Darlene Harris to face two primary challengers for Pittsburgh council reelection

Darlene Harris to face two primary challengers for Pittsburgh council reelection

Author: Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Friday, January 11, 2019/Categories: Pittsburgh

Veteran Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris will be facing not one, but two challengers for the opportunity to represent the Steel City’s North Side come May 21.

After a few candidates stepped forward, only to fade away due to scandal or reconsideration, Harris, a Democrat, will be challenged with Chris Rosselot, a former aide to US Sen. Bob Casey, and repeat challenger Bobby Wilson, who ran against Harris in 2015 and 2011.

Harris — first elected in 2006 — is an official whose sometimes contrarian personality has earned her critics inside and outside of city council. Many an article has been devoted to her public quarrel with Council President Bruce Kraus (D-District 3), or her tendency to block her critics on social media.

However, to her supporters, she’s a woman with strong convictions and a great love for the community she’s spent her life in.

Still, some Northsiders are hungry for change. Rosselot, having spent six years working under Casey, feels his government background and roots in the nonprofit world make him the right person to replace Harris.

Although not originally from the North Side, he believes he’s got what it takes to create a more inclusive community. Since moving to the city in 2003, he’s worked at nonprofits, such as the Community Alliance of Spring Garden-East Deutschtown, and boasts a record of public service.

“My experience working with local and state governments, foundations, and the nonprofit community has prepared me to lead the way for the district,” Rosselot said in a press release. “I’m excited to work with my neighbors to make a more inclusive North Side.”

While he has stated he’s running a campaign that is pro-North Side, as opposed to anti-Darlene, he does believe the councilwoman has cost the district opportunities due to an “inability” or “unwillingness” to work with others.

“It’s clear that some of our neighborhoods have suffered because the lack of leadership on council for District 1,” Rosselot said.

He’s not alone. Although Harris’s decade-plus term in office proves she has support, there’s a select group mobilizing on social media that would like to see anyone but her elected in the spring.

A Facebook group with nearly 500 members titled “Citizens Against Darlene Harris for City Council” holds a list of complaints against Harris, ranging from her interactions with her fellow councilmembers to the belief that she’s ineffective.

Wilson shared similar feelings in a Thursday campaign announcement at the same time Rosselot hosted his own kickoff.

“It's time for new leadership on the Northside,” Wilson wrote in a statement. “We need strong leadership to take on issues like affordable housing and equitable development.”

Wilson worked as a project quality manager at the University of Pittsburgh’s Emphysema and COPD Research Center. Per Pittsburgh City Paper, he’s stated that as a lifelong Northside resident, he can uniquely understand the district’s needs.

“We have a very great history in the North Side and we need to keep that, but our neighborhoods are changing, and we need someone who can bridge that gap,” Wilson said. “I’m a fifth-generation Northside resident and I’m invested in the North Side.”

Harris was unavailable for comment.

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell a staff writer for The PLS Reporter based in Pittsburgh. Have a question, comment or tip? Email her at atiya@mypls.com.