Dan Gilman stepped down from his position as city councilman Jan. 3. to work as Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, triggering a special election to fill the open seat to represent District 8, which includes Oakland, Point Breeze, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.
So far, three Democratic candidates have stepped forward to run for the open seat. Though there is no Republican opponent for the candidates, each told The Incline they will run as independent if they do not secure the party nomination for the seat.The Democratic party will nominate its candidate Sunday at Chatham University.
Sonja Finn, a 38-year-old Point Breeze resident, runs the Dinette restaurant in Shadyside, which she established in 2008. It was recognized as the first sustainable restaurant in the City, according to her campaign website. She is also the consulting chef for The Cafe Carnegie at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History in Oakland.
She graduated from Columbia University in 2001 and the Culinary Institute of America in 2003. In 2017, she was named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 under 40” for her contribution to the Pittsburgh community.
Finn advocates for better public education and employee welfare, according to her website. She has been active in the Pittsburgh community in these areas before and has raised funds for local charities. She lobbied in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Farm Bill program — a conservation program that benefits both agricultural producers and the environment — and SNAP programs — a program that provides a monthly supplement to low-income individuals for purchasing nutritious food.
Marty Healey, 54, is a Duquesne University graduate, Shadyside resident and lifelong Pittsburgh resident. He works as a chief financial officer at the Healey Company, a real estate and construction firm on the South Side. According to his campaign website, he would focus on underserved community members and on making the City more diverse and inclusive.
Healey previously served as president of Tri-PAC, the first LGBTQ+ political action committee in Pittsburgh to support the gay and lesbian community, for two years, as well as on the board of the Lupus Foundation and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. Currently, he serves on the board of the Persad Center — an LGBTQ+ counseling center and AIDS service center — and the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh — a nonprofit that fosters communication between LGBTQ+ Pittsburghers.
Erika Strassburger, 35, is a Squirrel Hill resident who served as chief of staff for Dan Gilman during his time on City Council. She graduated from Bucknell University in 2004 with a degree in environmental studies and international relations.
Gilman publicly endorsed Strassburger on his Twitter account and supports her campaign for City Council.
Strassburger had served under Gilman since 2014 and previously worked as an advocate for PennEnvironment and Environment New Hampshire. She has experience volunteering with Pittsburgh energy conservation organizations, including the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, and has made extensive research contributions to environmental public policy.
She spent the last decade of her career working to implement clean and publicly owned water throughout the city, and advocates for sustainable infrastructure. Strassburger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette she also firmly supports affordable housing, employee welfare and public education.