Pennsylvania’s 30th State House District isn’t the most conservative district in the region, but it still supports Republicans. State Rep. Hal English (R-Hampton) has represented the North Hills district since 2013, and though the district has become a bit more liberal over the years, voters there still supported President Donald Trump by a 7-point margin in the 2016 election.
But even with the district’s conservative leanings, a socialist candidate believes he can flip the district from red to blue. Kareem Kandil is a member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, a progressive grassroots group that formed to push left-leaning, populist policies similar to those espoused by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).
Kandil is running as a Democrat in the 30th District, which includes Fox Chapel, O’Hara Township, Hampton Township and Richland. Kandil believes policies like single-payer health care and stricter environmental regulations have support among voter in the 30th District.
“I want to talk to constituents about universal issues,” says Kandil. “Everybody wants good health care, good schools and clean air.”
Kandil lives in Fox Chapel and graduated from Fox Chapel High School, before getting his degree in bio-engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He currently works as a data scientist for local health-care systems.
Kandil says our health-care system is massively inefficient, and he is supportive of House Bill 1688, the Pennsylvania House proposal for a single-payer health system, though he says some details still need to be worked out.
He says health-care programs can be more convenient under a single-payer system, and that it shouldn’t be a stretch for Pennsylvania residents to embrace single-payer health care. Kandil notes that Saskatchewan, a mostly rural province in Canada, was the first province in Canada to pass a single-payer system in 1962.
“You don’t need to be a huge, wealthy state to do this. I don’t see how we are any worse off [economically] than Saskatchewan was,” says Kandil, of Pennsylvania.
Kandil’s campaign website states that he has been active in the local Muslim community. He says that being a proud Muslim is part of his identity, but in terms of running for state House, Kandil is “a progressive Democrat first, and a Muslim second.” If Kandil were to be elected, he would be one of very few Muslim legislators ever to serve in Harrisburg.
Kandil also believes state representatives need to pass stricter regulations on natural-gas drilling companies. He’s calling for a severance tax on natural-gas drillers and frackers, and says even many Republican-supporting states have passed a similar tax. Pennsylvania is the only large natural-gas-producing state in the U.S. without a severance tax.
“I don’t think we need to further incentivize companies that are already making millions,” says Kandil.
He says money from a severance tax could go to improving funding for education. Republican state legislators have been reluctant to increase school funding in the state budget, even though Gov. Tom Wolf has been requesting increases for years. Kandil says that 30th District voters are smart, and that they “know what the [Republican Party] is doing” in terms of education funding.
Kandil kicked off his candidacy on Feb. 18. His primary election opponents include Betsy Monroe (D-Fox Chapel) and Jacob Pavlecic (D-Gibsonia).