With no political past, Abdula Jamal Richardson seeks mayorship
Abdula Jamal Richardson hopes to appeal to Pittsburgh voters as the working man's candidate in the mayoral race.
He's the underdog among seven Democrats in the May 21 primary — perhaps even more of an underdog than Josh Wander of Squirrel Hill, for whom some of the city's 31,429 registered Republicans might vote.
“I am the Rocky Balboa of this race, and the political machine is Apollo Creed,” said Richardson, 36, of Sheraden, who goes by “A.J.”
Richardson on Tuesday filed nominating petitions to run for the seat Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is giving up. A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Richardson said he recognizes he lacks the money and foot soldiers of his rivals, including Sen. Jim Ferlo of Highland Park, Controller Michael Lamb of Mt. Washington, Sen. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District, former state auditor general Jack Wagner of Beechview, Council President Darlene Harris of Spring Hill and Councilman Bill Peduto of Point Breeze.
That's no reason not to run, he said.
“I am running to give a voice to the working men and women in this city,” Richardson said. Much of the city, he thinks, “is not being represented in the current system.”
He listed his occupation as a bus monitor for First Student in the North Side. He runs an online ministry, Mount Sinai 7th Day Holiness Temple of Christ. He sees prejudice, bullying of kids and discrimination against gays as examples of those who are underserved.
He moved to Pittsburgh six years ago with his wife, Felicia, a paralegal with Goehring, Rutter & Boehm, Downtown, and their sons Abdula Jr., Abraham and Aaron.
With facial tattoos and dreadlocks, Richardson is hardly a typical Pittsburgh politician.
He considers his image an asset but said it does not tell his whole story.
“My distinct appearance is only part of me, and some people will be able to connect to that. It is the internal, my integrity, that will win folks over.”
If he were elected by some long shot, Richardson vowed not to operate out of a “cushy” office in City Hall.
“I want the residents of Pittsburgh's front porches to be my office,” he said. “The other politicians have no idea how to be a public servant. There is no one better than me for this position, because I have not been corrupted by politics.”
Traditionally, people seek an office such as mayor after working as a party committee member or serving on City Council or the school board. No modern Pittsburgh mayor has come from the community without moving up through the political machine.
“When he first told me that he was going to run for mayor of Pittsburgh, I thought it was a joke,” said Shawnee Lining of the Hill District, who signed Richardson's petition.
A candidate needs 250 signatures, and when he asked for hers, “I knew it was real,” she said.
Lining, 34, runs Sha'Lou Productions, a theater company in Homestead. She met Richardson when he auditioned for a play.
“He faces a lot of challenges running, and it is a long shot to run as an unknown, but I do see him eventually emerging as a front-runner,” she said.
Chas Lupin, 27, of Stanton Heights, another who signed Richardson's nominating petition, met him on the set of a movie filmed in the city.
Lupin, an actor, said Richardson brings distinct qualities to the race. “He is a dedicated family man who works tirelessly in the community to decrease the drug problem,” he said. “He is compassionate, and what he has to stand on that no one else does is honor.”
Richardson's sons accompanied him when he knocked on doors to let people know of his candidacy.
He may have one huge impediment to winning: Though he loves his adopted city, he's a New York Giants fan.
“But I am very fond of the Black and Gold,” he said.
Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer.Reach her at email@example.com.
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.
- Thrival concert event moves from Bakery Square to LTV site in Hazelwood
- PennEnvironment threatens to sue steel giant under Clean Air Act
- Allegheny County will spray for mosquitoes Wednesday night in Munhall and Homestead
- Alcosan faces over $2.6M in bond costs, could save more than $30M
- U.S. Appeals Court reduces damages in Carnegie Mellon patent infringement case
- Man accused of killing Brookline woman denied bail
- Strip District, Shadyside startups headed to White House
- 2 quit race for Plum school board
- Newsmaker: Tom Dubaniewicz
- Leetsdale council accepts resignation of police chief
- Philadelphia firm to defend Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in lawsuit