Q&A With Ed Gainey, Candidate for Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

Ed Gainey Mayor Campaign
Ed Gainey, Candidate for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh

Last year, a pro-Trump candidate got the ACDC endorsement in a legislative race, but this year, in endorsing me, the ACDC is supporting a Black candidate for Mayor for the first time in it’s history. What those two results show me is that we are in a fight for the soul of our local party, and it’s a fight we can win, but only if we show up.

This is the second post in our election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. 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.

Up next is State Representative Ed Gainey who is running for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh.

Ed Gainey has made history as the first Black person to secure the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committe for Mayor, City of Pittsburgh. He has a lengthy history of political service, including 11 years working for the City of Pittsburgh in two Mayoral Administrations and 8 years serving as a State Representative in the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. My strongest impression of Ed is when he addressed a Black Pride Pittsburgh event and made a positive reference to same-sex marriage, a comment I immediately tweeted out framed by my own concerns. After he spoke, he read the tweet and approached me to discuss my concerns immediately. I’ve never forgotten that he both approached me and that he seemed to absorb my critique with aplomb.

Your Name: Ed Gainey
Your Pronouns: he/him/his
The Office You Seek: Mayor, City of Pittsburgh

How do you describe your identity? I am a cisgender heterosexual black man.

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? Several close friends that I grew up with came out to me as we grew older. Because I knew them from childhood, I never “met” them specifically as  members of the LGBTQ community, instead that part of their identities was something that I learned about over time and in the context of our friendship. Looking back, that was an important and formative experience, and one that I think played a role in shaping my commitment to inclusion, toward the LGBTQ community in particular and toward people in general.

Tell us about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. As I mentioned above, I’ve personally known LGBTQ people my whole life, even if I didn’t always know that about them. During my time in public service, I’ve sought to work with people and organizations who work at the intersection of the LGBTQ and the Black communities, particularly Rev. Shanea Leonard of Judah Fellowship Christian Church and organizations like New Voices Pittsburgh. I’ve worked with them and many others on initiatives in my district and in the broader region, and have relied on their counsel on issues we address in Harrisburg.

What LGBTQ specific legislation did you sponsor while in Harrisburg? I am a cosponsor Representative Frankel’s legislation amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to outlaw discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation statewide. I am proud that the City of Pittsburgh already has a local ordinance offering similar protections within city limits, but I believe that justice demands extending these protections to all Pennsylvanians regardless of where they live and work.

In the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting in 2019, I joined with other members of our legislative delegation in introducing a number of bills to address hate crimes and violence directed at marginalized communities. As part of that package, I sponsored legislation to update Pennsylvania’s Hate Crimes laws to include protections for the LGBTQ and disability communities.

I am also a member of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, where I have joined with colleagues to forcefully advocate for protecting the rights of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians, and for creating a Commonwealth that is inclusive, welcoming, and accessible to all.

Several close friends that I grew up with came out to me as we grew older. Because I knew them from childhood, I never “met” them specifically as  members of the LGBTQ community, instead that part of their identities was something that I learned about over time and in the context of our friendship.

How does intersectionality inform your work? Intersectional injustice requires an intersectional response. If we attempt to solve problems and address exclusion in silos, people who face multiple forms of oppression end up falling through the cracks. Breaking through those silos requires active leadership and an inclusive leadership team that understands how inequalities compound for our most marginalized communities. As Mayor I’m committed to a zero-harm, zero-exclusion agenda that lifts everyone up by focusing on those who have been left furthest behind, defending their right to belong and contribute, and treating them like the assets that they are for our City. Ample research tells us that black women and black trans individuals face the steepest barriers to inclusion in Pittsburgh. The time for simply talking about that reality is over, we need action, and we need to elevate leaders who have those lived experiences and trust in their leadership to arrive at solutions. I’m committed to doing so in my administration, both through the staffing of the administration itself and through the partnerships we’ll establish with activist and community leaders to shape policy and change the culture of our City.

What are the specifics of your “legislative and legal” plans to reign in UPMC? Can the City win in any court, if so how? When I’m talking about UPMC not being a charity, my fight is with the corporate executives who fly around in a private jet and sit in expensive offices on the 62nd floor of the steel tower. UPMC’s CEO makes 9 million dollars a year – he makes more in one day than a worker making 15 dollars an hour makes in a whole year. UPMC is a $20 Billion corporation, and the biggest landowner and employer in our city, and they pay nothing to the city or our schools. That doesn’t sound like a charity to me.

I want UPMC – and all of our big non-profits – to be the partners to this community that we should expect from a purely public charity. That means paying their fair share, treating their workers with respect and not standing in the way of them having a union, and ensuring that we have health equity, so that everyone can benefit from the world class healthcare that our nurses and doctors provide.

It’s clear that there is a path to winning these fights through the courts. Attorney General Josh Shapiro sued UPMC to get them to allow Highmark patients in their hospitals and won. The City of Williamsport initiated a review of the nonprofit status of a hospital that UPMC had acquired there, and as a result UPMC agreed to a settlement resulting in a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. These examples show us that when you’re dealing with a bully – and UPMC is the biggest bully around – asking nicely doesn’t work. You have to show them there are consequences for their actions. And we need a mayor who is willing to stand up and take on these tough fights.

