I started in politics in 1949 and the only elections I was not active in were the two years I was in the army (1952-1954). I believed at the outset of my political career that politics was the fastest way for Black people to achieve equality. The White democratic committeeman in the 9th district of the 3rd ward where I lived was considered the best vote getter in Allegheny County. Several of us, who were Black Republicans adopted a Black Democrat and ran his campaign for the position and eventually got him elected, thereby making it possible since Blacks were the overwhelming majority to take political control of the ward.
The main reason I am telling this historic event is because I was involved, not seeking a job for myself or any member of my family, nor was I seeking any kind of reward, but solely to advance the cause of Black people. In this May 17 election nothing has changed, however, there are those Blacks who have 501c3s; need a job or just want the cash; or who would sell Black folks out and continue to perpetuate political slavery.
I never ascribed to the theory that Blacks in particular should follow the Democratic Party line and support the endorsed slate. Two pertinent examples: in 1996 an astounding number of Black voters rejected the endorsed Democratic candidates for Allegheny County Commissioners and elected two Republicans for the first time in 67 years. The result was for the first time in the history of the county, Blacks were awarded professional service contracts, Warden of the county jail, Director of MHS, Superintendent of Allegheny County Police Department and a meaningful MBE /WBE Department. In 2008 the Allegheny County Democratic Party endorsed Hillary Clinton and expected Blacks to blindly follow, but once again we fooled them and voted for Barack Obama.
I personally interviewed both Allegheny County candidates for the county executive office and asked both of them identical questions, why do you run? How does it benefit Black voters?
Fitzgerald stated he was a successful businessman, had been on Allegheny County Council for 12 years and enjoyed almost 100 percent union support and he was overwhelmed with joy about the fact that he and the unions had an unbreakable bond. I stated to him that Black men in Allegheny County had an unprecedented unemployment rate and I attributed it to the same unions that have their arms around him, and his simplistic response was, “Don’t worry, once I am elected I will correct that.”
I reminded him that he had been on Allegheny County for 12 years and his leadership had not brought any positive results for Port Authority and the riders, and once again his answer was “Once I get elected I’ll address it.” Last but not least his constant referral to his wealth made me believe he was saying that he could buy the alleged Black leadership in the Black communities across Allegheny County.
Mark Patrick Flaherty stated that his years as an attorney and the seven years as Allegheny County Controller provided him the most unique qualifications for the office of county executive. He possesses a great in-depth knowledge of the financial situation that will confront Allegheny County in next year’s budget and will be totally prepared to deal with it and will not have to depend on an incoming county controller to explain the serious problems that will be inherent because of budget cuts. Mark Flaherty is not bombastic, but rather laid back and listens. He does not give you the impression that he has all the answers, but simply stated that if the answers to complex problems were so simple that the problems would not continue to exist. Mark was the most impressive when discussing the inadequacies when it relates to Blacks. He shared with me that the driving force to correct the diversity shortcomings will emanate from the Allegheny County Chief Executive Office.
I would hope that you—the readers of this column—will repeat your vote in 1996 and 2008, by voting for Mark Patrick Flaherty and not the endorsed candidate.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)