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A Conversation with Louis "Hop" Kendrick

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Louis "Hop" Kendrick, 73, is trying to become Pittsburgh's first black mayor. A long-time political organizer in the East End, Kendrick has served as interim County Councilor in District 10, director of Allegheny County's Minority Business Enterprise office, and most recently as a consultant to County Executive Dan Onorato. After running a family trucking business for 33 years, he worked as a county detective and investigator for the public defender's office. He has been involved in politics since he was a teen, spending 27 years as a Republican and now 27 years as a Democrat.

 

 

You don't plan to raise any money for your run?

If Bob O'Connor can raise a million dollars, and I have no reason to believe that he can't; if Michael Lamb can raise six or seven hundred thousand dollars; if [Bill] Peduto can raise a quarter-million dollars, I can't raise that kind of money, so why raise any at all? If we're going to run as true people's candidates, then I believe that people will respond. I don't need their money; I need their votes.

 

Why would anyone want the mayor's seat now?

This city is in semi-coma, but this city is not dead. The powers that be will not allow it to die. Common sense will tell you that if the city was permanently dead or dying, why would all these guys want to run for it?

 

Byrd Brown probably came the closest to being Pittsburgh's first black mayor in 1989. What's different this time?

Sophie [Masloff, who defeated Brown] was an old-line politician who had to ingratiate herself with several of the entrenched black leaders over the years. They had more allegiance to her than they did to a black man. We don't have a Sophie Masloff running this time. The allegiance is not there. Sophie came from way back. O'Connor and them don't come from way back, so the allegiance is not there. Byrd ran against an incumbency, a woman born and raised on the lower part of the Hill, who was very influential with black people over the course of her life.

 

The frontrunner, Bob O'Connor, has made comments that many blacks call racist. Do you believe he's a racist?

I don't know him personally. I think that he makes insensitive remarks because he really and truly doesn't understand what he is saying. And that don't make you a racist, now. The two statements I can attribute to him were the ones about [former city Housing Authority cop John] Charmo. He wrote that letter for Charmo to get appointed to sergeant after he killed [Jerry] Jackson. I believe he did it based on what he said: that someone he respected came to him and said, "Charmo is a friend of mine, could you write this letter?" But that's a very questionable act. Here's a guy who killed a [black man], he gets a reward for that? And then the remark [O'Connor] made about the school system -- that the black kids are out of control because black leaders won't discipline. Once again, I don't think it's racism; I think he just doesn't understand.

 

Blacks came out for O'Connor, though, before you made your announcement. Do you hope to win them back?

Listen, I do not believe that any major black person in this town would come out openly against my candidacy. Some guys said to me the other day, "Hop, listen, we been friends all our lives. We gonna stay friends?" I said, "Yeah. What's these questions about?" He said, "I'm supposed to do something for O'Connor." I said, "Is it beneficial to you?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "Do it, then." He said, "Well, I don't want you to get mad when you see it." I said, "Listen, I can care less."

 

Really?

I don't care, let me tell you why: When you get a chance to listen to the debates, then you will understand why I don't care. I'm good at what I do. I do it with knowledge, ability and commitment and I got a sense of dedication that none of them can match. And I been at it long enough to know that it comes over in the debates.

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