It Costs $8,000 To File For Endorsement. Some County Democratic Candidates Are Rejecting The Process

On today's program: WESA politics editor Chris Potter explains why some Democratic candidates are rejecting the county party endorsement process; A DACA recipient reflects on the relief she felt when President Joe Biden was elected; and Point Park Dance Chair Garfield Lemonius tells how the department is seeking to normalize mental wellness.

The deadline to be considered for endorsement by the county Democratic party has passed, but some say it’s an outdated process

(0:00 — 5:55) 

The next election is in three months. It’s the primary contests that will determine nominees for the mayor of Pittsburgh, city and Allegheny County Council seats, and some candidates on the Court of Common Pleas. 

January 25 was the deadline for candidates to file a letter of intent and pay a $8,000 filing fee if they are seeking the endorsement of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. Candidates will find out if they have the endorsement after a committee vote on March 7.

“Over the years, the value of that endorsement has declined, although there are a couple of races where it’s still pretty handy, the best example of which is judicial races,” says Chris Potter, WESA’s politics and government accountability editor. 

“Bill Peduto was first elected in 2013 [as mayor of Pittsburgh] without seeking the endorsement and you see that sort of stuff happen more and more often, especially with younger, more progressive candidates,” says Potter. Some candidates, he says, are openly running against the endorsement process and committee, which they call “out of touch,” not reflecting the emerging Democratic constituency. Many committee members on the Allegheny County Democratic Committee tend to be older and more conservative, says Potter. 

The filing fee does raise a lot of money for the party, which then is used to support endorsed candidates. 

“Some people are kind of thinking, why are we financing this party on the backs of the very candidates who this party is trying to help?” says Potter.

Pittsburgh DACA recipient says Biden win means no longer living in fear
(5:56 — 11:56)

The Biden Administration issued a 100 day pause on most deportations when he took office, although a federal judge has since blocked the moratorium. But the policy represents a significant shift in how his predecessor dealt with immigration. 

“For me, I was living with fear,” Monique says about life under the Trump Administration. She’s a Pittsburgh mother and five-year recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. 

We’re using only her first name due to her status. 

“Even though I’m a DACA recipient, DACA doesn’t give you a pathway to citizenship, and we’re still in limbo,” she says. 

DACA, she explains, does allow an undocumented immigrant to work, but does not allow them to apply for SNAP, unemployment, or other social services.  

“Whenever Trump rescinded DACA, it came to a point where I had to talk to my older daughter and explain to her what it is to be living in the U.S. undocumented,” says Monique. She told her  five-year-old daughter, “Mommy might have to go back home.” Monique’s husband and two children are both U.S. citizens.

In his first days in office, President Joe Biden proposed legislation that would offer a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants.  

“I have high hopes that anything can happen,” Monique says in response to the proposal. 

Point Park Dance Department wants dancers to consider mental health in their overall wellness
(11:57 — 18:00)

The pandemic has increased adverse mental health issues for adults in the United States, with young adults and people of color experiencing worse outcomes. 

For those in the arts, the strain can be two-fold: Working in an industry that strives for perfection and creativity, and losing the immediate feedback and in-person interaction that live performance brings.

Point Park University’s dance department decided the mental health among dancers specifically is a long overdue conversation that it wanted to normalize

“The industry has been plagued with mental health issues over the years, but it has been ignored,” says Garfield Lemonius, the Dance Department chair and associate professor at Point Park University. Lemonius says mental health issues often manifest among dancers through eating and anxiety disorders.

“How do we normalize the conversation around mental health for dancers? Well, we recognize that dance training is not just about dancers’ physical wellbeing, but is also a part of their mental wellbeing as well.”

To start these conversations, the Dance Department is one year into a three year pilot program in partnership with Minding the Gap, a Pittsburgh-based organization committed to advocating for mental wellness among dancers. The program has been funded so far with a $23,000 grant by the Staunton Farm Foundation. 

“We are hoping at Point Park that this exploratory work that we’re engaging in with our students will provide our dancers with a better understanding about how to approach their training.” says Lemonius. “Help them recognize some of the warning signs in their daily activities, and provide them with some effective coping strategies to help them thrive in a rigorous conservatory setting like Point Park University and certainly in the dance industry.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.