Editorial: Allegheny County endorses Heather Kass, neglects more progressive candidates


Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed Heather Kass in her campaign for the state House of Representatives.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed Heather Kass in her campaign for the 2020 state primary elections on Sunday, a choice that has generated a sizable amount of backlash.

Kass, a Democrat running for election in the state House of Representatives, received the ACDC’s endorsement despite having not been in the race for very long, and despite her history of offensive and insensitive comments.

The ACDC’s endorsement of Kass is a poor decision because her views are not reflective of the larger Democratic party and her receiving the endorsement will not unify Democrats in the region.

Kass only announced that she was running for the state House after current Democratic state Rep. Harry Readshaw announced that he would be retiring once his current term ended. This contrasts sharply with some of the competing candidates, such as Jessica Benham, who announced her intent to run for state representative in the fall of 2019.

What is more concerning is the fact that Kass has made offensive comments on social media targeting disabled and LGBTQ+ people, belittling those who rely on welfare programs and implying that those suffering from addiction do not deserve help. These despicable statements demean potential constituents and do little to earn her support from the Democratic party. For the most part, Democrats hold views opposing those of Kass, so her comments have done little to bolster her voter base.

In fact, the ACDC’s endorsement of Kass has thus far proven to be deeply divisive of the Democratic party in the region — which is quite the opposite of the typical goal of a political endorsement. Generally, these kinds of statements are meant to help a political group rally behind a specific candidate. It seems, however, that the ACDC’s endorsement may have done the opposite — it may have united voters and politicians alike against Kass.

While the endorsement is possibly not worth much — candidates have been elected without securing the official endorsement from their party before — giving it to Kass, whose views don’t seem to align with the ideologies of the Democratic party, feels a bit like a jab at Democrats in the region. Not to mention it snubs other candidates with platforms more aligned with Democratic values such as the aforementioned Jessica Benham. Benham is a progressive Democrat whose platform focuses on issues like disability rights and activism. Being openly bisexual and autistic, she was rightfully upset when Kass received the endorsement.

“I do take it personally as someone with a preexisting condition that the endorsement goes to someone who calls themselves a Democrat and rails against the Affordable Care Act, something that allows me to have health insurance,” Benham stated. “She knocks people who aren’t straight, mocks people who believe in common-sense gun laws and supports Donald Trump.”

In addition to snubbing Benham by endorsing Kass, the ACDC has brushed off current state Rep. Summer Lee, who is the first African American woman from Allegheny County to serve as a state representative.

The committee neglecting to acknowledge candidates more representative of their bases’ interests shows that the ACDC is not devoting enough attention to the more liberal and progressive politics of many voters within the county.