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Residents of Clairton, Duquesne, Lincoln, McKeesport, Munhall, South Versailles Twp., Versailles, Whitaker, White Oak and parts of West Mifflin will go to the polls on Jan. 23 to select a replacement for former state Rep. Marc Gergely. Tube City Almanac is profiling both of the candidates.
To read about Austin Davis, click here.
Born and raised in McKeesport, Fawn Walker-Montgomery wasn’t always a Republican.
The 37-year-old, who served as campaign organizer in the Mon Valley during Obama’s presidential run, says she isn’t a Trump supporter either.
She is, however, the first African American woman to run for state legislature in the 35th Legislative District.
She switched parties in 2016 to run against then-incumbent state Rep. Marc Gergely, who subsequently beat her write-in campaign by nearly 6,500 votes, before he pleaded guilty to charges resulting in a sentence of 18 months under house arrest for his role in illegal gambling operations.
For Walker-Montgomery, the Republican Party provided an opportunity to have a “seat at the table.”
“I always take it back to the local level, and my head and heart is in local politics," she says.
Today, Walker-Montgomery sees her run as the Republican candidate for District 35 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as her attempt at “breaking up the good old boys’ club.”
David Marks, former planning commissioner for the City of Duquesne and current advisor to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the Duquesne School District, met Walker-Montgomery three years ago and was impressed by her passion about curtailing violence in the Mon Valley.
“Fawn was running the meeting … and this woman was animated, she was direct, and she was serious about solutions that were going to bring teenagers away from the violence and get them involved with things that would keep them alive,” Marks says. “She was going to make a difference with these young people.”
Walker-Montgomery has wanted to run for office since being a student at McKeesport High School. As a 10th grader, she recalls starting a petition to get a black history class instituted.
“I’ve always been involved in recommending policy,” Walker-Montgomery says. She succeeded in getting black history taught as part of the world cultures class. “And, we got a diversity committee as a result,” Walker-Montgomery says.
While in college in Charlotte, N.C., she worked on several political campaigns and advocated for the “Voter-Owned Elections Act”—essentially political campaigns that are conducted by getting small donations from many voters in order to be free from special interest groups.
Is this something the candidate still supports today? “Absolutely,” she says.
After working as an intern in Washington, D.C. for former U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews of New Jersey and graduating from college, she moved back to McKeesport because she kept “hearing what was going on here at home.”
“I heard of classmates and relatives being shot and dying,” she recalls.
And, crime, says Walker-Montgomery, remains a serious issue that hangs over the district—with some 13 homicides in the district in 2017, and 12 in McKeesport alone, she says.
The anti-abortion candidate says that providing jobs that can sustain a family is one way of reducing crime, and says that worker retraining programs are essential to the district. She notes that a more robust transportation system is needed, along with improved infrastructure and economic growth in the district.
Professionally, she is most proud of the work that she’s done combatting violence in the community.
And she doesn’t believe in taking no for an answer. “If you want to see me do something, tell me no,” Walker-Montgomery says.
Education: McKeesport High School, 1998; B.A., political science, Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C.), 2002; M.S., criminal justice administration, Point Park University, 2006
Career: Worked in human services for 14+ years. Currently serving as supervisor for social service agency in Downtown Pittsburgh, helping families of children with behavioral and mental health issues. While she declined to identify her current employer, Walker-Montgomery’s bio for McKeesport City Council states she has worked for Adelphoi Village, Every Child, Incorporated, Macedonia FACE, and Allegheny County Children, Youth, and Families.
Elected office: McKeesport City Council (2010-2018)
Lynne Glover is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh's East End.
Originally published January 08, 2018.