Prior to your 8 years in the State House, you worked from 2002-2013 for the City of Pittsburgh, specifically working in the Mayor’s office under the Ravenstahl and Murphy administration in several roles. Please tell us about your duties and accomplishments as a leader in these Administrations. My role in both administrations centered on community development. During my time in city government I introduced programs such as the “The 52 Weeks of Peace”, “Minority Business Seminar”,  and “Minority Media Outlet”, and worked with the Pittsburgh Police Bureau on hiring practices.

How did your relationships with Mayors Ravenstahl and Murphy shape your vision for Mayor? I should be clear that though I worked in both of those Administrations, I didn’t work especially closely with those Mayors individually. That said, I always admired how intentional, action-oriented, and goal-focused Mayor Murphy was, and how accessible Mayor Ravenstahl was to his team. Those are certainly attributes that I’d work to make part of my leadership if elected Mayor.

There is a need to actively create space for women, especially Black women and other women of color, in elected office AND on campaign and legislative staffs. These are issues of representation and realities. Tell us about your team, both in your current office staff and your campaign. My legislative office manager is a Black woman who I rely upon extensively to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the residents of the district. My legislative assistant in Harrisburg was also a Black woman until recently, when she took over as the Executive Director of the Legislative Black Caucus. Losing her was a big loss to me and my team, but I’m extremely proud to see her taking on an important leadership role with the LBC . A majority of my campaign team are women, and women are represented in senior roles including a Black woman serving as communications director and white woman in the role of field director.

How do competitive primary elections benefit the residents of Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh thankfully hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1930s, so Democratic primary elections are, for all intents and purposes, where we choose our local leaders. That being the case, competitive primaries are central to the healthy functioning of our local democracy. They offer city residents a direct avenue to hold incumbent leaders accountable and weigh in on the direction of our city and region.

You served in leadership roles with the Allegheny County Democratic Committee and accepted their endorsement during a frightening period where pro-Trump committee folks are grabbing power with impunity. How do you in turn convince us voters that your Administration will protect us from the Trump base erosion into the Democratic party? (Editor’s Note – To be transparent, I was targeted by some of these individuals based on my blogging. Like many others in our city and region, I am troubled by the presence of pro-Trump sentiment in some corners of the ACDC, and I believe it needs to be addressed head on. I don’t think we can successfully do that if progressives disengage from the ACDC process. That being said, I understand that others within the progressive community feel differently, particularly those who were under the greatest threat during the Trump administration, and I respect their position.

Last year, a pro-Trump candidate got the ACDC endorsement in a legislative race, but this year, in endorsing me, the ACDC is supporting a Black candidate for Mayor for the first time in it’s history. What those two results show me is that we are in a fight for the soul of our local party, and it’s a fight we can win, but only if we show up. I participated in the ACDC endorsement process this year because I wanted to engage with committee members around a progressive platform to further that fight, and I’m committed to continuing to do so after this election. I’m proud to have the ACDC endorsement in this race because I believe it shows that it is possible to unify our city around progressive values and an inclusive vision.

What will you do as Mayor to protect and uplift Black trans youth? First and foremost, I’m committed to hearing their voices and trusting in their leadership when they advocate for themselves. I can’t possibly know what types of changes or support would make them feel secure and welcomed better than they do themselves, so a big part of my job will be listening to the needs they lift up and working to make them a reality. That said, I am committed to police reform measures that will reduce police interactions for over policed communities, of which Black trans youth are certainly one, and to other measures to make city government and our wider community as welcoming as possible. Every single Pittsburgher is an asset, and we need to make them feel that way and give them the space to reach their full potential.

Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters.

I’m proud to be endorsed by:

Young Democrats of Allegheny County
Steel City Stonewall Democrats
Allegheny County Democratic Committee
Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Action
SEIU Healthcare PA
IUPAT Council 57
IUOE #66
Representative Jake Wheatley
Representative Summer Lee
Representative Sara Innamorato
County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam
County Councilwoman Liv Bennett
Pittsburgh School Board Member Devon Taliaferro
Pittsburgh School Board Member Pam Harbin
Pittsburgh School Board Member Kevin Carter
Former Pittsburgh School Board Member Dr. Regina Holley

Is there anything you’d like to add? I want this to be a city for everybody; Beechview and Beltzhoover, for Highland Park and the Hilltop, for Observatory Hill and Squirrel Hill.  The work of uplifting everyone in our City has to start with those who have been left behind. In Pittsburgh, that means working people, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, and anyone else who has been systematically marginalized and disenfranchised. Some communities in our city feel that gentrification, displacement, and an economy designed for the wealthy and well-connected has robbed them of a right to belong, and others feel that a lack of attention, support, and investment from city government has robbed them of a future. We have neighbors who feel forgotten: they deserve to be heard. They have a right to contribute.The problems we face aren’t easy to solve, but if we work together, trust each other and are honest with each other, I believe we can make this a place that future generations can be proud of.

As Mayor, I am committed not only to authentically and directly engaging with communities myself, but also to staffing my administration with individuals of diverse backgrounds, identities, and points of view so that all Pittsburghers have a seat and a voice at the policy making table.

Where can readers find your campaign on social media?

@gaineyformayor on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Thank you, Ed.

Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here.

Q&A With Bill Peduto, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh




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