La’Tasha D. Mayes seeks to ‘disrupt politics as usual’
LA’TASHA D. MAYES IS THE NEW STATE REPRESENTATIVE FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 24. (PHOTO BY EMMAI ALAQUIVA) There’s never been someone quite like La’Tasha D. Mayes in the Pa. State House. She’s proud to call herself the first out lesbian to be elected to the House, and she’s the first woman to serve as District 24 … Continued The post La’Tasha D. Mayes seeks to ‘disrupt politics as usual’ appeared first on New Pittsburgh Courier.
LA’TASHA D. MAYES IS THE NEW STATE REPRESENTATIVE FOR HOUSE DISTRICT 24. (PHOTO BY EMMAI ALAQUIVA)
There’s never been someone quite like La’Tasha D. Mayes in the Pa. State House.
She’s proud to call herself the first out lesbian to be elected to the House, and she’s the first woman to serve as District 24 representative, which encompasses Black neighborhoods like Homewood, Lincoln-Lemington and East Hills, along with Morningside, Highland Park, East Liberty and parts of Bloomfield and Oakland. Parts of the borough of Wilkinsburg is also included.
But more importantly, Rep. Mayes told the New Pittsburgh Courier that she’s ready to “disrupt politics as usual” in Harrisburg.
“I’m bringing different, newer, bolder perspectives on a host of policy and legislative issues, but also how the work gets done,” Rep. Mayes, 41, told the Courier in an exclusive interview, Jan. 23. “How we engage with the people of the commonwealth, how we work within our party…my campaign, my race and now my leadership in the House is going to be a more unapologetic approach in my commitment not only to my district, but to the issues I have been fighting for in the greater Pittsburgh community and at the state level for two decades.”
And those issues have been everything from reproductive justice and health care access, to environmental justice and voting rights.
STATE REP. LA’TASHA D. MAYES
If the name La’Tasha D. Mayes sounds familiar, that’s because she is the founder of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, an organization that fights ferociously for the well-being of Black women, girls and gender-expansive people. She started the organization in 2004, and relinquished president and CEO duties in March 2022.
In January 2022, Rep. Mayes announced she would be running for the District 24 seat, with Ed Gainey leaving the seat to become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor. In April 2022, Martell Covington, who formerly was a legislative aide to state Senator Jay Costa, was elected via a special election to serve out the remaining eight months of Mayor Gainey’s term. The next month, however, was the Democratic Primary for, among other seats, the District 24 seat. It would, in effect, determine who would be the state representative in that district starting in 2023 for two years. In what some called a surprising outcome, Rep. Mayes defeated Covington, 46 to 38 percent. A majority percentage was not needed to win the election.
Thus, on Jan. 3, 2023, Rep. Mayes officially was sworn-in as state representative. But for Rep. Mayes, her win didn’t come as a surprise. She’s discussed in numerous interviews how she’s always been a champion for her community.
STATE REP. LA’TASHA D. MAYES, with Congresswoman Summer Lee.
“I talked to voters, I knocked on their doors, I went to their homes,” she told the Courier. “I have been helping my community for two decades. What it came down to is, they know my work and my impact, work ethic, dedication, and they know that I’m going to speak up for what’s right, what’s just and what we can win for Black communities in particular. People who knew my work, it was a natural transition for me in their mind to move into an elected role.”
For the last 24 years, Rep. Mayes has called Pittsburgh home. Born on an Army base in Kansas, Rep. Mayes grew up in West Philadelphia. She credits her mother, who was an Army veteran and union member, for sparking her passion at an early age. In 1997, her mother took her to the Million Women’s March in Philadelphia. Representative Mayes has said in interviews that attending that rally made a profound impact on her.
In 1999, she came to Pittsburgh to attend the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2003, followed by a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005.
Not that it took her to become a state representative to know this, but she said the number one issue facing residents in her district is gun violence and public safety.
Representative Mayes said she’s “looking forward to working with any stakeholder who’s interested in addressing gun violence and working to bring long-term solutions that can uproot the root cause of the violence, which often is poverty.”
Other issues include transportation, access to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, and housing. Not even two weeks into the position, Rep. Mayes told the Courier a few residents have spoken to her about their homes on the list for foreclosure. Representative Mayes said she’s quickly learning that issues can affect people individually, or to an entire class of people.
“It’s about what resources are available,” Rep. Mayes said. “A person may have an issue that we can work on with them, and it may be a resource that the state provides; (but) a lot of times, a community organization or entity can provide (the assistance).”
What’s paramount for Rep. Mayes is that people get connected to the needed resource, “no matter where it’s coming from.”
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