The procrastinator’s guide to Pittsburgh’s 2020 primary: Snail-mail edition

What a long, strange primary it’s been. 

And because so much has happened in the last (*checks notes, bulges eyes*) two months, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that an election was even happening. In a way, it kind of wasn’t

In this primary, anybody can get a mail-in ballot — as long as you’re registered and you’ve got until May 26 to request yours. (Polls will still be open on Election Day. More on that in a sec.) 

That means it’s not too late to fill out your ballot knowing you’ve at least seen the names on there before. And that’s where we come in. 

We’ll quickly lay out the races, the candidates, their positions, and the issues. (Note: We’re only focusing on contested races this time around, for our sanity and yours. We’re also focusing on local and statewide races that get less coverage overall.)  

As always, we welcome your feedback

And now, without further ado, we give you the better-late-than-never procrastinator’s guide to the 2020 Pittsburgh primary. 

*Names are as they’ll appear on ballots.


Voter FAQ


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in Pittsburgh and the suburbs of Jefferson Hills, McKeesport, Monroeville, Plum, and more.

Background: Jerry S. Dickinson, a Pitt law professor, is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, a 13-term (!!!) incumbent, by running to Doyle’s left on issues like the environment and criminal justice reform.

🔵 Democrats 

🗳 Jerry S. Dickinson

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Medicare For All, The Green New Deal, workers’ rights. (More here
  • Quotable: “If you don’t have to worry about a Republican unseating you, you can be big and bold and take risks.” (90.5 WESA
  • Notable endorsements: Former state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn, County Councilor Liv Bennett, and actress Susan Sarandon (seriously).  

🗳 Michael Doyle (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Medicare For All, pro-union, “100 percent clean energy economy” by 2050. (More here
  • Quotable: “Currently, I’m focused on my official duties as Pitt’s Congressman — working to halt climate change, restore net neutrality, reduce the skyrocketing cost of higher education and create opportunities for Pitt grads when they enter the workforce.” (The Pitt News
  • Notable endorsements: The Sierra Club, Squirrel Hill’s 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, and the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.   

🔴 Republicans 

🗳 Luke Edison Negron 

Your only choice, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  


Who votes in this? All registered Democrats and Republicans in Pennsylvania. 

Background: As crowded as it gets this primary, six names will appear on Democratic ballots for the role of Pennsylvania Auditor General.

They are: Nina Ahmad, former Philadelphia deputy mayor; H. Scott Conklin, a state lawmaker and former Centre County Commissioner; Rose Rosie Marie Davis, a Monroe County CPA and township auditor; Tracie Fountain, a veteran employee of the auditor general’s office; Christina Hartman, a former Lancaster County congressional candidate; and Michael Lamb, Pittsburgh’s three-term city controller. All are looking to replace Democrat Eugene DePasquale who has held the seat for two terms and who is constitutionally barred from seeking another. DePasquale is now running for U.S. Congress. 

🔵 Democrats 

🗳 Nina Ahmad

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Scrutinizing high health-care costs, using the power of an audit to take on big pharma and insurers, calling out the influence of the NRA, and investigating wrongdoing. (More here
  • Quotable: “I believe our taxpayer dollars should be used as a catalyst for opportunity and innovation, empowering social good, rising to the challenges of the moment, and preparing for our best future using insight and care.” (Nina for PA campaign website
  • Notable endorsements: Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh (co-endorsed), She Can Win Political Action Committee (More here

🗳 H. Scott Conklin

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Performance audits for all state agencies, “downsizing a bloated legislature,” and infrastructure improvements. (More here
  • Quotable: “My experience with legislation combating domestic violence, encouraging economic investment and fighting against partisan politics, uniquely qualifies me to protect vulnerable Pennsylvanians from waste, fraud and predatory practices.” (Centre Daily Times
  • Notable endorsements: N/A

🗳 Rose Rosie Marie Davis

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: More transparency and accountability in school spending and statewide care for the elderly. (More here
  • Quotable: “One of the things that needs to be looked at as well is actually focusing on a lot of little different areas (…) one being school funding inequality. That’s huge for everyone.”    (Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club Video Q&A
  • Notable endorsements: Delaware Township Democratic Club

🗳 Tracie Fountain

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Expanded audits of magisterial district courts to ensure charged offenses are accurate, addressing the impact of significant legislative budget cuts on the auditor general department. (More here
  • Quotable: “(I) will provide the best possible solutions to critical issues impacting Pennsylvania families, such as prescription drug costs and ensuring the safety of Pennsylvanians’ most vulnerable citizens- our children, elderly, and mentally challenged.” (Ballotpedia survey
  • Notable endorsements: N/A

