James Hayes has an impressive resumé and a story to go with it. The son of a steelworker who was forced to change careers when Pennsylvania’s steel industry collapsed, Hayes earned a partial scholarship to Georgetown University through his father’s union. His mom took a job in a factory making electric shavers.
The family wasn’t rich in dollars, but the support and drive to succeed left a young James Hayes well equipped for business and, ultimately, public service. From his days as the president of the Lancaster County Teenage Republicans to a business career that included a six-year stint with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Hayes built a knowledge base in business administration and economics. He holds a bachelor’s in international economics from Georgetown, a master’s in economics and policy from Princeton, underwritten by the National Science Foundation, an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in business administration from Case Western Reserve.
“When I look at Pittsburgh, and how it’s changed since I first arrived in 2005, I see a city and region with all the potential in the world, if we just had the attention from leadership at the federal level to attract investment and government support,” Hayes says. “But it has to be good attention, not showboating for causes that don’t connect with the people here.” His decision to venture out of the private sector and run for Congress was driven by a painful episode that left a hole in the hearts of the Hayes family. James’ 31-year-old son, James Michael Hayes, a trained welder, was killed outside his New Kensington home. The killing remains unsolved. “It’s like we’ve given up on people,” Hayes says. “It’s as if we’ve written off entire regions and decided it doesn’t matter enough to fight for the lives of the people there.” That level of emotional investment in the race belies a rock-solid, logical foundation to Hayes’ theory of governance. He views himself as a social and economic conservative, informed not only by deep education but a wide experience in dealing with people. He’s pro-Second Amendment, opposed to excess government spending and worries that Pittsburgh is missing its chance to build on the region’s growing energy economy.
“People in the 12th District should be voting for people that represent their values,” Hayes says. “Right now, that’s not the case. We need to focus on jobs and crime in this region. The way to create jobs is to encourage business. The way to stop crime is to prosecute it.” When Hayes arrived in Pittsburgh, he and his family moved into the house once owned by Pitt football coaching legend Johnny Majors. After his service with The Fed in Richmond, he returned to the city, settling in Shadyside. He is married to Brenda Diaz, whom he met while working in Mexico in the early 90s. “I told her she was export quality,” he jokes. Brenda currently is employed as a teacher at the Community Day School in Squirrel Hill. The couple has three children, Brenda Theresa, a Princeton graduate who is pursuing a career in the entertainment industry; Angela, a senior at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and Jocelyn, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University. Hayes also has a daughter, Courtney, who has built a successful career with a major insurance company after attending Clark Atlanta University.