After several major changes in the Pittsburgh mayoral race, nothing has really changed. I’m like most people out there. I don’t have a clue who I’m going to vote for.

What’s the difference? Especially for Black folks?

Now with Darlene Harris, Jim Ferlo, and Michael Lamb following Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s cancelling his mayoral bid, the only real candidates in the race are: Jack Wagner, Bill Peduto and Jake Wheatley. A.J. Richardson is a joke. Maybe one day we will be able to accept a candidate with tattoos all over his face.

And last weekend’s vote didn’t help me in making my decision. This past weekend the Black Political Convention headed by Sala Udin held a vote in five Black communities to determine which candidate Blacks should support. Well between 200 to 250 people showed, which leaves us where we were. Wheatley won with 52 percent of the vote; Peduto came in second with 33 percent; and Wagner brought up the rear with 13 percent. Richardson didn’t get one single vote.

I’m surprised that Peduto and Wagner’s numbers were so low. I don’t think this is a reflection of the primary election which I still think Wagner and Peduto will break almost even with 50 plus percent of the Black vote with Wheatley edging them out with around 40 to 50 percent of the Black vote. This will mean that for Wheatley to win, he needs a large percentage of White votes to pull off the upset.

There were rumors Wheatley was going to drop out. To his credit he’s hanging in there, and I would be surprised if he did drop out at this late date.

Blacks make up about 30 percent or more of the city with most sharing my predicament.

They don’t know whom they are going to vote for.

Wagner and Peduto have their share of Blacks in positions, unions, and money people. But the average voter is still asking, what is the big difference between these three? Who will be more accessible to Blacks once he gets in office? Which one can actually make changes that will help Black people?

Changes such as helping pull the unemployment rate down for all, but especially for Blacks whose unemployment rate is two to three times higher than Whites?

Will he make all the universities in this city accessible to all?

Will he work with the corporate structure and Public and Private Schools to not only make sure our kids are getting a quality education but find jobs in this area after they graduate from high school, college or trade school?

I’m sure all three candidates are going to say they support diversity and affirmative action, but who’s willing to truly make a commitment to it from day one in the composition of their cabinet, department heads, and work force?

I commend Sala Udin and the group he’s working with for their effort in putting forward a Black Agenda. And I commend Bill Robinson for being the first to challenge the candidates to make a real effort to change the conditions so that Blacks have equal access to the many opportunities in this great city. He was the first to call for a Black Agenda.

I hope whomever wins this election picks up a large percentage of Black votes so whoever he is, he must work with the Black community because he owes the election to them. Even though I like and respect Wheatley a great deal, I hope all Black people don’t vote for him because he’s Black and allow Wagner or Peduto to win not owing our communities anything.

Because even if he does get all the Black votes he still must get enough White votes to beat out Wagner and Peduto. He needs at least 45 percent of the overall vote to win. For those of you who are having math problems that’s the entire (30 percent) Black vote, plus 15 percent or more White. In all reality I think he will get 50 percent of the Black vote, which gives him 15 percent, which means he would need more than 25 percent of the White vote to win. I don’t think the winner will get over 50 percent of the votes, unless the White community totally ignores Wheatley.

Now that they have had time, and multiple debates, Wheatley will benefit the most showing White voters he’s just as intelligent as his opponents and that he’s not just a candidate for Black people. 

I really don’t think money is going to be the key issue in this race, which is good for Wheatley who has less of it than Wagner and Peduto.

When looking at qualifications, all three are qualified. Many people who are criticizing Wheatley for being in the race overlook the fact that he has been a state rep for 10 years which makes as qualified as the other two, and definitely more than Ravenstahl when he took office.

Hopefully within the next month, journalists will start asking them tougher questions such as. What is the difference between you guys?

What will you do to develop Homewood, The Hill District, the lower North Side, Beltzhoover, and East Liberty? And for those communities which are rebuilding, what will you do to keep them moving forward?

What will you do to keep Downtown development, which has been booming under Ravenstahl, growing? Bottom line, why should I vote for you?

Will Blacks come out to vote in a large enough percentage to make a difference if the election was held today? No. But so far Whites are not all that fired up with their candidates either. 

It should be a very interesting few weeks. So let the race begin.

(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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