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Wheatley mayoral campaign gets endorsement of black community leaders

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

A coalition of black community leaders on Saturday endorsed state Rep. Jake Wheatley's bid to become mayor of Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Black Political Convention said Wheatley, 41 — one of two black Democrats vying for the party's nomination in the May 21 primary — best represents the needs of the city's black population.

He received 52 percent, or 112, of 215 votes cast among black voters in five city locations.

“Unemployment, poverty, racism and police abuse…are being ignored too often by elected officials,” said former city Councilman Sala Udin, one of the convention's organizers.

Wheatley, D-Hill District, was elected to the state House in 2003 and before that had worked as an aide to Udin.

“I've always said from Day One of this campaign that this is about building a coalition,” Wheatley said. “The ultimate endorsement will happen on May 21, when hopefully the majority of citizens will help in making change happen.”

Udin said he was pleased with the turnout and said the coalition will raise money to contribute to Wheatley's campaign.

City Councilman Bill Peduto of Point Breeze received 33 percent, or 72 votes. His campaign spokeswoman, Sonya Toler, said Peduto was pleased with the result.

“What those numbers mean to our campaign is that what we're doing is working, and we will continue to mobilize voters to the polls,” she said.

Rosalind Williams, 41, and Gerard Hodge, 42, both of Manchester, said they cast votes for Wheatley.

“It's because I think he comes out in the community more,” Williams said. “He's hands-on. That's what we need, especially in Manchester.

“You go with your heart,” said Kim Powe, 52, of Manchester, as she cast a vote for former state Auditor General Jack Wagner. He eventually received 13 percent of the vote. “I think he'll help us. He's the best for my neighborhood.”

Democrat A.J. Richardson, 36, a black community activist from Sheraden, did not receive any votes, Udin said.

Richardson attributed the lack of votes to his failure to appear at a Friday forum sponsored by the coalition. Richardson said he had a prior commitment.

“I'm all about being inclusive of everyone to create solutions that are going to address the needs of all people,” he said. “I'm for human rights first and foremost, not just African American rights.”

Staff writer Bill Vidonic contributed to this report. Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

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