When Rep. Conor Lamb decided to run for Senate in 2022, western Pennsylvania found itself with an open House seat. And following the May 17 primary election, both major parties have their candidates.
The Democrats have nominated Chris Deluzio, a voting rights attorney and Iraq War veteran. The Republican candidate is Jeremy Shaffer, a former Ross Township commissioner.
Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district encompasses all of Beaver County and much of the Allegheny County suburbs.
Deluzio spoke with the Chronicle about a variety of topics from gun violence to unionization to antisemitism.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
Well, my life has been about public service. I grew up around the district and, after the 9/11 attacks, I went off to the Naval Academy to serve my country, and I’ve led Americans in harm’s way at sea and in Iraq. I’m someone who has fought as an attorney to protect our democracy. [I’m] someone who stood to form a union with the [United] Steelworkers at the University of Pittsburgh. I think all of those experiences have shaped who I am, shaped my worldview and are grounded in my love of country and my love of western Pennsylvania. I think they show and demonstrate my commitment to this region and country, along with my readiness to serve on day 1 in the Congress.
What would be your first priorities when you get into office?
Look, we have to do things to bring down the cost of living in this country. I don’t care if you’re like me with young kids, you’re approaching retirement or you’re in the middle of your career ––people are feeling like life’s too expensive. I think we have to be willing to take on the corporate greed that’s been gouging us. We got to bring back manufacturing in this country. We’ve had decades of policy makers and corporate-backed politicians who have shipped our manufacturing to China and Lord knows where else. I think we have to bring that manufacturing back so we’re not getting crushed at the gas pump, the grocery store — you name it — and have our supply chains less far-flung.
We got to do things to protect and shore up our democracy. We have real threats to the vote, the Electoral College vote. We need action to protect Roe v. Wade, to end gun violence and so much more. All things that I think are popular and where there’s bipartisan support, but I see Republican legislators on the far right who are blocking basic common-sense progress on all these things.
You mentioned the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. How would you legislate in response to this?
The House has already passed a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade. It has not made it through the Senate because the Senate has lacked the courage to move past the filibuster to do it. I would support that legislation to codify Roe federally because, if we don’t, what we’re going to see is states that are banning and criminalizing abortion.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was recently signed into law by President Biden. Would you have voted for this law? What else do you think should be done in terms of combating gun violence?
I would have supported the bipartisan legislation on gun safety. I think it’s a good first step, but we need to do more. I often talk about how in my own service in uniform, I carried weapons like the ones we keep seeing used by these killers and mass shooters in our schools. Those assault weapons like I carried in Iraq, my friends and I had the best training in the world. These weapons were designed to swiftly and efficiently kill people in battle. They don’t belong on our streets. They certainly don’t belong in our schools. I think we need action federally to make sure those guns are off our streets. And although the bipartisan bill is a good start, it doesn’t get enough done. Whether it’s those kinds of weapons, the high-capacity magazines … If you’re hunting with these things, you’re not doing it right.
Would you have voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill last year?
I absolutely would have supported the infrastructure package. I think this is a long overdue investment in our country. In our region, we have crumbling bridges and roads, locks and dams. You name it. You know, infrastructure investment isn’t just a job to build the things. That’s important, but it’s also a major economic investment in our region. And these are boosts to our economy; they’re long-term jobs. We ought to have the best infrastructure in the world. I’ll be fighting for infrastructure investment on a regular timeline, far more frequently than we’ve seen in years past.
Congressman Lamb had good relationships with the area’s Jewish community and worked to ensure its safety. What will you do to continue this priority?
I hope to have a great relationship with our Jewish community here in western Pennsylvania, which is a strong and vibrant one. I think we saw here the horrific cost of antisemitism and the worst attack of that kind in the country only a few years back. I think if we aren’t confronting head-on the threats to our Jewish community in our region in general, to this kind of extremism, we’re doing a disservice to people. We all deserve to live in safe communities, to be able to worship and celebrate and join with our family and friends as you see fit. When that comes under attack, I think we all suffer here.
Do you think defense aid to Israel should have conditions on it and do you believe in a two-state solution?
I think we have a strong commitment to our Israeli allies to provide security assistance. I think it is the bedrock of getting to a path toward a real, lasting peace and a two-state solution. I’m hesitant to say there ought to be specific conditions on how we provide that security system and how our Israeli allies use it. I think frankly, oftentimes, Washington — and the Congress especially — isn’t best suited to dictate those terms. But I think security has to be a key part of our friendship. To me, it’s a necessary condition to get to a lasting peace that we need in the Middle East.
There’s been a rise in antisemitism, locally and nationally. What’s your understanding of why this is taking place and what role can the government play in stemming hate?
It’s a tough question. I don’t think there’s any simple answer, to be frank. I mean, certainly the role of the big tech, social media platforms and how they’ve frankly encouraged extremism to proliferate is a problem. The power that the tech companies wield over the way we communicate with each other is a serious issue for the Congress to confront. Whether it’s antisemitism, whether it’s racism, you name it, I think we can’t just talk about ideology and not also connect the dots to the acts of violence. Often, it’s gun violence. It’s one thing to believe in a horrific ideology and quite another to then massacre your neighbors. We’ve seen it too frequently here in the Jewish community of western Pennsylvania.
I think we have to also connect the dots and be thinking about and taking measures to reduce gun violence and that means things like banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and making sure we really have background checks for every gun sale so that people who are threats to themselves and others don’t have guns in their hands. There is a piece of this that is the crucial link between believing in some dangerous, horrific ideology and then wanting to go out and murder people. We’ve got to be able to confront both, I think. PJC
Ethan Beck can be reached at email@example.com.