As a follow up to the article March 9-15, 2011 “Incumbents Lose Party Endorsement, Roberts to Stay in Race,” there seems to be some misinformation regarding campaign shenanigans leading up to the March 6 Democratic endorsement. On Feb. 15, there was an anonymous e-mail widely circulated from the address firstname.lastname@example.org. This communication accused Allegheny County Democratic Chairman Jim Burn, City Democratic Chairman Ed Gainey, and Democratic Black ward leaders of having a secret meeting to support county controller candidate George Matta in exchange for money. It went on to elaborate that Matta was sued in his former capacity as county clerk of courts for racial slurs directed at former employees, and questioned why Black Democratic leadership would allegedly support a candidate as such. The truth? There was a meeting called by Black ward chairs to discuss with Burn and Gainey how the Democratic Committee could assist with helping host a candidate forum for all city Black Democratic Committee members and community members, but not a discussion to accept monetary gain from Matta. I applaud the Black ward chairs for having hosted a candidate forum for several years for all African-American citizens.
There was no indication if this e-mail had been generated to hurt or help me, until this same e-mail was actually printed and mailed anonymously a week later to Democratic Committee members in predominantly Black areas, along with a professional copy of my flyer attached, thus attempting to tie me to the anonymous attack. Essentially this anonymous mailing was done to harm my candidacy and Matta’s, and consequently seemed to benefit candidate Chelsa Wagner. A second anonymous mailing (postcard) arrived two days before the endorsement meeting attacking Matta for the aforementioned issues. These mailings were unaccountable negative campaigning, and because they were anonymously mailed, violated state law. Fortunately, my good reputation working with the Black community and party leaders preceded me, and thus most of the Black ward Democratic Committee members had already known I had nothing to do with that mailing, and would never publicly disrespect them and Gainey in a sneaky way for political gain. Not my style.
I on the other hand sent out a letter March 3, which was signed by me and mailed with my return address to all Democratic Committee members, to pose the logical argument, that because Matta had cost the county significant money in lawsuits, that this public record would be used against him in the general election in November, and thus could jeopardize the Democratic Party to lose the county controller seat to a Republican if he became the Democrat endorsed candidate. Though misconstrued as negative campaigning by some, especially Matta supporters, it was worded to simply warn committee members of certain consequences of their endorsement selection that would be realized in the general election, and especially cautioned of the likely negative impact to the county executive Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket going into November. I took the heat for trying to protect the integrity of the entire ticket.
I do not subscribe to “throw a rock and hide your hand.” It’s cowardice and unethical. If I have criticism, I will take credit for that “rock in my hand.” My letter was submitted to the printer for mailing the same day the first anonymous mailing hit. Unfortunately, the timing may have caused suspicion of me having a connection to the anonymous mailing. But I had absolutely nothing to do with any of the anonymous mailings. Indeed, I support Matta’s efforts in trying to identify the source of the anonymous mailings for prosecution through the DA’s office.
My campaign has and will continue to be above board. Though the anonymous e-mail referred to the Black ward chairs ‘pimping’ the community, the originator of that e-mail mailed to Black committee members and using me, the only Black non-judicial county candidate in the race, was the ultimate shameless “pimping” of African-Americans, and I resent it. Lastly, regarding Burn’s unwarranted reference to my letter as “disgraceful” and “hitting below the belt,” since when does telling the truth become a disgrace? Since when does the greater good of the entire Democratic Party equate to hitting below the belt? I received numerous complaints about his response these past two weeks, and I thank those people for having my back. I respect all the hard work of Chairman Burn for the whole Democratic Party, and am not offended because I’m used to the rough and tumble dynamic of politics. I hope his response was simply made in undue haste and the heat of the moment.
Ultimately, I had a fraction of the money, resources and political weight of name of the other candidates, but still received a large significant portion of the committee vote—representing a growing base within the Democratic Party. I am honored and I am thankful for all those who have and continue to support me as someone who has always been in this game strictly for the people.
Valerie McDonald Roberts
Candidate for Allegheny County Controller