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Photo: Val Arkoosh | Twitter
Val Arkoosh was one of three PA Democratic Senate candidates to appear in the recent conversation at Philadelphia's Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church. Photo: Val Arkoosh/Twitter

Kenyatta, Lamb and Arkoosh talk priorities in visit to Northwest Philly

The Democratic Senate candidates gathered at Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church to spread their message and interact with constituents.

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On Tuesday, Jan. 18, three Democratic PA Senate candidates — Conor Lamb, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Val Arkoosh — gathered at Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church to discuss their priorities and answer questions from constituents.

“I'm grateful to have many of my friends who have gathered from around the city to have a Senate forum, to have discussions of those from those candidates that are running for the Senate seat here in Pennsylvania,” Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Enon’s Senior Pastor said in his opening remarks. 

Waller then introduced the forum moderator, 6ABC anchor, Sharrie Williams, to get the event started. 

“The timing of this dialogue? Yes, it does fall in line with Dr. Martin Luther King's holiday. So in keeping with the legacy of a man who taught us and showed us that it takes all sections of society, including the spiritual and power of the state to do right by the people. I believe Dr. King would have called it our moral obligation,” Williams said.

Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, currently leads the Commonwealth’s third largest county. She is a physician of more than 20 years who has spent her years in operating rooms and on the labor and delivery floor of Philadelphia’s major teaching hospitals. 

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is one of the first out LGBTQ people of color elected to PA’s General Assembly, currently serves as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention and is the vice chair of the Philadelphia Delegation. 

U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb is a former marine and federal prosecutor who represents the state’s 17th Congressional District in the Pittsburgh area. Earlier this week, Lamb was endorsed by Mayor Jim Kenney. 

The conversation held on the night of Jan. 18 spanned an array of issues pertinent Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and national ones that affect the whole country.

It started on the national stage.

When asked about the filibuster, all three candidates were in favor of abolishing the practice. 

“I believe that the tool that the filibuster has been a tool of obstruction for decades. I will vote to eliminate the filibuster. And I think it's critically important that senators actually vote on legislation that is what you elect your elected officials to do,” Arkoosh said. 

The next question came from Idris Abdul Zaher, the resident Imam of Masjidullah Incorporated. He asked what the number one thing that candidates would do for the Black community if elected to the Senate. 

To answer, Arkoosh tackled the issue of maternal mortality rates among Black women, which she has witnessed “time and time again” through her work as a physician. 

“We need to acknowledge that for generations, our systems have made obstacles and barriers for people of color that are often insurmountable,” she said. 

She also spoke on issues of access to education, home ownership, and small business loans. 

“We need to look at things like credit histories in a different way. There are a number of things we need to do in our criminal justice system,” Arkoosh said. 

In regards to public safety concerns, Lamb believes the focus should be on violence prevention, and not just gun control on its own. 

Kenyatta said that the first thing necessary is for the issue to start being treated like the emergency it truly is. 

“The governor very rightly created an emergency declaration as it related to the opioid crisis. I think at the state level, at the city level, we need to treat this like an emergency. And this is not just about calling it an emergency. This is about actually rushing resources, making sure there's a whole government approach, as we did with the opioid crisis,” he said. 

Kenney, who endorsed Lamb, has yet to declare a similar state of emergency in the city itself.

All three candidates also shared similar views on student loan debt forgiveness. 

“We know that the crushing amounts of student loan debt that we're seeing is disproportionately felt by people of color, particularly black women. Forgiving student loan debt, doing the 10,000 that President Biden already said he wants to get done and going much further is something that we know will have a massive impact in terms of increasing black homeownership,” said Kenyatta. 

The entire hour and a half discussion can be found here.

The primary election for Pennsylvania Senate Race is scheduled for May 17, 2022. 

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