The recent flood of letters (Dec. 18 and Dec. 22) invoking Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner’s gender while defending her from criticism by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald could lead your readers to believe that Mr. Fitzgerald’s criticism is based in sexism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Rich Fitzgerald’s record of support for women is unmatched in our state. He is strongly pro-choice and pro-equality and has never hesitated to speak publicly about his beliefs, regardless of any political fallout. Five of his seven key staff are women, including his chief of staff, communications director and special projects coordinator — and anyone who knows Jennifer Liptak, Amie Downs and Darla Cravotta know that there’s not a shrinking violet among them.
Rich Fitzgerald’s backing of our county chair, Nancy Patton Mills, is in stark contrast to how women party chairs are treated elsewhere. He recruits, supports and funds strong women candidates whenever possible (including this author) and is constantly calling for the party to include women candidates on every level. When he resigned from his own county council seat to run for executive, he successfully encouraged his colleagues to appoint Barbara Daly Danko to replace him. And during his own primary race for county executive — a race far from settled due to the razor-thin edge giving him the party endorsement — he urged voters countywide to vote for either Chelsa Wagner or Valerie McDonald-Roberts for county controller, to avoid having an all-male slate in November.
It is an insult to women who suffer real discrimination — victims of rape and domestic violence, those cheated in salary and position, women denied comprehensive health care and more — to claim that a disagreement between two political leaders is sexism, just because of their gender differences.
JEANNE K. CLARK
The writer is chair of the Women’s Caucus, Allegheny County Democratic Party.