Updated July 13, 2022 at 10:08 AM
When local community organizer La’Tasha Mayes was asked how her life has been since announcing her run for State Representative, she responded with a laugh and “You got enough time?”
Mayes announced her run for State Representative in District 24, which consists of parts of the Hill District, Oakland, Bloomfield, Highland Park, East Liberty and Homewod, in January of this year, and won the primary election in May.
“It’s been a very uplifting and challenging journey,” Mayes said.
This candidacy is actually not Mayes’ first. She ran for City Council in District 7 in 2015. She said that although she had a good showing, she did not win, and had to evaluate where she would be most effective and impactful as a legislator.
“After that election where I was unsuccessful, I really poured myself into my leadership,” she said. “As founder and former President and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, I really poured my energy into building political and voting power among Black women not only in Pittsburgh, but across Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio.”
Mayes said pouring herself into her work kept her motivated, and she thought about running again.
“We have seen tremendous victories from Black leaders and other marginalized identity groups running and winning, and often doing so without party support – Democratic Party support specifically,” she said.
The idea to run for office hit her when Mayor Ed Gainey won the mayoral race in Pittsburgh. Mayor Gainey had previously held the House seat.
“I unofficially announced [my candidacy] on January 19 in the City Paper and I officially announced on February 7,” Mayes said. “And my life has been full of just amazing opportunities to connect with voters and residents.”
Mayes’ start to the year has been a whirlwind, but a rewarding one.
“Above all, I put in a lot of hard work every single day, from the moment I announced I was running,” she said. “And I work with amazing people on my campaign to win really an upset and a victory on election day, and against a political machine that did not think someone like me – when I say someone like me I’m talking about an out lesbian Black woman who has been fighting for reproductive justice and all types of social change in our community for 20 years – could.”
Mayes credits her leadership skills to the movement for reproductive justice, something she has fought for for decades. She is the founder and former President and CEO of New Voices for Reproductive Justice, an organization that focuses on the health and well-being of Black women and girls, sexual reproductive health, LGBTQIA+ rights, and more.
“This is exactly what we have talked about for years is that we not only are activists and organizers on the front line on important issues like abortion access, LGBTQ rights and environmental justice, but that we also have the ability to have an even greater systemic and large-scale impact as elected leaders and legislators, particularly Black women,” Mayes said.
She described being a community leader as a marathon, not a sprint.
“We have to account for how society changes, how people change, how gender changes, how we talk about how language changes, how we talk about what reproductive rights, health and justice looks like,” Mayes said. “It’s never over. Our fight for human rights is never done.”
The turning point of her campaign was when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. She says with the document leak in early May, they already knew the decision was set and going to come at some point.
“Reproductive justice is my life – it’s my anchor, it is my North Star,” she said. “[The Supreme Court] dropped [the decision] on us on Friday, and I was prepared to be wherever I needed to be to be together for people who support abortion access for people who need abortion access– for us to be in the same space.”
She plans to protect abortion access with a win in November, along with LGBTQIA+ rights and increasing the minimum wage.
“I’m very proud of what I and my campaign and my supporters accomplished on election day, and I hope that we continue that momentum into the fall and into future elections, and that we are making a new way for greater representation among our political leadership,” Mayes said. “I want to be on the vanguard of what politics can look like in our city and region and in our state, and I’m excited for the opportunity to lead and serve as the next State Representative of the 24th Legislative District.”
With no apparent Republican challenger in November, Mayes will head to Harrisburg in January.