Squirrel Hill attorney Steve Irwin announces run for U.S. House


Tony Webster, via Wikimedia Commons

The Office of Congressman Mike Doyle on East Carson Street in South Side on June 24, 2019. Steve Irwin, Pittsburgh lawyer, recently announced he will run to replace Doyle’s seat in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district.

By Natalie Frank, News Editor

Squirrel Hill attorney Steve Irwin announced on Thursday that he’s joining the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. The seat currently belongs to U.S. Representative Mike Doyle, who announced on Oct. 18 that he will not run for reelection for a 15th term.

Irwin currently serves as a partner at law firm Leech Tischman in Downtown. He said he is focusing his campaign on helping the middle class “have the support they need to provide for themselves and for their families.”

“That means that people who are working have the support in order to be able to go to work, make a livable wage, have paid medical leave, have child care support and those kinds of things in health care, so that they have what they need in order to show up and be effective and pursue their passions,” Irwin said.

Irwin, a Democrat and self-proclaimed progressive, said other important issues to him include health care for all, affordable housing and broadband access, as well as looking out for “those who don’t have the resources or ability to care for themselves, including seniors and others marginalized in society.”

He said while he’s devoting a substantial amount of his time to his campaign, he will continue to take care of his clients at his law firm with the support of his colleagues.

Having formerly led Sustainable Pittsburgh, a local non-profit environmental organization, Irwin said climate change is real and something he will address if elected.

“We’re never going to be able to get ahead of it now,” Irwin said. “But we have to do all we can to decarbonize and move to new technologies, and promote renewables so we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”

Prior to running for Congress, Irwin spent the past year campaigning for Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. He said Doyle’s retirement announcement prompted him to “commit” himself to public service and join the race for a seat in Congress.

“Pittsburgh is at a different place than it was 25 years ago, 30 years ago,” Irwin said. “We’ve gone from 25% unemployment or more, to have the potential to become a national leader in technology, health care, robotics, manufacturing, but we have a long way to go. And we have to make sure that this rising tide lifts all boats, that no Pittsburgher, or person who wants to stay in Pittsburgh, is left behind.”

Other than working as an attorney, Irwin clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, formerly chaired the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, worked in the U.S. Senate as a legislative assistant and floor monitor for the late senator Arlen Specter, headed the Pennsylvania Securities Commission under Gov. Ed Rendell, and is currently the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for Pennsylvania. Irwin also had a brief stint teaching a legal course at Pitt in the ‘90s and previously taught high school in Washington, D.C. 

Irwin expressed his admiration for the Pittsburgh community and said his children “bleed black and gold.” Irwin’s son, Jesse, is a 2017 Pitt alumnus.

Irwin joins State Representative Summer Lee and Pitt professor Jerry Dickinson in the race for Doyle’s seat in the upcoming 2022 Democratic primary on May 17. 

Lee, a Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 34th District, announced her run for Congress on Oct. 19. Lee said her campaign supports the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and labor unions. Lee is currently a major progressive voice in Harrisburg, the first Black woman to represent southwestern Pennsylvania and, if elected, would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress.

Dickinson, a Democrat and Pitt constitutional law professor, is centering his campaign on issues of racial justice, health care, climate change and affordable housing.

Doyle has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995 and won the Democratic nomination for the 18th District seat in last year’s election with 72% of the vote.

Irwin said, if elected, he will focus heavily on ending “polarization” between government and the greater community, and between community members in general.

“I hope to be a leader that inspires others to think of things greater than themselves, about their neighbors, about their friends, their families, those outside their families and make the sacrifices that everyone needs so everyone can ensure a real, satisfying and rewarding life, or at least the opportunity to have that,” Irwin said.