Q&A With Jerry Dickinson, Candidate for U.S. Congress PA-12

Courtesy of the Dickinson campaign

Yes, I am committed to a fully inclusive Equality Act that includes gender identity. I would not vote for a version that focuses on sexual orientation and not gender identity as this would exclude a large population of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our trans and non-binary siblings need powerful, equitable representation and protection

This is the next post of our 2022 primary 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. We welcome candidates at all levels of government across the entire Commonwealth

By participating, candidates are saying that they

  • must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
  • identify as pro-choice
  • must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results

My first introduction to Jerry Dickinson was his previous challenge to then-incumbent Congressperson Mike Doyle-D in 2020. His personal and professional stories are compelling qualifications for office. The district has changed this year in response to the 2020 census. I like the idea of Constitutional Law scholars holding elected offices because they typically actually know the Constitution. Not many people do. His response to my question about Brnovich v. Isaacson feels smart, not just politically savvy. Because the prospects are terrifying, it is important to consider electing candidates like Jerry who get it. As a former care worker, I also appreciate the way he talks about the system – separating the institutional failings from the flawed humans who are doing their best.

And if elected he’s made some big pledges on LGBTQIA issues. Read on …

The new 12th District includes Pittsburgh and many eastern and southern suburbs, but it now includes Westmoreland County communities such as Murrysville, North Huntingdon, Penn Township, Sewickley Township, Jeannette and parts of Hempfield.

PA Congressional Districts

Your Name: Jerry Dickinson

Your Pronouns: He/Him

Office You Seek: U.S. House of Representatives PA-12

How do you describe your identity? I am a cis, heterosexual Black man. 

Tell us about your district. What is a hidden gem most people might not know about? Our district is full of history, culture, and progress. Pittsburgh’s hidden gem is its rich history of jazz music. Located mainly in the Hill district, our jazz clubs were hubs for Black culture, where our community could come together and enjoy each other’s company. These clubs, like Crawford Grill, saw jazz performers from the likes of Billy Strayhorn, Maxine Sullivan, Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, and Ahmad Jamal. 

How has redistricting impacted your district? The new PA-12 district is largely the same as the old PA-18 district. However, with the new district lines, PA-12 is more Democratic, which is exciting. Our district encompasses voters of all backgrounds, demographics, and identities. We are looking forward to continue connecting with voters and listening to the issues they care about most.

Tell us about the first LGBTQIA+ person you knew and what impact they had on your life (initials, pseudonyms are fine) My fellow Fulbright Scholar in South Africa was gay man. We bonded over our interests in helping poor South Africans attain universal health care and affordable housing. During the Fulbright, he studied comparative health care systems and I was working on housing rights. As one of my best friends, we have always collaborated on the idea that housing is a human right and actually is health care.

Tell us about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. Within our district and region, the LGBTQ community is a strong and passionate partner in the progressive and Democratic cause. Particularly Black and brown LGBTQ members face significant challenges when accessing housing, health care, and more. Our country is engaging in an outright attack against our trans community, specifically Black and brown trans folks. Black women and trans women are disproportionately treated unfairly in our health care system, and we need gender affirming care. While we have local organizations working to uplift these communities, we need strong leaders in Congress who will listen to the concerns of our district’s LGBTQ community and uplift their voices through action. 

Based on this, what do you now understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the House of Representatives? How will you respond to those priorities? My top LGBTQ priority in the House of Representatives will be equitable treatment. I support the Equality Act to provide non-discrimination protections for anyone in the LGBTQI+ community. I oppose the use of Medical funds to pay for harmful practices live conversion therapy. I support amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations and updating the public spaces and services covered in the law to include retail stores, banks, legal services, healthcare providers, and transportation services. Trans individuals in our country are under attack. We need to pass legislation that protects their rights and uplifts their voices to ensure they are given space and representation in our communities. 

Are you absolutely committed to a fully inclusive Equality Act (including gender identity)? Would you vote for a version that focuses on sexual orientation and not gender identity? Yes, I am committed to a fully inclusive Equality Act that includes gender identity. I would not vote for a version that focuses on sexual orientation and not gender identity as this would exclude a large population of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our trans and non-binary siblings need powerful, equitable representation and protection. 

The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. Pennsylvania has no law protecting marriage equality, second-parent adoption, nondiscrimination, or similar important rights. If SCOTUS overturns or waters down Roe v Wade and the ‘penumbra of privacy’ protecting us, what do you anticipate happening in Pennsylvania and nationally? If SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade it will be the first established piece of law to be turned down. This will be unprecedented. If this happens, the PA state legislature will immediately act on this momentum by passing legislation that harms not only folks who can give birth, but also those who are of other sexual orientations, identities through marriage, adoption, education and more. States across the nation will do the same. We need to elect a Democratic Governor and Senator, but we also need a strong leader in our safely blue Congressional seat that can take immediate action and pass legislation that will protect the lives of LGBTQIA+ folks. 

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. I’m proud to have a campaign team of people from all walks of life, including women of color and members of the LGBTQI+ community. As a father of two young Black daughters, representation in the workspace, especially in progressive politics, is a huge priority of mine. If elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, I pledge that women of color and the LGBTQI+ community will be represented on my legislative staff.

