On May 17, voters across Pennsylvania will select candidates to vie for offices ranging from the statehouse to the halls of Congress. In the Pittsburgh area, voters will be choosing a replacement for Rep. Mike Doyle, retiring from his Democratic congressional seat, as well as new state representatives to fill seats vacated by new Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Chief of Staff Jake Wheatley. U.S. House candidate Summer Lee is also defending her current state seat, among other races. Pittsburgh City Paper examined the records and platforms of candidates in these races. See their full guide for a look at candidates for U.S. Senate, lieutenant governor and governor.
U.S. House District 12
By Amanda Waltz
This race will determine who will fill the seat left by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills), who announced his retirement last fall. The newly-drawn 12th congressional district covers the entire city of Pittsburgh, along with multiple Allegheny County suburbs and the western edges of Westmoreland County. [Editor’s note: Republican Mike Doyle, a long-time Plum Borough Council member, is running unopposed in Republican primary].
Bio: Constitutional law professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Born in McKeesport and raised in the Allegheny County foster care system before being adopted by parents in Shaler. Ran against Doyle in 2020.
Abortion: Website states “access to abortion is a constitutional right and must be protected.” Supports Women’s Health Protection Act to “codify Roe v. Wade into federal law.” During April 13 debate at Point Park University, said he would “advocate for the Biden administration to lease federal land for abortion providers so that they won’t be subjected to state laws that are abortion-restrictive.”
Infrastructure: Applauded Congress for passing $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, calling it a “transformational bill” that will “revitalize our roads, bridges, highways, waterways, and public transportation systems” and create “millions of jobs, including union jobs.” Believes Pittsburgh region will “benefit immensely from the package.”
Climate Change: Supports Green New Deal and believes Congress can and should act to “expand sustainable energy industries, create millions of good-paying union jobs, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and transition away from fossil fuels to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030.” Has not called for immediate ban on fracking.
Racial Justice: As a Black man, says he knows “the trauma and humiliation of being punched, kicked and violently slammed to the ground by a police officer.” Demands greater accountability and reform of the prison system and law enforcement. Will support federal legislation to create a reparations commission and introduce legislation to implement a nationwide reparations program.
Endorsements: Teamsters Joint Council No. 40, former Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Jim Burn, various current and former local elected officials and community leaders, etc.
Bio: Attorney specializing in business and labor law. Lives in Squirrel Hill. Former aide to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. Allegheny County Democratic Committee member for more than three decades. Held leadership positions in groups such as Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and the regional chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.
Abortion: Tweeted “Every woman has the fundamental right to protect her health and well-being” and “In Congress, I’ll sign on and push to pass legislation codifying Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.”
Infrastructure: Vocal advocate for expansion and improvement of southwestern Pa. transit system. Website says he will modernize and grow the region’s light rail system, so the “T” “extends to more neighborhoods and communities.” Takes credit for helping to build the MLK East Busway and rehabilitate Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Bridge and the Johnstown Incline.
Climate Change: On Vote411, said we are “facing an existential threat from climate change, and we need to work together to transition to a green energy economy.” Believes achieving President Biden’s goal of carbon neutrality no later than 2050 can be done in ways that help southwestern Pa. “flourish.” Until then, supports continued use of gas drilling to ensure “economic health of many communities depend on it,” according to WESA.
Racial Justice: On April 22, told Jewish Insider he was disturbed by Confederate flags and “Nazi memorabilia” he encountered while touring rural Pennsylvania and says he personally experienced anti-Semitism. Told Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle that “structural and systemic racism in society” needs to be eliminated and he supports school programming to “help students come together and understand how extremism is the enemy of democracy.”
Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Democratic Majority for Israel, Pro-Israel America, various union groups including Steamfitters Local Union 449 and Iron Workers Local Union No. 3, etc.
Bio: In 2018, became first Black woman from southwestern Pa. elected to state House. Born and raised in North Braddock. Howard University School of Law graduate. Founded UNITE PAC to support other progressive candidates, particularly women, LGBTQ candidates and candidates of color. Won re-election in 2020.
Abortion: States on campaign website, “Our constitutional right to abortion care faces the greatest threat in its history, and Congress must do everything in its power to protect this fundamental right.” Believes abortion bans and attacks on reproductive health care disproportionately impact “Black and Brown communities,” as well as the LGBTQ+ community.
Infrastructure: In 2021, Lee touted her district receiving $10 million in Commonwealth Financing Authority grants for infrastructure, parks and recreation projects. Joined other state Democratic lawmakers in urging federal support for extension of the Martin Luther King East Busway and Mon-Fayette Expressway.
Climate Change: Says she will fight for a Green New Deal to “transition to a 100% clean and renewable energy economy.” Wants immediate ban on fracking.
Racial Justice: Wants to make voting more equitable for Black and Brown voters by working to strike down “racist voter ID and suppression laws, restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act, and end gerrymandering.” Opposes harsh legal penalties and immigration reforms that target low-income and communities of color.