🗳 Christina M. Hartman

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Scrutinizing rising drug costs and nursing home treatment of seniors, the discrepancy between standards for public schools and charter schools, and criminal justice spending. (More here
  • Quotable: “Pennsylvania’s Auditor General is responsible for being an independent watchdog on taxpayer dollars,” Hartman said in a release. “I’m running for Auditor General because I’m passionate about protecting taxpayers and their hard-earned money and making government work for all Pennsylvanians.” (Politics PA)
  • Notable endorsements: Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh (co-endorsed), former Gov. Ed Rendell (More here

🗳 Michael Lamb

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Affordable health care, effective public schools, fair wages, and ensuring a “fair and equitable” process if marijuana is ever legalized here. (More here
  • Quotable: “I look at this job of auditor general as a job that I do here in Pittsburgh, which is trying to make government work better and trying to make government more transparent. The things that I do here are exactly what I see the commonwealth as needing. Here’s an opportunity to do the same thing for everybody in Pennsylvania.” (TribLIVE
  • Notable endorsements: Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh (co-endorsed), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (More here)  

🔴 Republicans 

🗳 Timothy DeFoor

Your only choice, so …


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop communities. Also those in Braddock Hills, Chalfant, Churchill, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Homestead, Munhall, Oakmont, Penn Hills, Rankin, Swissvale, Verona, West Homestead, Whitaker, Wilkinsburg, and Wilkins Township. 

Background: State Sen. Jay Costa has held the seat since 1996. He’s a member of the politically prominent Costa family, the same that saw two members ousted from their state House seats by progressive challengers in 2018. Now, Costa faces a similar challenge from Bill Brittain, the owner of Shadyside Nursery.

🔵 Democrats

🗳 Bill Brittain

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: $15 minimum wage now, legal pot, Medicare For All, phasing out fracking. (More here
  • Quotable: “Career politicians and their donors have long dominated our system and refused to make systematic changes necessary to face today’s issues, I want to change that.” (PoliticsPA
  • Notable endorsements: Did not seek Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement. 

🗳 Jay Costa, Jr. (Incumbent) 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: A $12 minimum wage asap, $15 minimum wage by 2025, banning assault weapons sales, state funding for lead pipe removal. (More here
  • Quotable: “We’re up against a Republican majority and have been for a number of years, particularly in the Senate. (…) that makes it difficult to advance progressive measures. But given our difficult position, we’ve been able to advance a number of initiatives that are important to the region.” (90.5 WESA
  • Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Pittsburgh 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club 

🔴 Republicans 

No one’s on the ballot, so get your write-in pen ready. 


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Downtown, Hazelwood, the Hill District, Knoxville, Manchester, North Side, Oakland, and South Side.

Background: Aerion Andrew Abney is back to challenge state Rep. Jake Wheatley for a third straight primary. Abney dropped out in 2016 after failing to get the county Democratic Committee’s endorsement and he lost to Wheatley in 2018. The latter primary also produced the chest-bump heard ‘round the state

🔵 Democrats 

🗳 Aerion Andrew Abney

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Anti-displacement, restorative justice, clean energy, modernizing government services. (More here
  • Quotable: “I believe in renewing the lines of accountability between our elected officials and those they represent. I’m running to challenge the status quo and the political establishment that all too often puts politics over people.” (Ballotpedia survey)
  • Notable endorsements: N/A

🗳 Jake Wheatley (Incumbent) 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Gun control, legal pot + clean slate, clean air. (More here
  • Quotable: “By legalizing the use of cannabis and simultaneously expunging records and releasing non-violent drug offenders from prison, the Commonwealth can do its part to repair the damage of the last 40 years.” (Pittsburgh Current
  • Notable endorsements: Steel City Stonewall Democrats, Allegheny County Democratic Committee 

🔴 Republican 

No one’s on the ballot, so get your write-in pen ready. 


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in Pittsburgh neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, North Side, Polish Hill, and the Strip. Also those in Avalon, Bellevue, West View, and portions of Ross. 

Background: Pittsburgh attorney Emily Kinkead is challenging state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, brother of former Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl, for the seat he’s held since 2010. Ravenstahl leans toward the center in a district showing early signs of moving to the left. 

🔵 Democrats 

🗳 Emily Kinkead 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: $15 minimum wage, reproductive justice, no on right-to-work, yes on automatic voter registration and early voting options. (More here
  • Quotable: “Without competitive primaries, we cannot demonstrate how our party and communities evolve and shift in needs and priorities.” (Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents
  • Notable endorsements: Planned Parenthood (co-endorsed), Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, County Councilors Bethany Hallam and Liv Bennett, Steel City Stonewall Democrats (More here

🗳 Adam Ravenstahl (Incumbent)

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, no-excuse early voting and online registration, ending mandatory minimums. (More here
  • Quotable: “Experience matters — I have been and will continue to fight for the minimum wage and the economy. I will continue to advocate for education, the environment, healthcare, women’s issues, and be a voice for LGBTQ+ rights.” (Patch
  • Notable endorsements: Planned Parenthood (co-endorsed), Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Allegheny County Labor Council (More here

🔴 Republicans 

No one’s on the ballot, so get your write-in pen ready. 


