We are revisiting our Political Q&A series for the upcoming elections of 2019. We’ve reached out to candidates who are pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ, asking them a series of questions about their campaigns. We’ve sent out about a dozen Q&A’s to folks who agreed to participate. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com.
Our next respondent is Bobby Wilson. He has mounted a challenge to the Democratic incumbent in the City Council District 1 race.
In addition to Bobby’s Q&A, I’ve published a Q&A with Liv Bennett, Deb Gross, Pam Harbin, Bethany Hallam and Anna Batista. I’ve sent Q&A’s at their request to Kenneth Wolfe, Judith K. Ginyard, Kierran C. Young, and Jessica Rothchild (open lesbian running for Scranton Council), and Bruce Kraus and will publish when they submit it. Allegheny County Council Candidate Christine Allen has declined to participate and I’ve sent the information about the Q&A to other regional candidates, inviting them to request a Q&A.
I realize it takes times to complete this Q&A, but it also takes times to create it (see our new Flip the Script series for more on that.) And I think the LGBTQ community deserves every moment of that time.
Name: Bobby Wilson
Office That You Are Seeking: City Council, District 1
How do you describe your identity? I identify as a cisgender heterosexual male.
Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? During the final years of high school and first years of college, I worked at the North Park Pool and North Park ice skating rink. I had several coworkers-turned-friends who identified as gay and lesbian. I learned about the LGBTQIA+ dictionary and cultural references I would have otherwise missed as a cishet man. But this was not my first exposure to the community. My mom raised us to respect everyone regardless of their identity, and instilled in us to be exactly who we are. At age 6, my sister began to identify and present as a boy, and she changed her name to Kevin. My mom was more than happy to approve the name change in the school system, so my sibling could live her true self throughout her various transitions. She later transitioned back to female but this in no way makes her experience less valid. These experiences opened me up to understanding how important it is for an individual to have love and support regardless of their identity.
Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have LGBTQIA+ anti-discrimination laws, and the fact that such a vulnerable population have no legal protections against discrimination is abhorrent. LGBTQIA+ people can get married on a Saturday, evicted from their home on Sunday, fired from their job on Monday, and denied goods and services any day just for living their true selves, and that isn’t a moral or ethical way to treat other people. I know that Representative Frankel is working hard to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which will help reduce LGBTQIA+ discrimination, but the city and state can do more to help with the high suicide rates, high homicide victim rates, and homelessness that is far too common in the community.
Please specify how you have worked with the LGBTQ community on initiatives while in office. As President of the Spring Hill Civic League, I worked hard to create an environment that was welcoming and inclusive to all, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community. If elected to City Council, I would be honored to continue my advocacy within the city government.
I will never experience the struggles POC, LGBTQIA+, and women face on a daily basis, but I can, and will, extend constituent services to ensure their voices are heard and at the center of my policy agenda and voting record.
Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for City Council? How will you respond to those priorities? I understand that the LGBTQ community faces greater vulnerabilities in terms of economic security, housing, healthcare outcomes, and access to services. I will work to ensure that the City is taking proactive steps to being inclusive in terms of support–whether that means securing funding for mental health services, homelessness prevention, fighting for anti-discrimination laws, or any other way I can be of service. I will be an active ally and put the voices of LGBTQIA+ people at the center of my agenda.
How does intersectionality inform your work? District 1 is very diverse in terms of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and religion. As city councilman, my job would be to represent every person in all of their identities. My biggest legislative priorities, including affordable housing, livable wages, and responsible development are all geared to creating a more equitable Pittsburgh and addressing the intersectional causes of inequality.
The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. How does City Council navigate this equivalency of personal religious freedom with systemic oppression and control of underserved people? Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to discriminate. City Council, and all governing bodies, are responsible for ensuring everyone has legal protection against any form of discrimination.
People perceive the incumbent as being deeply invested in constituent work with Northsiders and a perhaps necessary foil to the Mayor’s influence on City Council, a role that has some concerned the Northside’s needs are not being addressed. Please identify some specific policies or programs you’d work with the Peduto Administration to improve conditions for all Northsider neighborhoods in your district. The incumbent has been a consistent “no” vote on anything the Mayor and city council have tried to do, oftentimes to the detriment of the north side. Being an independent voice is important, but not when it is at odds with the needs and values of the district. The Councilwoman’s no vote on the recent measure to restrict military-style assault weapons was not to the benefit of her constituents, was out of touch with the needs of the district, and appeared to be merely obstructionism. I will always vote with the North Side first, but I also have the ability to work with Grant street to make sure the North Side is a place that isn’t being left behind.
My biggest legislative priorities, including affordable housing, livable wages, and responsible development are all geared to creating a more equitable Pittsburgh and addressing the intersectional causes of inequality.
Representation on City Council is an ongoing struggle as minority candidates strive to gain the resources and party support to wage their campaigns. Help me understand why we should support a white cisgender heterosexual man over a white woman or a Black man if a Council that represents the entire community is a priority for voters? I recognize there is a lot of privilege associated with my identity as a cishet white man, and we bring our experiences with us. But I also bring my values with me. The other candidates in the race have promoted policies that are harmful to people in the district. I am committed to listening to the needs of every person and acting accordingly. I will never experience the struggles POC, LGBTQIA+, and women face on a daily basis, but I can, and will, extend constituent services to ensure their voices are heard and at the center of my policy agenda and voting record. This is especially important considering the problematic views that have been shared by my opponents. District 1 deserves an advocate that will stand committed to everyone. This commitment is currently reflected in my endorsements from Planned Parenthood and Gertrude Stein Political Club, organizations that specialize in women’s/nonbinary/transfolx health issues, and LGBTQIA+ issues respectively.
Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters. I am very fortunate to have received a variety of endorsements from individuals and organizations, all which reflect my personal priorities and issues I am passionate about. I was endorsed by Gertrude Stein Political Club and Planned Parenthood, Clean Water Action and Conservation Voters of PA, five unions including SEIU, and Mayor Bill Peduto. Additional community leaders including Marcus Reed and Randy Zotter support my campaign.
Where can readers find your campaign on social media?
Campaign office : 3233 Brighton Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Office number : 412-256-8814
Thank you, Bobby.