The Lead

Top W. Pa. labor leader says he’s ‘appalled’ by Allegheny Dems’ state House endorsements

By: - February 18, 2020 3:35 pm

The Pittsburgh skyline (Pittsburgh Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

By Charlie Deitch

PITTSBURGH — The president of the Central Labor Council for Allegheny and Fayette counties has sharply criticized a vote by Allegheny County Democrats to endorse a state House candidate who’s spoken favorably about President Donald Trump and who has a history of controversial posts on social media.

The official, Darin Kelly, told the Pittsburgh Current that he’s appalled by Sunday’s 49-19 vote to endorse Heather Kass, who’s one of two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the 36th House District seat now held by Rep. Harry Readshaw, who announced his retirement last month.

“Many Union members in Western Pennsylvania are also Democratic Committee Members, including myself, and we know that many times we disagree over policies, priorities and strategies,” Kelly said in a statement the labor council released Monday.

And while there may be a differing opinions on which candidates to support, “there is absolutely no disagreement over the fundamental values that we all share,” Kelly wrote.

“There is no room in the labor movement or in the Democratic Party for someone who trashes the Affordable Care Act and pushed propaganda from right-wing think tanks that exist to attack unions, hurt workers and help corporate interests,” he continued. “There is no room for someone who shows so much contempt for working families and people struggling to get by and so little compassion for people suffering from addiction in the midst of a regional opioid epidemic that has affected so many of us.”

Allegheny County Dems facing pushback after making a pair of controversial endorsements

“As I told Ms. Kass when she sought the Labor Council’s endorsement, her social media posts made me sick. They do not reflect our values in the labor movement or in the Democratic Party, and they should be disqualifying for anyone seeking our support.”

Jessica Benham, a disability rights advocate who lost Sunday’s endorsement vote to Kass, told the Pittbsurgh Current that she’s staying in the race.

The committee’s vote to endorse Kass, and its decision to back Chris Roland, who’s challenging incumbent state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, sparked a firestorm of anger on Sunday night. Lee is the region’s only Black woman member of the House.

“It’s disgusting,” Bethany Hallam, an at-large member of Allegheny County Council, said. “They’re all about backing incumbents until it’s time to support an outspoken woman. “Summer told me … and it’s true, that if she had Chris Roland’s resume she would have been laughed out of the room. We need someone like her in office and in leadership.

Sunday’s vote “was a bad look for the Democratic Party. When we talk about the party endorsement not being relevant, these are the reasons why. I’d love to hear from party leadership how they feel about Heather Kass being their endorsed candidate,” Hallam told the Pittsburgh Current.

Charlie Deitch is the editor of the Pittsburgh Current, where this story first appeared. 

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