By Charlie Deitch
PITTSBURGH — Controversial Facebook posts made in the past five years by a Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania House has one Pittsburgh City Councilman calling on her to withdraw from the party’s endorsement process and another withdrawing an endorsement he made in the past 24 hours.
Acting on tips from sources, the Pittsburgh Current examined the Facebook posts made by 36th House district Heather Kass, one of two Democratis vying to succeed veteran Democratic Rep. Harry Readshaw, who’s retiring at year’s end.
Kass recently announced she’d be vying for the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee to replace Readshaw. She will face disability-rights activist and community organizer Jessica Benham, who has been campaigning for the seat since last fall.
Among the posts’ contents are comments that appear to be pro-Donald Trump, unsympathetic and angry toward those on public assistance, pro-gun and unsympathetic toward opioid addicts. The posts are making some Democrats uncomfortable about how Kass might govern if elected. The Pittsburgh Current received the posts from several different sources.
Among the posts’ contents are comments that appear to be pro-Donald Trump, unsympathetic and angry toward those on public assistance, pro-gun, and unsympathetic toward opioid addicts. The posts are making some Democrats uncomfortable about how Kass might govern if elected.
Coghill told the Pittsburgh Current Monday night that that after learning of the posts, he withdrew his support for Kass. He said Kass worked on his campaigns in the past and says she is a “good person.” He didn’t do any further vetting.
“I wasn’t aware of any of these posts,” Coghill said. “I know Heather to be a nice person. I was surprised by this, but I was also disturbed by these posts. ” I have to withdraw my support. It’s nothing personal, but the things said in these posts are not at all in line with my values.”
Also on Monday, Kraus told the Current that he was calling for Kass to withdraw her name from the county Dems endorsement process. After the Current posted disturbing posts that Kass shared and wrote about opioid addicts, Kraus called the comments, “appalling.’
The post came from an account named “Heather Ann SK,” the same account that Kass used to announce her candidacy.
In a post from Dec. 30, 2015 Kass writes verbatim: “As I have said before I hate Obamacare. This shit I have to pay freakn 5,500.00 a year on top of my husbands freaking monthly payment to the health plan is bullshit .. These lazy no good idiots sucking the system dry and I still have to pay for them. Get a freaking job….(Not Apply to All) It is people who know how to work the system I am sick of. Plus Generation family on welfare that is problem… I work my A$$ off just like my husband and both of my kids and we have to pay for this crap. So Done!!!!! Go Trump!!!!!!!!!! If you don’t like my post too bad it is my opinion.”
In 2014, Kass shared a post from the ultra-conservative think tank FreedomWorks, that urges,, “Stop Hillary.”
Kass shared another post that features an AR-15 rifle decorated like a unicorn child’s toy. It also appears to be making light of gender fluidity. It reads “And don’t ‘assume’ its identity. It’s NOT an AR-15. It identifies as a wireless, handheld peacekeeping device.”
Pittsburgh City Councilor Bruce Kraus told the Pittsburgh Current on Monday that he was shocked and concerned by the posts. Kraus has represented the South Side neighborhoods for more than 12 years and his constituents are in the 36th District.
“These posts are very troubling for a number of reasons,” Kraus says. “First, one of the posts is an opinion on healthcare, which is one of the most important issues facing our citizenry. And if you just look at the post’s tone. It’s in all caps, just like Donald Trump does, It’s also saying that I have mine and if you’re not fortunate enough to have yours, I’m not going to help you. That’s terrifying to see that mindset coming from someone who wants to go and represent the people of the 36th District. That post shows a callousness … and it gives me great pause.”
Kraus further says that the unicorn/gun post, “makes light of a very difficult subject; it dresses the gun up like a toy that is suitable for a child to play with. And I do worry that the wording of the post takes a swipe at people who are gender-fluid or trans individuals.
Posts from Kass also appear to directly contradict issues she is now apparently championing. In a January 7 interview with WESA-FM, reporter Chris Potter wrote: “She said a key issue was opioid addiction, and while she wanted more aggressive policing of those who sell the drugs, she advocated a more compassionate approach to addicts.”
But, a post Kass shared, which appears to be from Sept. 17, 2019 reads: “If your city bans straws but hands out needles … you’re being governed by idiots.” Above the post Kasss writes: Isn’t this a joke got to love idiots in California.”
Previously on Aug. 29, 2016, Kass shared this post about addiction: “So if a kid has an allergic reaction the parents have to pay a ridiculous price for an Epi pen. But a junkie who has Od’d for their 15th time gets Narcan for free? What a screwed up world we live in.
And on top of the shared post Kass wrote:
“This is bullshit freaking junkies get everything we should just make the drugs legal let them OD and less shit in the world… I don’t want to hear that I don’t know what it’s like and that people have a sickness. I have been on pain meds for severe health issues for years…I purposely choose to be on the lowest dosage possible and NEVER become addicted… So give me a break… I am also severely allergic to bees and need to carry this meds and I have to pay out the ass while junkies get all their shit for free for fucking years. Grow a set and get clean.”
District 8 City Councilor Erika Strassburger says Kass’ posts show a “disappointing lack of empathy and compassion. I understand there are more-conservative Democrats out there, but we don’t need someone who is a Dem in name only. To have someone out there espousing Trump-like positions with a ‘D’ next to their name is a huge concern.
“I think a conversation on this needs to be forced, sooner rather than later.”
Both Strassburger and Kraus say they are supporting Benham.
But Kass isn’t without her supporters. On Sunday, she was endorsed by both Readshaw and Pittsburgh City Councilor Anthony Coghill.
“I have concerns if an elected official were to back her without looking into this,” says Zirkel.
Also worth noting is the Facebook page of Kass’ husband. It is filled with content that is pro-Trump, takes shots at “liberals” and the “fake news,” and features some content that has been marked by Facebook as containing false content. While couples having different political views is not unheard of, Kraus says Heather Kass still needs to address it.
“Can we hold a candidate responsible for the rhetoric a spouse shares?” Kraus says. “I don’t know, but she needs to take the comments on head first. She needs to explain whether she agrees with these statements and if not, then she needs to repudiate them.”
Pittsburgh Current reached out to Kass through the contact information on her campaign Facebook page. The Allegheny County Democratic Committee will hold its endorsement meeting on Feb. 16.
Charlie Deitch is the editor of the Pittsburgh Current, where this piece first appeared.