Congressman Mike Doyle, Sen. Lindsey Williams, others call on Allegheny County’s Democratic chair to resign

The Pittsburgh skyline (Pittsburgh Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

By Charlie Deitch

PITTSBURGH — Veteran U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-18th District, along with such western Pennsylvania elected officials as state Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, and Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, are calling on Allegheny County’s Democratic Party chairwoman to resign after she defended a pair of controversial endorsements for two state House races.

County chair Eileen Kelly and Pittsburgh City Councilor Anthony Coghill held a press conference Tuesday to address controversy stirred up when the party endorsed 36th House District candidate Heather Kass despite her history of inflammatory social media posts. At that same news conference, Kelly belittled Allegheny County  Councilor Bethany Hallam’s previous battles with drug addiction.

On Wednesday, Kelly called the endorsement the “the most purest form of democracy … committee people know the candidates the best.”

The committee voted 49-19 to back Kass, the handpicked successor to retiring Rep. Harry Readshaw. Kass got the nod over Benham, a progressive, who has the backing of Williams and other high-ranking Democrats, including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

According to Chris Potter of WESA-FM:

“Kelly went further, saying that some critics were being less forgiving of Kass — who has said she made the posts during a medical crisis — than they were of Hallam, who has been open about struggles with addiction that led to a stint in the county jail. ‘But we have Bethany Hallam who has her own background that she’s been open about, and she comes out and says, ‘I’m sorry blah blah blah’ and she’s forgiven. … So why is it good for them and not for [Kass]?’”

In a statement, Doyle, the dean of Pennsylvania’s Democratic delegation on Capitol Hill, called Kelly’s comments “troubling and unacceptable.”

“It is clear to me and many other leader and Stakeholders in the Democratic Party that the Chair must resign to ensure that Democrats across the county  have faith in our party and remain unified,” Doyle said. “It’s time for fresh new leadership and to re-examine our bylaws to ensure we unite our party around our common values in this vitally important election year.”

In a tweet, Davis, the county party’s vice chairman, called Kelly’s remarks a “disgrace,” adding that he “[believes] in the Democratic Party,” and that it’s clear that Kelly “doesn’t share our values and should not be leading our party.”

Williams offered a similar sentiment:

“A good leader is someone who not only inspires others to follow her, but is willing to constantly learn and grow from the people around her,” she said. “It is clear that Eileen Kelly is not that leader for our county party. She should step down immediately.”

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