Actor/activist Susan Sarandon backs Doyle primary challenger Jerry Dickinson

(Photo collage via The Pittsburgh Current)

By Charlie Deitch

PITTSBURGH — At first blush, it might seem surprising that Hollywood actor/activist Susan Sarandon would endorse and donate to a Western Pennsylvania congressional candidate that she didn’t know personally. But that candidate, Democratic 18th Congressional District hopeful Jerry Dickinson, says when you look at it a little closer, it actually makes all the sense in the world.

“We had no idea that this was coming,” Dickinson told the Current. “I got a call from my campaign guy and he said, ‘did you know Susan Sarandon just tweeted about us?’

“But in many ways it makes sense. She is a longtime progressive and activist and someone like her supporting a candidate like me. I think now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race, people are looking for leaders who will go to Washington and fight for bold, new policies,” he said.

She made her support known in a Wednesday Tweet.

Dickinson is running against veteran incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle in the 18th Congressional District, which covers Pittsburgh and surrounding communities to the south and east. While the seat is safely blue, Dickinson has said it needs a representative who will fight for more progressive policies.

While Sarandon is an Oscar-winning actor and starred in widely popular films like Bull Durham, Thelma and Louise and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, she is almost equally as well known for her progressive activism.

She is a self-described Democratic Socialist,  anti-war protester and believes in policies like Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal. Most recently she supported Bernie Sanders for President, appearing at rallies and offering very vocal support.

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“It makes so much sense to get this guy in,” Sarandon said of Sanders at a campaign event in Worcester, Mass. “The only reason that it’s not happening as early as it should be is because there are people with a ‘D’ next to their name who are profiting. And, as much as they say they’re against Trump, they vote for his stuff every time it comes up.”

Add to that, this February Tweet from Sarandon and it’s obvious that she is not a fan of holding old party lines.

“I think this is part of a bigger movement,” says Dickinson, also a supporter of Sen. Sanders. “The 18th is a safe, blue seat in the middle of postindustrial America. But people want leaders in that seat who will truly address progressive concerns. We need progressive foot soldiers in the house and senate and people are drawing attention to that fact.

“Like Susan, I support the Green New Deal; I believe in a ban on fracking. I have taken a very aggressive approach to the climate change question in this race. We have some of the worst air quality in the United States. I want corporate money out of politics, so does she. We want big bold change and so does she. I think it’s really cool to have her support in this campaign.”

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