On Sept. 7, 2017, Rep. Charlie Dent announced he would retire from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District, encompassing Lehigh, Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon and Northampton counties. After the Jan. 22 redistricting, these areas will now be considered part of the 7th Congressional District. This is article is part of a series on the candidates running to replace Dent.
Susan Wild, the first female solicitor of the city of Allentown, is running for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District. She was named one of the top 50 female lawyers in Pennsylvania in 2013 and elected president of the Bar Association of the Lehigh Valley in 2006.
On March 20, Wild was publicly endorsed by EMILY’s List, an organization that seeks to get pro-choice, Democratic women elected to office.
Wild spoke with The Brown and White to discuss her campaign platform and viewpoints on issues impacting the nation.
Q: How do you view issues surrounding gun control?
Susan Wild: First of all, the gun laws we have need to be enforced, strengthened and amended. We are living in a country that is like the ‘wild, wild west,’ but with AR-15s. To me, I hesitate to say this, but it’s only a matter of time until gun violence comes to the Lehigh Valley on a large scale. Not just us — but everywhere in the country should be worried about that. I’m terrified that’s going to happen before we have good gun laws in the books. I’m a huge advocate of sensible gun reform. I don’t think 18-year-olds should be able to purchase weapons, and I think it’s egregious that we have not banned bump stocks. I’m tired of all the talk, and I want action. Tourists from developed countries are actually afraid to go to the United States and I can’t blame them.
Q: Do we need education reform?
SW: I don’t believe a child’s education should be dependent on the zip code they live in. Even though education is thought of as a state issue, it really starts at federal funding. If we don’t have the appropriate federal funding, then were are doomed. I don’t get why people can’t understand the relationship between education and uplifting all of us. You can trace almost every problem in this country back to poor education, whether that be overpopulation in prison, the opioid crisis or unemployment. It doesn’t have to be college for all, but it has to be fair education and good training opportunities to suit a specific person. I don’t think you have to live in a rich neighborhood to have an adequate education. I’m also extremely worried about the level of student debt in this country. We’ve bailed out the auto industry, we’ve bailed out the banks and now the help students with loans were getting under the Obama administration has disappeared under the Trump administration. No one will be able to afford being properly educated to be able to make a living for themselves. Those who are graduating are doing it with a tremendous amount of debt, such that they can’t get their feet off the ground. I really don’t know why anyone would want to pursue a higher education these days given the amount of debt they’re taking on, with no relief in sight. We need more public funding of grants and scholarships. We’re going to be relying on people from other countries to furnish us with doctors, scientists and engineers because nobody in this country will be able to afford to do it.
Q: What can be done to improve protection of the LGBTQ+ community?
SW: Lehigh county has extended the protection to all persons on bases of gender equality and sexual orientation. We’ve made some progress, but we still have a long way to go. Attitudes need to be changed… I feel unequivocally that we must protect and provide equality for all people, whether you’re talking about race, religion, sexual orientation or where you were born.
Q: What is your stance on women’s rights issues?
SW: I think the fact that women are so underrepresented in Congress as a whole, and completely unrepresented in the Pennsylvania delegation, is shameful. That’s a very big issue for me, and I happen to think that Congress would be a much more functional place if we had an equal balance. Both genders bring something to the table, but it’s completely lopsided with how we stand right now.
Q: How do you see the role of millennials impacting our future?
SW: It’s all part of the student debt problem. I think we really need to reach out and attract millennials and make government something that millennials are interested in. I remember when students were very active and proactive in the political process, but that really died down in the 1970s and 1980s. I love it when I see, around the country, young people getting involved. In fact, my entire campaign staff is under the age of 35 and it’s terrific. We have an entire field plan that is devoted to the college campuses, from East Stroudsburg at one end to Muhlenberg at the other. I like surrounding myself with young people and I very much consider it a focus of my campaign.
This Q&A was lightly edited for length and clarity.