Ahead of the Pennsylvania state Primaries on May 17, residents of East Falls had the opportunity to ask Democratic candidates at the local, state, and national level about their campaign platforms and political qualifications during a virtual meeting hosted by the East Falls Community Council.
Candidates from all levels of government, including U.S. Senate candidate Conor Lamb (D), U.S. House candidate Alexandra Hunt (D) and State House candidates Pamela DeLissio (I) and Tarik Khan (D) spoke about a variety of issues: voting rights, education, and health care reform.
The first to speak was state representative Pam DeLissio, who is running to maintain her seat in PA District 194, where she has represented parts of Montgomery County and Northwest Philadelphia for 12 years.
In her speech, DeLissio described her qualifications and experience working in the State Capitol in Harrisburg, as well as what needs to be done to reform Pennsylvania’s political system.
“Any of my campaign’s efforts won’t happen because the process in Harrisburg holds up our legislation,” she said. “We have put lots of energy into making changes to our procedural rules that will give various pieces of legislation the opportunity to be considered based on the interests of the members of the House.”
DeLissio also reaffirmed her support for universal, single-payer health care and described its importance during a pandemic.
“If the pandemic has emphasized a number of things, access to health care is the most important — the cost of health care couldn’t be more important,” she said. “The fact right now that many constituents have their health care linked to their employment has always struck me as not effective, not efficient.”
Health care is an issue DeLissio is passionate about.
“As far as I’m concerned, health care is a right, not a privilege. It should in no way ever bankrupt any of us,” she said.
Tarik Khan, DeLissio’s opponent, is a nurse practitioner in the city of Philadelphia and has no previous political experience. He spoke about the main reason he’s running for office: to fix the system.
“I’m running for State Rep because our system is broken, and I think our families need a spokesperson that’s going to make sure their voices are heard,” he said.
Khan emphasized his lack of experience as an asset.
“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be running for State Representative before this pandemic. I think our leaders really let us down, and I think we need health care champions in our legislature.”
Alexandra Hunt, a Philadelphia native, is running against incumbent congressman Dwight Evans for his seat in Pennsylvania’s third congressional district. The district covers most of Northwest and West Philadelphia, and cuts through parts of Center City and South Philadelphia as well.
While she has no experience holding public office, she served as a community organizer with Reclaim Philadelphia and also worked at the state level on prison reform.
“Education is something that is very important to me,” she said. “If we want to have a healthy democracy, we have to have educated young people,” she said.
Hunt further described the focal point of her campaign: a new deal for education, which calls for an investment of federal funds into our nation’s public education system to ensure that there are different pathways for young people, in either a higher education, trade or tech school.
The final candidate to speak was Rep. Conor Lamb, who currently represents Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district in the U.S. House. He’s known among Democratic colleagues for flipping his district blue in 2018 after former President Donald Trump won it by a large margin in the 2016 election. Now he’s running for the newly vacant U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Current Sen. Pat Toomey’s term expires at the end of 2022.
In his address to the community council, Lamb described why he thinks he’s best suited to be a U.S. Senator, and why he thinks he can win the race.
“I think I can give you the best chance to win this thing in November when it really counts,” he said. “Because I’m the only candidate in this race that has had experience, going out and getting not just Democrats, but independents and moderate Republicans. And I’ve done that while standing up for Democratic values in the U.S. House.”
Lamb also went through a laundry list of his party-line voting record achievements, including voting in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Women’s Health Protection Act and supporting the rise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
At the end of the meeting there was time for questions, where several community members asked candidates about their track records and qualifications.
When one community member asked Hunt, who has never held public office, about her qualifications for a U.S. House seat, she explained that because she had so much experience trying to navigate efforts to reform the PA prison system under GOP control in Harrisburg, she understands the fight for bipartisanship and compromise when dealing with colleagues across the aisle.
Khan was also asked by a community member about whether or not he supports universal health care, to which he replied yes, and added that in order to get legislation like Medicare for All passed, “we need bold leadership.”
The last day to register to vote in the 2022 midterm primary elections is May 2. For more information, about registering, and where to vote, visit Vote.pa.gov.
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