Western Pennsylvania has not elected many candidates of color, including Black men, to state or federal office. Is it necessary for that to change to achieve progress on racial justice? Why or why not? To make any real progress on racial justice, people of color need to be included in the conversation. As a Black man who grew out of the foster care system in Allegheny County, I have experienced poverty, been assaulted by a police officer, spent a night or two in the county jail, and have experienced trauma. Through these experiences, I know the issues that affect Black communities. Even in 2022, Western Pennsylvania has never elected an African American to Congress. 

I don’t think Harrisburg has the will to move forward on Infrastructure funding. Convince me otherwise. What happens at the state level is up to the state, but as a Congressperson in a safe blue district, you have the ability to exercise considerable influence on state matters. We need a Congressperson who will be a vocal advocate for infrastructure. I’m a proud supporter of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. This is a historic piece of legislation that will revitalize our roads, bridges, highways, waterways, and public transportation systems. It is a transformational bill that directly impacts our communities by creating millions of jobs, including union jobs.

Voter turnout is a significant concern, especially for municipal/local elections. What advice would you offer to organizations and groups concerned with turnout in Western Pennsylvania? In 2022, we have elections for Governor, Senate, and Congress that will not only determine the future of Pennsylvania but of our country. This alone will create an uptick in voter turnout in Western Pennsylvania as it is one of the most important areas of PA that candidates must win to get elected for Senate and Governor. 

That said, millions of Americans including many here in Western Pennsylvania are disenchanted by politics. They feel like the government has left them behind, and in many ways it has. We need candidates and politicians who don’t just perpetuate the status quo, but find ways to deliver tangible results for the communities they represent—especially those who have been historically overlooked and left behind. 

How can supporters get involved with campaigns while practicing social distancing and other protocols?  There are many ways to get involved with campaigns while remaining safe from COVID-19! Folks can always make phone calls to voters in PA-12 from home. For in person efforts, we encourage everyone to participate to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, and also wear a mask and practice social distancing. While canvassing, it’s great to be outdoors speaking with folks in person and volunteers can maintain their distance by stepping away after knocking on a voter’s door. Carrying hand sanitizer is a great thing to keep with you as well! 

Finally, what are three reasons people should vote for you/support your campaign? After my biological parents were deemed too poor and unwell to care for me, I was placed in the foster care system and brought to a home in Mckeesport. There, my foster parents adopted me and 8 other foster children. I saw the impact of poverty, substance abuse and crime. I recognized the need to support my siblings entering the juvenile justice system and the impact the cycle of crime and poverty had on my family. I pledged to myself not to go down that same path. 

In South Africa, I organized on behalf of the poor whose inner-city slums and shanty towns were being gentrified by corporate developers. I advocated for anti-displacement measures and constitutional rights to housing and clean water. When I returned to Pittsburgh, I helped establish a community land trust in the Hill District that has been affected by increased investment by corporate developers. I have been on the front lines assisting marginalized groups to preserve affordable housing and mitigate the effects of gentrification while representing poor tenants in eviction proceedings. I am now a constitutional law professor at the University of Pittsburgh educating our next generation of leaders. 

My proudest achievement is my family. My wife, Emily, and two young daughters, Aria and Nyla. Pittsburgh is one of the least livable cities for Black women. It has one of the worst air qualities in our country. When I look at the world they are growing up in, I know that we need to take bold action. This district is safely blue and can be used as a bully pulpit for progressive change. We need a strong coalition builder who can be a leader in Congress. 

I know the issues of Western Pennsylvania families firsthand. I’ve dedicated my life to advocating for those who have less than, and who are treated as less than, because that is who I am and where I come from. I fight everyday to make my unlikely path to success a possibility for others, and I’m ready to bring that fight to Congress. 

Please list your social media accounts and your donation links.

Twitter: @JerrySDickinson

Facebook: @JerryDickinsonforCongress

Instagram: @JerryDickinsonforCongress

Website: www.JerryDickinson.com

Donation Link: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jd2022website?refcode=web-nav

Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters. Our campaign is proud to build a coalition of supporters coming from all walks of life united by the common cause of wanting a better future for the Pittsburgh region. 

Our campaign has been endorsed by the following:

Elected Officials:

  • Liv Bennett – Allegheny County Council
  • Paul Klein – Allegheny County Council
  • Chardaé Jones – Former Mayor of Braddock
  • Marita Garrett – Former Mayor of Wilkinsburg
  • Nickole Nesby – Former Mayor of Duquesne
  • Deneen Swartzwelder – Mayor of Swissvale
  • Abigail Salisbury – Swissvale Borough Council President
  • Shawn Alfonso Wells – Swissvale Borough Council
  • Josh Miser – Swissvale Borough Council
  • Chris Ansell – Swissvale Borough Council
  • Tara Yaney – Edgewood Council
  • Dave Odom – Former Plum Borough Council President

Community Leaders:

  • Jim Burn – Former Chair of Pennsylvania Democratic Party
  • Michelle Kenney – Mother of Antwon Rose II, Activist
  • Chase Patterson – Former Staffer for Congressman Doyle
  • Alma Speed Fox – Civil Rights Leader
  • Fawn Walker-Montgomery – Community Organizer

Organizations:

  • Brand New Congress 

Where can readers find your campaign on social media? 

Twitter: @JerrySDickinson

Facebook: @JerryDickinsonforCongress

Instagram: @JerryDickinsonforCongress

Thank you.


To participate,

  • you must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
  • identify as pro-choice
  • you must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results

Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here. Responses from this election cycle are listed below in the order they were returned by the campaign.

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