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Pennsylvania State House 19th District: A guide to the 2022 primary and candidates

90.5 WESA

What's at stake: Long held by Jake Wheatley, the 19th has traditionally been a majority-Black district that sprawls from Pittsburgh’s North Side through Downtown and into Hazelwood, picking up real estate in Allentown and Beltzhoover along the way. Wheatley’s move to join the administration of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey opened up a special election in April. Now two candidates in that race are set for a rematch in the Democratic primary for a full two-year term in the 19th — one of only two Allegheny County seats certain to have a Black representative.

Note: Campaign finance fundraising totals include contributions raised in 2021 and 2022. Data updated 5/12/22.


Aerion Abney

Aerion Abney
Friends of Aerion Abney
Aerion Abney

Abney challenged Wheatley for the 19th District seat three times unsuccessfully, but he finally caught a break when Wheatley stepped down: He had his name pulled out of an empty margarine tub when Democratic Party leaders split on whether to pick him or Glenn Grayson Sr. as their nominee for the April 5 special election. As the only candidate on the ballot, Abney cruised to victory and will hold the seat until the end of the year. But he and Grayson are squaring off for a full two-year term to begin next year. Prior to his special-election win, the 33-year-old Manchester resident worked for voting-rights advocacy group All Voting Is Local.

Party: Democrat  
Experience: Pennsylvania Director of Special Projects, All Voting is Local (2018 – present)
Education: University of Pittsburgh (MSW)
Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Candidate Surveys: League of Women Voters
Major endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
Fundraising Total: $62,135
Worth reading: "Democrats choose nominee to replace Wheatley — by the thinnest of margarines" (Chris Potter, WESA)

Glenn Grayson Sr.

Until he sought the District 19 seat this year, running for office may be about the only public role Grayson hadn’t played in his Hill District community. The pastor of Wesley Center A.M.E Zion Church, he's been long involved in community efforts, including anti-violence initiatives after he lost a son in a random act of gun violence. Grayson also has served on the board of the Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the professional-sports facilities within the district.

Party: Democrat  
Pastor, Wesley Center A.M.E. Zion Church (1996 – present)
President/Founder, The Center that CARES
Education: Livingstone College (B.S.); Hood Theological Seminary (M.D.D.)
Links: n/a
Candidate Surveys: League of Women Voters
Fundraising Total: $11,781
Worth reading: "Democrats choose nominee to replace Wheatley — by the thinnest of margarines" (Chris Potter, WESA)

A primer on voting information and who is running in the 2024 election for offices in the Pittsburgh metro area and Pennsylvania.

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.
Emily Previti is a podcast producer and data journalist, and executive editor and co-creator of Obscured from Kouvenda Media.