements of the agenda, but they can't focus on that exclusively, especially at the expense of the rest of the city,” Shuster said.
Earlier Thursday, Wagner received endorsements from City Council President Darlene Harris and five unions: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5, the Greater Pittsburgh Council of Carpenters, Steamfitters Local 449, Plumbers Local 27, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 57.
They combine to represent thousands of workers. Harris was formerly a candidate for mayor and represents the majority of the North Side.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Steelers rookie says Sam, his former roommate, has changed
- Pirates’ attempts to bolster roster at deadline a fruitless endeavor
- Steelers aim to create more turnovers this season with speedier defense
- Report: Man jumps from Tarentum Bridge
- Rossi: Buying trust is a must for Pirates
- Joe King ends 28 years as Pittsburgh firefighters’ president
- Pirates notebook: Marte to begin rehab stint at Triple-A Saturday
- Steelers notebook: Shoulder pads get technological boost for Ravens game
- WVU’s Holgorsen: Freshman Henry `ahead of curve’
- Police caution residents after vehicle break-ins
- Network planned to distribute Marcellus shale power to East Coast