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Burgess quietly quitting?

Posted by Elwin Green on March 9, 2023 at 2:00 PM

Homewood's City Council representative, the Rev. Ricky V. Burgess, has effectively declared his non-candidacy for a fifth term by not filing with the Allegheny County Board of Elections to run in the primary election being held on May 16.


He has not made a formal announcement.


Given that the 9th District councilman is one of Council's two longest-serving members (the other being Bruce Krause, who, like Rev. Burgess, started in 2008), his non-candidacy is big local news. The Post-Gazette's story about it is here, the Tribune-Review covers it here, and WESA-FM touches on it in their report about campaign filings here.


Councilman Burgess began his tenure by unseating Twanda D. Carlisle in the 2007 Democratic primary after she was embroiled in a scandal that led to her incarceration.


Even with Carlisle's scandal as an apparent advantage, Burgess won by the narrowest of margins, with 2,413 votes out of 4,818 cast or 50.08%.


While barely winning a majority of total votes cast, he easily outdistanced the individual totals gained by other Carlisle opponents: Leah Kirkland, Randall Taylor, Eric S. Smith, Ora Lee Carroll, Judith K. Ginyard, and William Anderson.


Narrow victories became the norm in successive primaries. Indeed, 2007 was the only year in which he was elected by the majority.


In 2011, he received 2,030 of 4,068 votes cast, or 49.90%, winning over Lucille Prater-Holliday and Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell. In 2015, he defeated repeat opponents Carlisle and Ginyard, along with new candidate Andre Young, with 2,074 votes, or 44.87% of the total, 4,622. In 2019, his 2,049 votes were a mere 38.70% of the total, 5,294 - but that was still enough to triumph over challengers who split the opposition vote four ways, between third-timer Ginyard and newcomers Stephen Braxton, Cherylie Fuller, and Kierran Young (Andre Young's son).


It could be argued that Burgess's opponents have kept him in office for nearly 16 years by repeatedly splitting the opposition vote. Whatever the reason(s) for such vote-splitting, it is obvious that neither Burgess nor his opponents have offered a vision for the district that has appealed to a majority of voters.


That's understandable - in a city whose residents identify as strongly with their neighborhoods as Pittsburghers do, casting a vision that can unify East Liberty and East Hills, Homewood and Lincoln-Lemington (and that includes the weird cutout that contains UPMC St Margaret's and the Waterworks Mall), can't be easy. And with the 2022 redistricting adding Point Breeze to Council 9, building a unified district may be a greater challenge than ever.


Khari Mosely was the first to declare his desire to take on that challenge. Mosely, of North Point Breeze, announced his candidacy for the 9th District Council seat in December.


The only other 9th District candidate who met the March 7 filing deadline to appear on the primary ballot is Khadijah Harris, of Homewood.

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