City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess has informed the hosts of three upcoming candidate forums on the race for his District 9 seat that he will not be attending after a rival candidate leapt from the stage and got into a fight with an audience member during the April 16 “Showdown” debate at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library.
In letters addressed to the Black Political Empowerment Project, The African American Chamber of Commerce and the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly, Burgess said such conduct is unacceptable and he will not sanction it with his presence.
“I now do not have confidence that the Candidate can behave in a civil and appropriate manner at public events,” he wrote. “It’s obvious from their behavior and later public comments that they believe violence to be an appropriate response to those they disagree with. Their presence and unpredictable behavior puts both other Council Candidates and participating audience members at risk.”
The rival candidate, whom Burgess declined to name, was Judith Ginyard. She said the confrontation was not the fight he described, but a family issue with an elderly and mentally infirm aunt, which Burgess is trying to exploit for political gain. Candidates Andre Young and Twanda Carlisle were also present.
Ginyard said she left the stage to help her daughter and twin sister who had been trying to calm the agitated aunt after she made a verbal outburst from the audience.
“I’m 56 years old. I don’t leap, and I certainly didn’t get into a fight,” said Ginyard. “My aunt had an episode and because my sister is a twin some people in the audience were crowding around. I went to assist my daughter. Once I saw she was okay, and (state Rep.) Ed Gainey asked the audience to calm down, I went back on stage finished my closing remarks.”
She said Burgess should be praying for her aunt, not exploiting her.
“He’s using this to dodge the issues and us,” she said. “People with mental illness shouldn’t be used as props, especially after he attended the 14th Ward endorsement event with all of us on Sunday. He didn’t leave that because I was there. It’s exploitation, I think the voters deserve more.”
Gainey’s Legislative Assistant Melvin Hubbard-El said the incident was unfortunate, but it shouldn’t serve as a reason for anyone to drop out of the scheduled debates.
“He (Burgess) was getting hammered pretty good,” he said. “But if he’s anywhere worth his salt, he’ll stand up and have his record stand up at any forum.”
In his letter, Burgess said he would continue the campaign by taking his message directly to the residents of District 9.
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