The Pittsburgh Black Political Convention has voted to endorse State Rep. Jake Wheatley in the city's upcoming mayoral election.
More than 200 people gathered over the weekend for the city's first-ever convention of black voters. The convention also aimed to create a clear agenda on issues including poverty, unemployment, police/community relations and violence, among other things.
“There are issues that relate to inclusion of black people proportionally in city government,” said Convention Convener Sala Udin, “appointments to commissions and authorities, appointments as department heads, appointments in the police department.”
According to the 2010 census, about a quarter of the Pittsburgh population is black. Udin said an articulated agenda and the backing of a candidate helps bring awareness to the issues and visibility to the community.
“It makes candidates who are running for public office discontinue this practice of ignoring the black community and the conditions that exist among black people in this city,” he said.
Wheatley won 52 percent of the vote at the convention. Councilman Bill Peduto came in second with 33 percent, and former Auditor General Jack Wagner received 12 percent. The only Republican in the race, Josh Wander, received the remaining 3 percent of the votes.
In recent polls, Wheatley has been behind Wagner and Peduto.
Udin said that prior to the convention, the black community was largely undecided on the race. He said this endorsement may give Wheatley a boost.
“We expect to increase his standing in the race by having those who were undecided now make a choice and decide that Jake Wheatley is their candidate,” Udin said. “We think that will make a huge difference.”
The Pittsburgh primary election will be held on May 21.