Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
In a few weeks the most important midterm elections in over 50 years will end. At stake in 2022 are many issues. One of the most talked about is the constitutionally-protected right to privacy, which was undermined by the Supreme Court of the United States when they overturned Roe v. Wade. Access to abortion care is being taken away for the first time since the 1970s, and many Pennsylvania candidates have made it clear they want to restrict access to abortion as much as possible in the Commonwealth.
Another crucial issue this election cycle is school funding in Pennsylvania. Several school districts are suing the state of Pennsylvania because they can not afford to teach Pennsylvanian children, but several Republican state legislative candidates still want to take money away from public schools. To top it off, firearm violence skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some politicians still refuse to close background check loopholes that stop people from buying guns when they should not be allowed to.
Two candidates for the Pennsylvania State House, Cindy Kirk (HD 30) and Ted Tomson (HD 33), received similar endorsements for their campaign. Both Kirk and Tomson said they oppose abortion access, but would support exceptions for rape, incest, or where the life of the parent is at risk. However, they are each endorsed by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an anti-abortion group that says it only supports candidates who oppose any exceptions. While Tomson says he supports legislation requiring background checks and only opposes red flag laws, both he and Kirk are endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) with the highest possible rating for non-incumbent candidates. The NRA is staunchly against background checks, and their endorsement and rating indicates they believe both Tomson and Kirk will oppose them as well.
Both Kirk and Tomson are joined by Justin Behrens (HD 82) in their support for school voucher programs, which funnel funding away from Pennsylvania public schools and into private or charter schools. Those privately run schools are not as closely monitored as their public counterparts, making it difficult to hold them accountable for actually educating the children they are entrusted with. School funding is particularly important this year, given that several public schools sued the state of Pennsylvania for failing to provide enough money to educate Pennsylvania children. The judge in that case could make a decision any day, and may require the Pennsylvania legislature to re-write the school funding formula to ensure every school gets enough funding.
Arvind Venkat (HD 30), a medical doctor and emergency services professional, is running against Cindy Kirk. Venkat said he “will be a voice and vote to preserve reproductive health and liberty as currently outlined in Pennsylvania law.” He previously discussed caring for a patient that nearly died from a self-managed abortion, saying “I will never forget her suffering and do not want to see that happen in Pennsylvania.” Venkat has also treated gunshot victims, leading him to support background checks and red flag laws. He says that he “strongly believes” that it is possible to respect the Second Amendment while passing laws to reduce gun violence and save the lives of Pennsylvania residents.
Mandy Steele (HD 33), who is running against Ted Tomson, and Paul Takac (HD 82), Justin Behren’s opponent, have both said they support access to abortion care and family planning. Steele said that “We [Women] are ALL entitled to basic human rights,” including the ability “to make decisions about our bodies.” Steele and Takac have also made public school funding a priority in their campaigns, with the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reporting that Takac will “work to revamp the state’s fair-funding formula to distribute public education funding more equitably, regulate charter schools to meet public education standards, and provide funding for universal preschool and childcare programs.”
In the months prior to November’s midterm elections, one phrase has been repeated by human rights organizations and even by President Biden. This year, “Democracy itself is on the ballot.” As Pennsylvania voters approach the ballot box, they will have to remember that their votes carry a heavier weight than they have in decades.