Endorsements: Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Progressive Democrats of America, Young Democrats of Allegheny County, Working Families Party, BlueAmerica PAC, Clean Water Action, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Sunrise Movement (Pittsburgh and national), various union groups, etc.
Bio: Grew up in the North Side and now lives in Garfield. Ran as write-in candidate for Pittsburgh Mayor in 2021. Nephew of Pittsburgh Pirates player Willie Stargell. Self-described “Economic, Tech & Diversity advocate.”
Abortion: During Point Park Univerity debate, claimed to favor abortion rights but said there should be a “cap on how many abortions one can have.” Said “I wouldn’t like hearing about a woman [who] had 10 abortions. Why? What’s the need for that?” He then thanked his mother “for not killing me or aborting me.”
Infrastructure: Based on social media presence, seems to support President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Tweeted that people should vote for him if they “want to see our bridges rebuilt together by Black, White & Brown people.”
Climate Change: Tweeted support for post from California nonprofit Urban Habitat, saying Biden’s infrastructure package would “dismantle the roots of the #climate crisis in America—and address structural racism.”
Racial Justice: Advocates diversifying Pittsburgh’s growing tech economy so Black communities can participate and benefit. According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Parker believes technology can level playing field for Black residents facing “numerous economic disparities.” Tweeted that he’s “the only candidate in this race who advocates for more investments in Black startups” in the tech sector. Has criticized what he sees as the city’s lack of support for Black businesses.
Endorsements: None found.
Bio: Born and raised in Erie. Executive director of PA College Access Program. Served as assistant to Pa. lieutenant governor in 2003-2004 and constable for the Pa. State Constable office in 2004-2005. Former adjunct professor in criminal justice, business, and philosophy at CCAC and Robert Morris University. Campaign focused on economy and jobs, education, health care, immigration, LGBTQ equality, and veterans.
Abortion: During Point Park University debate, said he wants to leave the issue to Congress or the Supreme Court to make a decision.
Infrastructure: No clear stance on infrastructure.
Climate Change: During Point Park University debate, took no position on fracking and said he first wants to read more on the topic.
Racial Justice: According to WESA, opposes efforts to reduce police funding and favors more training and a national police registry for officers with troubled pasts, saying, “If they commit a crime, get into trouble, they should be going into a national registry so that we know their background no matter where they go.”
Endorsements: None found.
Pennsylvania State House District 19
By Jordana Rosenfeld
The 19th district covers neighborhoods in Pittsburgh’s North, South, and East Sides, including Downtown, parts of the Hill District, Hazelwood, parts of the South Side, Allentown, and Beltzhoover, Central North Side, Manchester, and North Shore. It is currently represented by incumbent Aerion Abney, who won the April 5 special election to serve remaining term of former Rep. Jake Wheatley after he stepped down to become the Mayor Gainey’s chief of staff.
Bio: Incumbent candidate. Lives in Manchester. Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. Previous committeeperson for the 21st Ward, Fourth District. Worked as a voting rights advocate, grantmaker, and legislative assistant in this district for Rep. Jake Wheatley. Sits on boards of several organizations working to improve life for Black Pittsburghers.
Cash Bail: Against cash bail. Told CP, “The money aspect should not be a burden for somebody being held in jail for two weeks just waiting to have their trial.”
Gun Violence: Told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Ultimately, big picture, we just have to get these guns off the streets and out of the hands of kids. I’m really ready to take a long-term approach to the work and fix some of what is broken in some of our communities.” Website says he will strengthen gun laws.
Development: Told Trib Live he aims to combat gentrification. Expressed concern to CP about uneven neighborhood development. Said he has “anti-displacement strategies,” like requiring that residents who must move from buildings for redevelopment or demolition are resettled before construction and tax abatement to keep current residents from being priced-out. “I want to have development without displacement.”
Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee.
Bio: Pastor. Currently leading Wesley Center A.M.E. Zion Church. Founder and executive director of Center that CARES, a community center for kids in Hill District. Former president of the PIIN (Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network). Sits on the boards of several organizations working to improve life for Black Pittsburghers.
Cash Bail: Served on county progress panel on criminal justice reform that recommended decreased use of cash bail through more consistent use of a pretrial risk-assessment algorithm.
Gun Violence: Lost 18-year-old son to gun violence in 2010. Told Trib Live he would advocate for violence prevention and to curb gun violence. Under CARES, offers anti-violence programs and academic support for young people. Twice honored by former President Barack Obama for his violence prevention work.
Development: Told Trib Live he would work to revitalize local neighborhoods without gentrifying them. Wrote in a 2013 Post-Gazette op-ed in support of “re-directing gentrification into healthier, mixed-income housing models.”
Endorsements: None found.
Pennsylvania State House District 24
By Jordana Rosenfeld
District 24 is a majority-Black district that includes parts of several city neighborhoods and eastern suburbs including East Liberty, Highland Park, Homewood, Wilkinsburg, and East Hills. It is currently represented by incumbent Martell Covington, who won the April 5 special election to serve remaining term of former Rep. Ed Gainey after he stepped down to serve as mayor.
