Ok, so what can the African-American community celebrate with me not winning the Democratic Primary for County Controller? First, the community needs to know what obstacles existed, to fully appreciate the results that were won.
•It takes money to run a campaign, and unfortunately, I only received about a fifth of the contributions the winning candidate received.
•Not being a party endorsed candidate on the Democratic Committee slate card, I lost the city to Wagner. And I lost the Mon Valley to Matta, both areas I had historically carried to win countywide.
•I did not have the endorsement and support of organized labor. Unions provide substantial financial contributions, phone banking, communications, mailings, and distribution of yard signs.
•I did not have a political heavyweight like Jack Wagner actively campaigning for me.
•Unlike in 2001, Democratic Party leadership did not have the political will to have diversity as a priority in its slate of candidates for at-large county seats.
•Voter turnout was exceptionally low at 21 percent, and the African-American turnout was even lower, sometimes in the single digits.
•I was not the first name on the ballot, which does give a candidate an edge, especially if they are female.
So why did I run anyway, despite the odds? You won’t make a basket, and you won’t win the game if you don’t shoot! So what baskets did we make?
•This was a three-way race. I received 28 percent of the vote, which is slightly less than 1/3, and a very respectable second place finish especially considering the aforementioned mitigating factors.
•Except for areas in the Mon Valley, I won predominantly African-American communities—Braddock, Braddock Hills, Homestead, North Braddock, City of Pittsburgh—Garfield, Hill District, Larimer, Lemington, Lincoln, Homewood, Highland Park, North Point Breeze, Northside areas, Beltzhoover, Stanton Heights, Wilkinsburg.
•My candidacy once again garnered my neighbors’ support. I won Churchill, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Monroeville, Penn Hills, Swissvale, and Wilkins. I virtually tied in Plum, and even won Sewickley.
•There were 36 communities with an average of 1 percent African-American population, yet I garnered 25-40 percent of the vote. This is truly a celebration and affirmation of a Black candidate being judged for credentials and not race.
The results show the African-American community, including Black Democratic Committee members, shouted loudly and clearly that they want and deserve African-American elected leadership beyond the obvious and acceptable delineations of local Black districts designed to elect Black officials. In the last 15 years of approximately 100 county elections for office, there have been only four African-Americans elected county wide.
Let the voting results I was honored to receive be a mandate to change this unacceptable statistic when the opportunity arises, and to increase the voter turnout to make a difference. County Councilman Bill Robinson gave me sage advice to ‘Stay in the game’. I have for more than 20 years, and will continue to do so to mentor other African-Americans and women to ‘get in it, stay in it, and win it’ to take a seat at the table of power at all levels of government.
THANK YOU TO ALL for your solid support and love, for being energized and excited, for being so generous with your time and money, some donating to a political campaign for the first time. Congratulations to Chelsa Wagner on her Primary win, and wishing her the best in the fall.
Valerie McDonald Roberts
Primary Candidate, Allegheny County Controller