Ahmad, a former aide to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, commended Pittsburgh on its economic resilience and noted that Philadelphia has achieved similar results. She said the openness and inclusive mindsets of each city has helped Pittsburgh and Philadelphia bounce back.
“We need to get what Pittsburgh has done and what Philly has done, and get those accomplishments to the center of the state,” said Ahmad. “You need this diversity to have a sustainable economy.”
Ahmad also said she believes having a lieutenant governor that embodies diversity is important to showcase Pennsylvania as open to the new ideas that drive an innovative economy. Ahmad emigrated from Bangladesh when she was 21 years old and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also served as the former head of Philadelphia's branch of the National Organization for Women.
If elected, she would be the first woman of color to serve a non-judiciary Pennsylvania statewide office. “It’s critical for the statewide offices to have a women of color represented,” she said. “They have been the saving grace for the Democratic Party.” According to 2016 exit polls, 99 percent of black women and 82 percent of Latinas in Pennsylvania voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The 2018 Democratic primary election for lieutenant governor is a six-way race. Ahmad will square off against incumbent Lt. Gov. Mike Stack of Philadelphia, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, Lancaster County Commissioner Craig Lehman and Montgomery County businessman Ray Sosa.
In 2017, Ahmad announced a run against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) in Pennsylvania's first U.S. Congressional District. But when the districts were redrawn after a partisan gerrymander challenge, Ahmad's home was placed in the new 2nd District. She opted to run for lieutenant governor instead of challenging U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia).
Ahmad also believes that diversity is important in the state’s energy economy. She is in favor of a severance tax on natural-gas drilling, and wants to increase the amount of money allocated in the state budget towards clean energy.
“The clean-energy economy, we need to look at how to invest in that” said Ahmad.
She said Pennsylvania can raise revenue to help boost programs like clean energy, by shifting spending priorities, and by working closer with large pharmaceutical companies and possibly getting them to cover some of the rising costs of the opioid epidemic.
Ahmad also highlighted the role that Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor has sitting on the state’s Board of Pardons. She said, if elected, she would work to clear the board’s current three-year backlog. Ahmad said the state should consider changing how the board pardons individuals from a unanimous decision to a majority decision.
“How we use human potential is very important,” said Ahmad. “We need to look closely at life sentences, and [not have them] be a drag on society. We are looking at victims’ rights, but we need a new look at clemency.”
Above all, Ahmad believes Pennsylvania will only succeed if state legislators support and attract more young people. Pennsylvania has the seventh-oldest population in the country, with an average age of 40.6 years, according to U.S. Census data. She noted how Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have added more young residents, which has helped those cities bounce back. Ahmad said accommodating young people, who tend to be more socially liberal and politically progressive, is crucial for Pennsylvania state government.
“Equity and inclusion are monument,” said Ahmad. “Philly has [a fast] growing millennial population, and they are staying. That is a signal that they are committed to social change for Pennsylvania. We need to support them and encourage them. We need their voices at the table.”
The Pennsylvania primary election is May 15.