Hi Everyone - thanks for taking the time to join our chat. Here is an introduction, feel free to ask any and all questions - Mike.
I believe that to lead is to serve. By this I mean that service in Congress should be rooted in service to ordinary people. This is an idea that has been forgotten in national politics as well as right here in Northwest PA under Phil English’s inept leadership.
Right now our government serves the people at the front of the line, those with the most money, power, and clout. It is not representing the rest of us. I’m running to represent the people who feel they haven’t had a voice in our government.
Like many families in Northwest Pennsylvania, my family’s experience has been one of struggle. My grandfather, a steel worker, was killed building the same hospital, St. Vincents, where my daughter was recently born. My Grandmother, a single mother before the term was invented, put her neck on the line, and lost her job because she organized a local hospitality workers union. To this day, my mother works the graveyard shift at a gas station because she can’t afford to retire. Things were difficult, I learned that I had to work hard in order to succeed and get what I want. Right now I don’t have healthcare, like more than 40,000 people in this district.
This experience is far too common in this region. We can’t accept it anymore, and this is at the heart of why I want to be your representative in Congress.
This is why I have given my life to service, because I understand the needs people face everyday, and I know how we can work together to solve them. I’ve spent my entire career on the frontlines of the most pressing social issues that face us everyday. After attending Penn State I worked here at Sara Reed Children’s Center helping children with mental disabilities.
I was attending Union Theological Center in New York when the 9/11 attacks happened, and I went the next day to pray with the victims. Seeing this first hand, smelling it, seeing families searching desperately for their loved ones, changed my life. At the same time, mired in this tragedy, the essence of the American spirit shone through.
I have never witnessed anything as powerful as the unity displayed on September 12th. Regrettably, what we failed to do as a country was to move forward with a new politics rooted in the spirit of September 12th, where in the midst of tragedy we came together ready to overcome any obstacle, to meet any challenge. I have seen the passion that all of us have to make our country better.
This experience prompted me to delay my plans to enter the ordained ministry and to become a public servant. Accordingly, I decided to pursue service opportunities as Director of Operations at the Interfaith Center, working to solve problems such as poverty, health care access, and domestic violence. Here, I pioneered innovative programs to tackle the issues that people face.
This position required me to navigate very complex situations, working with people of all faith beliefs, from all parts of the world. The basic function of this job was bringing people together while respecting their differences, and the integrity of their beliefs – but at the same time working together towards common goals. If you think bringing together feuding politicians is hard, try, as I have, bringing together religious and community leaders with deep historical divides and strong personal grievances.
I think I can safely say that I am the only candidate in this race with direct experience working with all segments of society: individuals, politicians, religious leaders, business leaders, and community activists, to create proactive solutions based on our common interests.
This seat requires someone who shares the values and concerns of the residents of this region, and at the same time has the ability to comprehend the complexity of an increasingly globalized world. I understand the challenges of the 21st Century and I know how we can work together in Northwest Pennsylvania to meet them.
The war in Iraq is a disastrous blunder, and a failed policy by the Bush administration. Voters in the 2006 election sent a clear message to Congress that they wanted an end to the war.
I will fight to bring our troops home in no longer than 12 months. I will use the power of the purse, voting only for funding that is tied to a concrete timetable. This is not a retreat, it is a strategic redeployment.
We need to begin an aggressive diplomatic push, including all regional powers, and bring in an international peacekeeping force in to help our transition. We must rest the troops who have served multiple tours, and strengthen our presence in Afghanistan, particularly on the border with Pakistan.
We have spent nearly half a trillion dollars on this war, and if we keep going we could spend a trillion. A recent report showed that we spend $12 billion per month on this war, think about what we could do with that money back here at home.
Things have not been good here for some time now. In the last year Pennsylvania has lost more than 12,000 manufacturing jobs. In this region, we have lost more than half of our manufacturing jobs in the past 30 years. Luckily, there is something we can do about this. We stand at the cusp of the next great transition in the American economy, in which green development will play a leading role. We need to transition and upgrade our manufacturing capacities to meet the needs of this 21st Century economy.
Northwest Pennsylvania is uniquely suited to take advantage of this, with our long history of ingenuity, manufacturing prowess, and hard work. With the right leadership, we can make this region a national and international center for green jobs. To do this we need to support heightened incentives for all companies, especially small businesses that invest in and energy efficient products, and help with worker training.
Right here, GE makes the best, cleanest locomotives in the world. There is already a tremendous amount of interest abroad in their Evolution series locomotives. We took a step in the right direction recently, as the EPA established new heightened emissions regulations – this will greatly benefit GE Transportation and will spawn innovation. We need to take further steps to ensure that GE and other local companies become leading international and national manufacturers.
We can also work with our already vibrant building industry to make the transition to sustainable building. We should offer incentives and help our companies gain green building certification from the National Association of Home Builders.
We still have time to be at the front of this market – and our companies can export their services and consult across the country. Another thing we can do is make Lake Erie a center for wind energy, which will benefit the environment and the local economy, as we have companies here that produce wind turbines.
I believe that health care is a human right and America needs action now to help solve our national health care crisis. It is a moral imperative and an economic necessity that we move in the direction of true universal health coverage. I am the only candidate who supports the implementation of a single-payer universal health care system, which would correct this crisis and reduce the burdens of high health care premiums on small businesses throughout the nation. I support the implementation of HR 676, which already has nearly 90 supporters in the House of Representatives, and will have considerably more support after the upcoming elections. This is not socialized medicine, it is civilized medicine.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a firm believer that “To lead is to serve.” This is why I have been focusing all of my campaign’s considerable resources to building the largest grassroots operation in this race. This way I can gain direct access to the voters of this district, so I can hear your voice and share with you my vision for positive change in this country and this district.
Every Saturday we have nearly 20 volunteers and interns hit the streets going door-to-door. To date we have already knocked on over 7,000 doors, making direct contact with over 13,000 individual voters. Our operation is constantly growing as we convey our message. We will hit at least 25,000 doors by April 22nd. I am the only candidate doing this, and the only candidate who can do this.
I am also the only candidate in this race with a national fundraising base. In fact, the success of our grassroots campaign is bringing in new donors every day. I’ve just launched the “Change You Bank On” fundraising campaign, which allows more people to get involved by making small contributions.
We are doing this to ensure that Phil English is no longer our Congressman on January 1st, 2009. None of us can do this alone, but we can do it together. There is too much at stake for all of us. This election will determine how many of us remain uninsured. . .how many soldiers will die or be maimed fighting overseas. . . how many of us will face pressure to leave our home for lack of employment. The way for us to affect real change in this region is to send a new type of leader to Washington.
It is simply too risky to settle for another lawyer, or another politician. If we fail to nominate a new type of candidate we run a serious risk of facing nearly two decades of Phil English’s non-responsive leadership in Congress. I am in this race because we can’t face this prospect.
Now is the time to act. Now is the time to redefine what it means to serve and to lead in this country. Have no doubt about it, we can do this and we will do this. Some of you may be surprised to learn that this district has 10,000 more Democratic voters than Republican. There is absolutely no reason that Phil English should be able to continue clinching to what he considers an entrenched seat, a job for life. This is not the Supreme Court. This is the US Congress, the body constructed to represent our interests. Please join me and together we can take our future in our hands and demand the dawn of a new day for the people of Northwest Pennsylvania. A day in which I, as your Congressman, will fight for your interests, and fight to serve you.