by Tom Beck
When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finalized the state’s constitutionally mandated political redistricting last month, it brought bad news to many Hillers who support Chris Rabb. The redistricting meant that Rabb, the state representative since 2016, would no longer represent the district.
The good news, however, is that Hillers — unlike the 2020 Democratic state rep primary in which Rabb ran unopposed — will be able to choose one of two candidates to represent them in the upcoming primary. The two candidates vying to represent Pennsylvania’s 194th State House district are incumbent Pam DeLissio and newcomer Tarik Khan, who gained notoriety for vaccinating dozens of Philadelphians — especially those who are housebound. – during the pandemic. He works as a nurse and has almost completed his doctorate at Penn.
The Hillers got their first glimpse of the two contestants Thursday night at the Woodmere Art Museum at an event hosted by the Chestnut Hill Institutional Leaders Group.
DeLissio, who spoke first, began his speech by listing his experiences on House committees in Harrisburg: 10 years on the health care committee, 10 years on the senior services committee and aged, nine years on the agriculture and rural affairs committee, six years later on the state government committee, four years on the children and youth committee and four years on the social services committee.
“When the House flips, then I would serve as Majority Speaker,” DeLissio, 66, said to enthusiastic applause from the Democratic-leaning audience, “As Majority Speaker, you don’t just influence politics , you drive the policy. You decide what comes out of this committee. You can introduce a bill and send it to your committee and have that bill go to the prosecution.
DeLissio’s speech to voters, unlike Khan’s, was also highly political. DeLissio has called herself a “political freak” who loves data. She expressed her support for the creation of an independent redistricting commission.
“I came in during a year of redistricting,” she said, “and saw firsthand how my colleagues were dividing the spoils, picking their constituents to be in their constituency.”
DeLissio also noted his support for a fair school funding formula and abortion rights. She said she plans to introduce a bill creating a single-payer healthcare system in Pennsylvania later this year.
“The pandemic has absolutely underscored the need for us to make sure health care is unrelated to employment,” she said.
DeLissio did not leave the pulpit without lashing out at former President Donald Trump for what she said was his responsibility for deep divisions in American society.
“Quite frankly, the last presidential administration validated a tone of voice and way of speaking to each other that was unacceptable in civil society,” she said. “He’s always been there. He will always be there. But it was validated to some degree because we lead by example, and that was the example.
DeLissio concluded by saying that instead of vilifying the other side, she would make it a point to reach out to Republicans to get things done.
“If we have this kind of attitude, that talking to Republicans is wrong, then I’m afraid it will continue in perpetuity. It can’t be tolerated. It’s not appropriate. We have to come to our senses. “, she said.
Like DeLissio, Khan opened his statements by talking about his experience. He worked as a nurse for 17 years. He talked about traveling to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake in the country and possibly starting an organization called Empower Spirits, which aims to help children with disabilities attend school. His experience also includes volunteering to vaccinate people at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and starting his own program to vaccinate those confined to their homes.
“[There] were housebound residents who really needed help and did not have access to the COVID vaccine,” he said. “What I decided to do was start my own program. After our shifts were over, I was bringing the remaining doses of the vaccine to the residents. I didn’t just do it once. times, I did it every day in the spring, every working day in the spring.
He also talked about his family and his father who emigrated from Pakistan. (Khan’s brother, Joe Khan, unsuccessfully ran for district attorney in 2017, finishing second to Larry Krasner in a seven-candidate Democratic primary.)
“[My parents] taught me and my brother the values they grew up with, the value of education, … of working hard, … of giving back to the community,” he said.
Khan decided to run because “patients were being left behind,” he said.
“I think during Hahnemann – it was a big wake-up call that the status quo was unacceptable,” Khan said, referring to the controversial closure of Hahnemann University Hospital following the purchase of the facility by a private equity firm. “Lawmakers did nothing to stop it and they did nothing to stop it from happening again…I don’t want to see Chestnut Hill and Roxborough [Hospitals] suffer the same fate as Hahnemann.
During his session, Khan spoke about Chestnut Hill’s zoning issues, although zoning is generally a city issue and not a state issue.
“With the developers, if we give them an inch, they’ll take a yard and they’ll take whatever they can get,” he said. “We see what is happening in Chestnut Hill. We see what happens with 10 Bethlehem Pike. We see it in Roxborough if you drive through Roxborough. We need someone who will stand with our residents and say enough is enough.
Towards the end of his pitch, Khan took a few hits on his opponent, whom he repeatedly called “the starter”, without saying DeLissio’s name.
“I don’t know if the incumbent built those relationships in Harrisburg that allowed [her] to be effective,” he said. “I can tell you that I have seen many people [who have gotten elected] after the incumbent who soared into leadership positions.
Khan cited the House minority WHIP as an example of a Democrat elected after DeLissio who now holds a leadership position in the party. He also said DeLissio’s office struggled with voter services.
“People went to Pam’s office and didn’t get a good response,” he said. “They are not meeting the needs of the community.”
Towards the end of the forum, Khan described himself as “someone who listens”.
“I do it with my patients,” he said, “and I do it when I meet with stakeholders.”
The Democratic primary is May 17. The general election is November 8.