NEWS - Welch touts 'people's campaign' in mayoral challenge to Peduto



Welch touts 'people's campaign' in mayoral challenge to Peduto

February 5, 2017 12:00 AM

By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dozens of people packed into a former church sanctuary on the North Side on Saturday, phones out and recording, shouting out the name of who they believe will be the next mayor of Pittsburgh.

Chants of “John C. Welch!” were met by a rhythmic rejoinder: “Who?”

“John C. Welch!”


The boisterous rally to garner support for the two-week-old candidacy was an effort to answer that question. Taking the stage to a recording of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” Mr. Welch, a 56-year-old Homewood resident and dean of students at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, spared little time getting to the point.

“John Welch is social justice, and social justice is John Welch,” he declared.

Mr. Welch launched his campaign on Jan. 22 to challenge incumbent Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto for the May 16 primary. Though he never mentioned Mr. Peduto by name, he sought to distinguish himself as the candidate who best represents marginalized communities in Pittsburgh.

He shared his personal history of social activism, including his stint as president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, an association of faith groups that addresses social justice issues. Touting what he has called a “people’s campaign,” he said that he has long been a proponent of worker and immigrant rights and a defender of low-wage workers.

“I am not owned by anybody, and I will not be bought by anybody,” he said, eliciting the largest round of cheering. “I don’t need to have the cell phone number of a CEO on speed dial, unless I’m willing to tell him or her that your technology is great, but it will only advance the common good if it does not replace human workers.

“People need jobs, and, quite frankly, I’d rather see a person behind the wheel of a car actually driving it, not sitting there making sure nothing happens.” He said while Pittsburgh has prospered since the decline of the steel industry in the 1980s, those in charge had left much of the city behind. He cited the beleaguered Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, which was found by the state last week to have neglected one of its pollution control measures, leading to a boil-water advisory affecting thousands. He added that city officials were ignoring elevated lead levels — found to be on par with Flint, Mich. — that were especially damaging to poorer residents. Mr. Welch was introduced on Saturday by the Rev. Rodney Lyde, pastor of Baptist Temple Church in Homewood, and his wife, the Rev. Jacqueline Lyde, as well as Richard Freeman, pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Braddock. Though it seemed that Mr. Welch needed no introduction to those at the rally, held at the Pittsburgh Project in the Perry South neighborhood, organizers with Mr. Welch’s campaign urged them to spread the word. More importantly, they said, donate to the campaign through the candidate’s website. The race for mayor could be getting more crowded.On Friday, City Councilwoman Darlene Harris formally asked the Allegheny County Democratic Committee for its endorsement in the primary.Ms. Harris, who toyed with idea of running for mayor in 2013 and has been a vocal critic of Mr. Peduto, has not officially launched a campaign.

Mr. Peduto finished 2016 with funds of $836,691. Ms. Harris’ council political committee had $25,903 as of the end of 2016, though she would have to create a separate committee for a mayoral run under city election rules.Ms. Lyde, sharing Mr. Peduto’s fund total with the attendees, urged Mr. Welch’s supporters to give as much as they could. “Victory is within our reach,” Ms. Lyde said. “Winning will require our active participation.”

Daniel Moore:, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.



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