Allegheny County Councilmember Olivia Bennett announces her bid for Allegheny County executive during a news conference on Monday, 12/12/22 (Pittsburgh City Paper photo by Jamie Wiggan).
By Jamie Wiggan
PITTSBURGH — Olivia Bennett has stepped into an increasingly crowded county executive race, vowing to bring progressive reforms to Allegheny County.
Speaking Monday from Emerald City, a Black-owned arts and business incubator, Bennett said she would, if elected, continue advancing the progressive policies she’s stood behind as a county council member since 2020.
“I have fought for workers, the incarcerated, and those who don’t have a voice to fight for themselves,” Bennett said, of her county council record. “I worked to lower the population in the jail, to protect our most vulnerable in the pandemic.”
Bennet joins a growing pool of candidates who have so far entered the contest for Allegheny County Executive, including Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb and DHS contractor Erin McClelland. State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) is expected to announce her entry Thursday. Former County Councilmember Dave Fawcett has also hinted at a run.
Rich Fitzgerald, who became executive in 2012, is term-limited and will step down at the end of 2023.
Before entering politics, Bennett gained prominence in the local activist community, where she has worked with organizations including Take Action Mon Valley, the Alliance for Police Accountability, and the Black Equity Coalition.
Fawn Walker-Montgomery, a consultant working on Bennett’s campaign team, also praised her record as a grassroots organizer.
“Every time we were in the street Liv Bennett was right there next to us, she was fighting with us,” Fawn said. “And then she turned around and ran for office and won.”
Bennett, who now lives in Northview Heights, said she was first spurred to public service by the devastation of drug addiction and gang violence she witnessed growing up in Pittsburgh’s Manchester neighborhood in the 1980s.
“Seeing the detrimental effects of this gave me a vision for a better society,” Bennett told the gathering. “This passion, also fostered by my faith, made me see other organizations and politicians who also wanted to see a better society”
Bennett listed off several legislative achievements she’s contributed to during her council tenure, including a ban on conversion therapy, a ban on fracking in parks, and the establishment of a county-wide police review board. But, she says, she’s now looking for the levers of the executive’s office to take this agenda further.
“Our work is not finished,” says Bennett. “We have so much left to do. We see violence in our streets daily and many of the resources to foster peace in our communities sit at our county agencies such as the Health Department and the Department of Human Services.”
Jamie Wiggan is news editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared.
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