A candidate who represents steel towns on the outskirts of Pittsburgh has the inside track on becoming the first Black nominee for lieutenant governor from either party.
Austin Davis, a 32-year-old Democrat, announced his run for the second-highest seat in Pennsylvania’s government on Monday and immediately received the endorsement of the state’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, who is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for governor, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Davis is also getting a lot of support from other elected officials that could help his campaign.
From the Post-Gazette
The release also listed off numerous other endorsements Mr. Davis has picked up from prominent state Democrats, including: Gov. Tom Wolf; former Gov. Ed Rendell; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey; U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle and Dwight Evans; 15 state senators, including Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa; and 48 of his fellow state representatives, including House Democratic leader Joanna McClinton.
Pennsylvania’s governor and lieutenant governor run separately during the spring primary, but it is common for primary candidates to endorse one another and become de facto running mates prior to the November general election, when they officially run on the same ticket.
In other words, Davis and Shapiro aren’t officially partners in their races, but having the backing of so many entrenched politicos could help clear his path.
Davis’ candidacy is significant for other reasons. Only one other Black person—current Auditor General Timothy DeFoor, a Republican who won in 2020—has ever been elected to statewide office in Pennsylvania. Winning in November’s general election would put Davis a heartbeat from becoming governor, and would also continue a growing ascendancy for Black politicians in western Pennsylvania, which has always lagged the Philadelphia area in terms of the state’s Black population and political clout.
Pittsburgh, which is roughly a quarter Black, swore in its first Black mayor, Ed Gainey, on Monday. Philadelphia, with a larger population overall, is 43.6% Black and has elected three Black mayors. Like Davis, Gainey previously served in the state legislature, which of late looks like a launching pad for Black politicians from Pittsburgh.
Davis’s 35th legislative district includes much of the Monongahela Valley, a cluster of suburbs along the southernmost of Pittsburgh’s three rivers that used to house steel mills and factories that provided thousands of blue-collar jobs. The other seat from the Mon Valley, the 34th District, has been held by Summer Lee, a Howard Law grad, since 2018, the same year Davis took his seat. She was the first Black woman elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is currently running for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District seat.