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in and around Pittsburgh’s Regent Square neighborhood. Also those in Braddock, Braddock Hills, Chalfant, Churchill, Edgewood, Forest Hills, Homestead, North Braddock, Rankin, Swissvale, Turtle Creek, West Homestead, and Wilkins Township. 

Background: By now you’re likely familiar with the progressive push to take seats from establishment incumbents. Turns out it works both ways. Two years after stunning the county’s Democratic Party with her ouster of a party elder, state Rep. Summer Lee is being challenged by Chris Roland, a parks department supervisor and North Braddock Borough Councilman with the party’s establishment in his corner. 

🔵 Democrats

🗳 Summer Lee (Incumbent) 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: $15 minimum wage, statewide LGBTQ protections, a temporary moratorium on fracking, state funding for lead water line replacement. (More here
  • Quotable: “I’m not the insurgent candidate anymore. I’m not the new shiny thing. So we’re running on our record at this point.” (TribLIVE
  • Notable endorsements: U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, The Young Democrats of Allegheny County, Sierra Club

🗳 Chris Roland 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Statewide LGBTQ protections, state funding for lead water line replacement, supporting “Gov. Wolf’s progressive agenda.” (More here
  • Quotable: “I’ll be making sure [the community’s] voice is heard, making sure that their fair share of taxes that were paid out is coming back.” (90.5 WESA
  • Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council

🔴 Republicans 

No one’s on the ballot, so get your write-in pen ready. 


Who votes in this? Registered Democrats and Republicans in Baldwin, Brentwood, Mount Oliver, and South Side.

Background: Democrats will have a choice between four candidates looking to replace state Rep. Harry Readshaw III who’s retiring after 13 terms in office: Jessica Benham, a progressive organizer from the Southside Slopes; Heather Kass, a health care worker and mental health care advocate from the Southside Slopes; Ed Moeller, a former Baldwin Borough councilmember; and Mark Johnson, a former congressional aide who lives in Brookline. The four-way race saw Kass endorsed by the county’s Democratic committee even after the surfacing of profane and pro-Trump comments she’d made on social media (she later apologized).

🗳 Jessica Benham 

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Green energy investments, fixing Pennsylvania’s unemployment system and its aging infrastructure. (More here
  • Quotable: “‘Anytime a Pennsylvanian seeks medical care, they should pay nothing at the point of access,’ says Benham, noting her support for single-payer health care policy, though has not backed any specific bill yet. ‘For me, this issue is important, I live with a preexisting condition and I have experienced not being able to afford medical care. It may mean that wealthier people may need to pay more, and I am aware of the barriers to accomplish that. But we need systemic change.'” (Pittsburgh City Paper
  • Notable endorsements: EMILY’s List, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Executive Council, Working Families Party (More here

🗳 Ed Moeller 

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Education funding reform, health care improvements, infrastructure improvements. 
  • Quotable: “I am the only candidate with previous public service experience which will make the transition much smoother.” (Patch
  • Notable endorsements: Pittsburgh Firefighters Local 1, Fraternal Order of Police Local 1 (More here)

🗳 Heather Kass

  • Connect: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Supports the creation of an independent redistricting commission in Pennsylvania, open primaries, eliminating lobbyists and super PACs, too. (More here
  • Quotable: “I plan to run a grassroots campaign, one that all will understand. In order for me to run a successful campaign, I will stay true to my core beliefs, ask the tough questions, be transparent with my goals and mission.” (Allegheny County Democratic Committee)
  • Also quotable: “This is bullshit freaking junkies get everything we should just make the drugs legal let them od and less shit in the world.” (Heather Kass on Facebook, via Pittsburgh Current
  • Notable endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Firearm Owners Against Crime (More here

🗳 Mark Johnson

  • Connect: Website | Facebook
  • Priorities include: Health care reform, environmental justice, campaign finance reform (More here
  • Quotable: “In my job as an attorney, I’ve represented clients in employment discrimination claims, worker compensation claims, and other labor and employment matters. And I’ve seen  firsthand the injustices Pennsylvania workers have to suffer under, and I know where the laws fall short.” (League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh Candidate Forum
  • Notable endorsements: N/A

🔴 Republicans 

🗳 AJ Doyle

Your only choice, so …


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