Photo courtesy of campaign
Last month, Duquesne University professor and director of Duquesne’s Center for Environmental Research and Education John Stolz
officially launched his campaign
for Pennsylvania’s 12th U.S. House district; he is the fourth official candidate
to challenge incumbent Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). The other candidates, all Democrats, are Aaron Anthony (from Shaler), Tom Prigg (McCandless) and Elizabeth Tarasi (Sewickley).
Stolz, a Democrat from Shaler, is an expert on the effects of natural-gas drilling, or fracking
, in Southwestern Pennsylvania. He says he believes his environmental background is key to representing the district, and believes a focus on green energy can lead to what the 12th District needs most: jobs. (While the 12th-district unemployment rate is on par with the state average of 5.4 percent, in many towns the figure is higher, including Ambridge
, at 6.4 percent, and Johnstown
, at about 8 percent.)
Stolz points to the solar industry, which is experiencing rapid growth. He says that not only should Southwestern Pennsylvania be taking advantage of this growth, but that there are opportunities related to solar where the region can lead. Stolz says solar power produces direct-current electricity
, but that direct-current appliances are hard to come by. He wants to court direct-current-appliance manufacturers to move to areas in the district that have been hardest by the loss of their old manufacturing industries, like Johnstown and sections of Beaver County.
Stolz worries that increasing fracking will provide wealth to only a few, and leave a environmental mess for most of residents of the 12th district, which includes parts of six Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, stretching from Ellwood City to Somerset. “At the end of the day, we are heading in the wrong direction,” says Stolz.
And Stolz recognizes that jobs in a new industry require education. He says college students should be guaranteed loans at low-interest rates, and that the government should provide free re-training to workers who lose jobs in manufacturing and mining.
In terms of health care, one of the most contentious topics in Congress, Stolz says Congress should “work towards single-payer, but first we should repair the Affordable Care Act.”
These ideas may seem overly progressive for the 12th District, considering that the conservative Rothfus has won re-election by about 20 points
in his past two contests. But Stolz believes that progressivism is alive in the 12th. He notes that the Cambria County section of the 12th district voted for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary election.
Stolz says he has met people throughout the district who are upbeat and positive and are looking to improve their towns
, but aren’t necessarily buying President Donald Trump’s pro-coal
message. He’s met constituents in Johnstown who are ready to work to clean up the Conemaugh and Stony Creek rivers, and says a representative should be trying to get money to help with those efforts.
“The resources are there and the people are willing,” says Stolz. “There is potential of completely changing the landscape of Western Pennsylvania for the better.”