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Two Democrats and three Republicans are vying for their parties’ nominations in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb in the 17th Congressional District, which includes Beaver County and parts of Butler and Allegheny counties.
Lamb, a Democrat from Mt. Lebanon, is vying for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
Democratic voters in the May 17 primary will choose between Iraq War veteran and voting rights attorney Chris Deluzio and Sean Meloy, a community leader who would become the state’s first openly gay congressman.
On the Republican ballot, voters will choose between business owner and former Ross Township Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer, national security expert Jason Killmeyer and Kathy Coder, a former Bellevue councilwoman who owns a small business dedicated to leadership training.
Chris Deluzio, 37, of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, said his politics have been shaped by his time in the military, his work as a voting rights attorney and his experiences advocating for unions.
“I’m running because I love this country. I love Western Pennsylvania, this place we call home, and want to do everything I can to ensure we have a government that’s serving everyone,” he said. “I come from a place of service. That service shapes profoundly who I am and why I’m in this race.”
If elected, Deluzio said he would work to reign in the power of major corporations that “are wielding power over every aspect of our lives.” He blamed wealthy corporations and overseas manufacturing and supply chains for the skyrocketing prices that are impacting working-class Americans.
“I think we need stronger antitrust legislation in this country,” Deluzio said, calling also for better protections for unions and middle-class workers. “I am committed, more than anything else, to fighting for our common good. I think we’re seeing the cost of corporate selfishness that’s putting us last and putting profits first. I’m going to make sure we have a strong region with strong union jobs and health care.”
Deluzio called also for a new voting rights act, including stricter controls against gerrymandering, automatic voter registration and broader access to mail-in voting. Other issues Deluzio highlighted include improving health care, supporting social security and investing in infrastructure.
Sean Meloy, 34, of Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood, said he grew up in the district in a working-class family that was able to provide him with a good lifestyle. He said his family included coal miners and steel mill workers.
He said he’s running for office because he thinks it’s becoming increasingly difficult for working-class families like his to live a comfortable lifestyle in an economy where prices are going up while wages remain stagnant.
“We need to have solutions for working-class families that grow our economy,” Meloy said. “I know for a fact we need wages that actually keep up with the cost of living, of raising a family. That means we have to make sure the minimum wage gets increased and it gets indexed with inflation. We also need to make sure people can organize into a union so they get paid what they’re worth and get the best working conditions.”
He said having middle-class voices in government would ensure elected officials feel the “urgency” of addressing the issues everyday Americans face.
If elected, Meloy would become the first openly gay congressman from Pennsylvania. He said his experience advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community is particularly important as some politicians attack members of that community.
Jeremy Shaffer, 45, of Gibsonia, said he was inspired to run for Congress because of his passion for serving the community and his desire for the next generation to be able to live out the American Dream as he did.
Shaffer owns a small business focused on infrastructure, and said the experience has made him want to make sure his own five children will have similar opportunities when they grow up. He said it also has shown him the best — and worst — government practices in regard to infrastructure investments.
“Unfortunately, in this area, we have some of the most money being spent on infrastructure, but being spent in some of the most inefficient ways,” he said. “Oftentimes, big government, they take a hammer to problems that require a screwdriver.”
Shaffer, an engineer who describes himself also as a “problem-solver,” said he wants to see smarter investments in local infrastructure.
He called also for an end to “out-of-control federal spending” and for a balanced budget, something he said he has experience with as a businessman and former Ross Township commissioner. To tackle the rising gas prices and economic struggles he said the country is facing, Shaffer advocated for relying more on domestic energy sources.
“It is absolute insanity that we do not utilize the national energy resources that we have right here in this country, right here in this state,” he said.
If elected, Shaffer said, he wants to work on a bipartisan constitutional amendment to establish congressional term limits. “It’s really about how can we serve the residents the best way, how can we make our community and our country the best for everyone,” he said.
Jason Killmeyer, 39, of Mt. Lebanon, said his background as a national security expert is imperative at a time when Congress will be faced with difficult foreign policy decisions as war has broken out in Europe with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“What I look at around the world — and most people feel this intuitively — they sense that things are not going to get better around the world in the next couple years,” Killmeyer said. “But if the United States acts swiftly to rebuild a credible deterrent and to restore credibility to our foreign policy, we can avoid some of the disasters we’re just getting a taste of.”
Killmeyer said he would fight for the legislature to regain control of treaties about the Iranian nuclear program from the executive branch, create a better system to protect the country from cyber attacks and secure the U.S. border.
Another key element of his campaign, Killmeyer said, is improving the country’s economy.
“Nothing happens without relieving the economic pain Americans are facing,” he said. “We’re not going to make progress on any other issue until we can foster better economic conditions and relief for small business owners who have gotten raked over the coals by Washington.”
Killmeyer advocated for bolstering domestic energy production. He said he also would fight to reform public health law to keep the government from exercising the broad powers used to curb the covid-19 pandemic.
Killmeyer said he felt that limiting the power of the federal government and putting “the American people back in a position of power” could limit the polarization felt in politics across the country.
Kathy Coder, 62, of Ben Avon, said she never aspired to be a politician, but felt called to do something when she saw what she believed to be a “leadership deficit in all levels of government.”
Coder owns a company that consults with companies on leadership development, and she previously spent 10 years on Bellevue Council. Those experiences, she said, would help her bring a practical approach to Washington and allow her to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
“I think we need good leadership in good government,” she said. “We need people who can step in with common sense, who know how to lead and move the ball forward.”
Her number one priority, Coder said, is focusing on economic recovery.
“With inflation and gas, I don’t care who you are, it’s hitting you,” she said. “What I’m so excited about is the opportunity in this district for natural gas and bringing jobs and businesses to this district. I believe we can be a shining light in what we can do here.”
Coder said other key issues for her campaign include controlling the border, developing a health care system that better works for the people and improving education. She called also for better bipartisanship to increase efficiency in government.
“I just feel like people are ready for something different, somebody who is real and isn’t going to get caught up in the money and the power, but stay focused on what this is really about,” she said.
Julia Felton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Julia at 724-226-7724, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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