By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Several elected officials from Allegheny County spent Thursday afternoon lining up to demand the resignation of Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Eileen Kelly after a Tuesday press conference in which she defended a party-endorsed pro-Trump candidate and belittled Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam’s previous battles with drug addiction.
Kelly and Pittsburgh City Councilor Anthony Coghill held a press conference to address controversy stirred up when the ACDC endorsed candidate Heather Kass despite her history of social media posts that supported President Trump, that said addicts should “OD” and die and that people on public assistance were “lazy idiots.” Many officials and party members condemned the endorsement and called for something to be done. ]
But on Wednesday, Kelly called the endorsement the “the most purest form of democracy. … Committeepeople know the candidates the best.” The committee voted 49-19 to back Kass, the handpicked successor to House District 36 Rep. Harry Readshaw, a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat. She was backed over progressive Dem Jessica Benham who has received the support of many high-ranking Democrats including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, state Sen. Lindsey Williams and several others.
According to Chris Potter of WESA:
“Kelly went further, saying that some critics were being less forgiving of Kass — who has said she made the posts during a medical crisis — than they were of Hallam, who has been open about struggles with addiction that led to a stint in the county jail. ‘But we have Bethany Hallam who has her own background that she’s been open about, and she comes out and says, ‘I’m sorry blah blah blah’ and she’s forgiven. … So why is it good for them and not for [Kass]?'”
It didn’t take long for most rational people to see how asinine and insulting Kelly’s comments were, as well as her defense of Kass’ comments which have been well documented since the Pittsburgh Current broke the story in January.
Below are some of the statements released on social media and press releases on Thursday:
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle
“Allegheny County Democratic Chair Eileen Kelly’s comments at yesterday’s press conference was troubling and unacceptable. It is clear to me and many other leader and Stakeholders in the Democratic Party that the Chair must resign to ensure that Democrats across the county have faith in our party and remain unified.
It’e time for fresh new leadership and to re-examine our bylaws to ensure we unite our party around our common values in this vitally important election year.”
State Rep. Candidate Emily Kinkead:
“Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Eileen Kelly’s performance at yesterday’s press conference displays a stunning lack of leadership ability. She demonstrated a refusal to understand the seriousness of the ACDC endorsing a Trump supporter. She denied the reality and the magnitude of permitting those who actively oppose Democratic values and the Democratic Presidential nominee to serve on Committee. And most insultingly, to justify her stance, she used as props both Summer Lee, our first black female State Representative, and Bethany Hallam, an elected official who uses her status as a recovering opioid addict to help marginalized communities. Kelly’s willingness to wield Bethany’s story as a shield is particularly abhorrent given her unceremonious ejection of County Councilor Hallam from that very press conference.
“The ACDC has been in dire need of reform for years. Sunday’s endorsement results were unsurprising because they were the inevitable result of a broken committee with inept leadership. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one. Eileen Kelly’s refusal to do so requires her immediate resignation.”
Pa. State Sen. Lindsey Williams
“A good leader is someone who not only inspires others to follow her, but is willing to constantly learn and grow from the people around her. It is clear that Eileen Kelly is not that leader for our county party. She should step down immediately.”
Pa. Sen. Wayne Fontana
“As I’ve stated before, it’s time for change to endorsement process and entire committee structure. While I personally prefer bringing an end to primary election endorsements, I would like to see at the very least, the county cmte adopt bylaws similar to the state party structure.
“It is time for Chair Kelly to resign.
“The statements and actions of the Allegheny County Democratic Party Chair are very concerning. At a time when our party needs to be united more than ever, this divisiveness from the leadership of the county party is unacceptable and another example of why change is needed.”
Pa. Rep and ACDC Vice Chair Austin Davis
“This is a disgrace! I believe in the Democratic Party! I believe in the people that have built & make up this party! It’s clear that the Chair of the @AlleghenyDems doesn’t share our values and should not be leading our party!”