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Ricky Burgess Faces Increasingly Crowded Election Field

Courtesy of Judith Ginyard, Kierran Young, and Cherylie Fuller
Democrats Judith Ginyard, Kierran Young, and Cherylie Fuller are the newest candidates to join the race for Pittsburgh City Council District 9.

Three new candidates have entered an already-crowded race to replace Pittsburgh City Councilor Ricky Burgess. If the field holds, Burgess could face five challengers on the Democratic primary ballot in the 9th District this spring.

The new contenders are community volunteer Cherylie Fuller, real estate broker Judith Ginyard, and political consultant Kierran Young. Activist Leon Ford and former Pittsburgh Public Schools board member Randall Taylor previously launched bids.

Burgess is running for a fourth term in the district, which includes all or part of East Hills, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Homewood, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Point Breeze North, and Stanton Heights.

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Incumbent Ricky Burgess was first elected to Pittsburgh City Council in 2007.

Fuller, of Homewood, left her volunteer position as executive director of the Homewood Concerned Citizens Council to run for the seat. She said she wants to ensure that people aren't blindsided by development the way she said some of her neighbors have been.

“We’re going to call the city of Pittsburgh the most livable city,” she said. “We have to show compassion for people that have been here that have helped name that the most, one of the most livable cities.”

Fuller added that much of the district, including Homewood and Garfield, is poised for further economic revitalization.

“We have an opportunity to show how it can be done,” Fuller continued. “Pittsburgh has an opportunity to show how it can be done, as opposed to saying we gentrified everything.”

Fuller said that when the construction of an Animal Rescue League shelter displaced her neighbors in 2015, she helped them find new homes. If elected, she said, she would provide similar support to residents throughout her district.

Like Fuller, Ginyard, of North Point Breeze, believes residents should have a voice in shaping new development. She said as the owner of real estate company, she could bring a valuable perspective to the issue.

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Leon Ford kicked off his campaign to represent Pittsburgh's 9th District in November, six years after he was shot and paralyzed by police.

“I think that my strong background in real estate, real estate development, land use, and things that are related to that,” she said, “would make me ideal to be … able to navigate new development coming into the neighborhood, working with developers and to make sure that all parties create a win-win.”

Ginyard, who has long been involved in community development, has run for council three times before.

“It’s time for new leadership,” she said. “I’m hoping and praying that the constituents … will see that there is an alternative.”

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District 9 candidate Randall Taylor was active in protesting the 2017 demolition of the Penn Plaza apartment complex in East Liberty.

Another candidate, 26-year-old Kierran Young, also entered the race this past week.

In an interview, Young said he would pursue economic policies that would help district residents – by urging an increase in the state minimum wage, for example, and by pressing for more public contracting opportunities for black-owned businesses.

”I see myself advocating for more minority contracting with the city and the county. I believe that’s a place where African-Americans are overlooked … It’s a great way to create longstanding jobs in the African-American community and viable businesses.”

Young’s father, Andre Young, ran against Burgess in 2015, and was widely thought to be a potential candidate this year too. But Young said he was encouraged to run partly because his youth would be an asset.

“The next councilperson is going to have to draw a stark contrast between themselves and Rev. Burgess," he said. He promised a more inclusive approach to government, and said there was concern in the district that "we’re not getting the best city services that can be offered … and part of that is because of the councilperson’s relationship with other people in the city.”

Young also touted his background in politics -- he is a frequent presence at gatherings of political activists and party regulars -- as an advantage in a field otherwise made up of political newcomers or candidates who have launched unsuccessful bids before. Previous efforts to topple Burgess, he said, have either lacked funding or sophistication. 

Last year, Young worked for a state Senate candidate, Democrat James Craig, whose campaign was accused of forging signatures on election petitions, including some where Young was identified as the circulator. Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier reportedly launched an investigation last year, and said Friday morning that the investigation was still active. No one has been charged, and Young says he “had nothing to do with any petition forgery. I’ve maintained that from the beginning and fully cooperated with investigators.”

Burgess announced his own releection bid earlier this month, touting anti-violence initiatives and community rebuilding efforts. He's benefited from facing split opposition before. He won his previous two re-election efforts with less than half the vote, while rivals divided the votes against him. Burgess' would-be challengers this year say there have been discussions about uniting behind one candidate, but no one's dropped out yet.

Fuller, for one, said she is open to the possibility of rallying behind a single challenger. She said, as a newcomer to politics who nonetheless has long been involved in the community, she should be the candidate to take on Burgess. But in any case, she said,  “We all agree that, [in] Council District 9, it’s time for a change and that we all work together for that change."

The field may  thin out in the next several weeks. Burgess, Ginyard, and Young have all signalled their intent to seek the Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement, which gives candidates a "seal of approval" from party committee people. The endorsement vote is March 10.

This story was updated with a comment from Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier. 

Nearly three decades after leaving home for college, Chris Potter now lives four miles from the house he grew up in -- a testament either to the charm of the South Hills or to a simple lack of ambition. In the intervening years, Potter held a variety of jobs, including asbestos abatement engineer and ice-cream truck driver. He has also worked for a number of local media outlets, only some of which then went out of business. After serving as the editor of Pittsburgh City Paper for a decade, he covered politics and government at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has won some awards during the course of his quarter-century journalistic career, but then even a blind squirrel sometimes digs up an acorn.