Bio: Born and raised in Homewood. Incumbent candidate. Currently serves as vice president of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County. Previously worked as an aide to state Sen. Jay Costa. Active in a number of Democratic causes and community efforts.
Housing: Wrote that he would prioritize “a deliberate focus on affordable housing.”
Voting Rights: Told CP he believes voting rights are a core issue across all neighborhoods in the district. Plans to cosponsor existing legislation that would create more ballot drop locations, permit same-day registration, and continue to allow for early voting.
Public Safety: Supports gun laws, including those that can block a person in crisis from buying a gun. Wants to encourage gun ownership among women and other marginalized groups and “alternative 911” resources for mental health crises, according to platform. Wants to end “death by incarceration” and the death penalty and “produce legislation to upend the school to prison pipeline.”
Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, etc.
La’Tasha D. Mayes
Bio: Morningside resident. Founder and executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, an organization focused on reproductive justice for Black women and girls. Nationally-recognized leader in reproductive justice and human rights. Previously served as inaugural Allegheny County Human Relations Commission vice-chair and president of the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh.
Housing: Believes neighborhoods thrive with access to safe, affordable housing. Concerned about displacement of Black residents from the district, and that Black and poor communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution and toxic waste.
Voting Rights: Website says she has mobilized voters in this district since 2004 and believes that “vote by mail, early-in person voting, satellite voting locations, drop boxes, and fair redistricting increase access to the ballot.”
Public Safety: Wants to reduce gun, gender-based, anti-LGBTQ and police violence, plus “find alternatives to policing our communities,” according to platform. Wants to address root causes of violence — poverty and oppression, including wanting to “explore guaranteed basic income [and] pass expanded Human Relations legislation.”
Endorsements: Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC, the Sunrise Movement, etc.
Bio: Homewood resident. Former resident of now-demolished Penn Plaza. Affordable housing advocate. Previously served on board of Pittsburgh Public Schools. Former hospital worker. Told 1Hood his life’s mission is to work for Black liberation.
Housing: Wrote that he will prioritize “ensur[ing] that all our people can afford to rent or buy homes in this City, if they desire.” Wants to create pathways to home ownership for renters, like tenant-owned co-ops. Organizer with the Penn Plaza Support and Action Committee, says he helped 23 displaced people find new homes in East Liberty after 2015 evictions.
Voting Rights: Told 1Hood that he believes in communities’ right to self-determination, saying “I’m extremely concerned about the right to vote.” Wrote he supports legislating against “any and all” voter suppression and intimidation, making Election Day a holiday or moving it to Saturdays, and expanding access to mail-in and early voting.
Public Safety: Told 1Hood, “Let’s begin to question how much money we’re spending on police. If they can prove they need more money for policing, then we should spend more.” Supports universal background checks, banning automatic weapons, and allowing cities and counties to make their own gun laws through home rule.
Endorsements: WESA reports he has been endorsed by previous school board members.
Pennsylvania State House District 34
By Jordana Rosenfeld
District 34 covers several eastern suburbs including Swissvale, Forest Hills, and Braddock. It is currently represented by Summer Lee, who is running for re-election to her state house seat in this race in addition to her bid for Congress.
Bio: Incumbent candidate. Swissvale resident. Lawyer and community organizer. In 2018, was first Black woman from southwestern Pa. elected to state House. Born and raised in North Braddock. Founded UNITE PAC to support other progressive candidates, particularly women, LGBTQ candidates, and candidates of color. Won re-election in 2020.
Infrastructure: In 2021, announced the allocation of more than $10 million in state funds for lead water line replacement, stormwater remediation, and parks and recreation projects in her district. Advocated for federal investment in MLK East Busway and Mon-Fayette Expressway.
Tax revenue: Tweeted in 2021 in support of taxing UPMC.
Endorsements: 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club. Endorsed by others in U.S. House Race.
Bio: Attorney and Swissvale Borough council member. Previous council president. Solo practitioner in nonprofit and small business law. Received law degree from University of Pittsburgh. Lived in Swissvale since 2015. Grew up in Ohio.
Climate Change: Wrote she would “encourage adoption of fuel sources other than fossil fuels, encourage/facilitate composting programs in the district, and explore alternatives to the currently ineffective plastics recycling program.” Told CP she is concerned about how climate change will affect infrastructure needs.
Infrastructure: Wrote that, although no lives have been lost locally in recent infrastructure failures, “We will not always be so lucky.” Critical of Pittsburgh’s combined sewer system’s frequent overflow issues. Told CP, “Because I’ve been in municipal government, I’m more focused on, frankly, fixing your sewer infrastructure than I am on big, lofty concepts.”
Tax revenue: Believes large, revenue-generating nonprofits like UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh should pay more in taxes. Told CP, “If [Pitt] can spend millions to union bust while they preach equity to their students, they can probably pony up a little bit of money” for infrastructure.
Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 12, Ironworkers Union Local 3, Insulators Union Local 2.
Illustrations by Lucy Chen for Pittsburgh City Paper.
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