Q&A with Katie Gladstone, Rep. Susan Wild’s campaign manager

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U.S. Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) is running for re-election for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in the upcoming 2020 election. The 7th Congressional District includes all of Lehigh and Northampton counties and parts of Monroe County. The Brown and White spoke to Wild’s campaign manager, Katie Gladstone, about Wild’s campaign and her plans for this election season.

Wild’s Republican challenger, Lisa Scheller, did not return multiple requests for an interview with The Brown and White. 

Q: Who is Susan Wild and why is she running for re-election?

Katie Gladstone: She came to Congress in 2018 with the goal in mind of representing the working families in her district that are being left behind by Washington. Susan Wild herself and as a legislator is really not interested in partisan lining. She is very focused on the issues that affect the lives of her constituents every single day, whether that’s health care, jobs and job creation in the Lehigh Valley, education and making sure that everyone has access to high quality public school education in the Lehigh Valley — that our school system is very well-funded — and that if you’re a college student, you’re not troubled with unbearable student debt. 

She is also very focused on making sure our communities are safer for everyone that lives there. All of those things are always important for the federal government to be focused on, but especially now in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed 200,000 American lives and crippled our economy, actually getting things done for people in Congress could not be more important. 

Q: How has Wild worked alongside her Republican colleagues?

KG: Congress can get things done for people if representatives have the mindset she does: that they are willing to compromise and reach across the aisle in order to get real legislation passed. She’s made that kind of bipartisanship a priority from the very beginning of her time in Congress, and she has a strong record as a bipartisan legislator. 

One of the first things she did in Congress, about six months into her first term, was lead an amendment to stop the rising cost of health care premiums, which was signed on to by 78 Republicans. Over a year later, she was the only Democrat to join a bill making enhancements to the Paycheck Protection Program to make sure that our small businesses in the Lehigh Valley have the support they need in order to survive the pandemic. 

She’s worked with Republican members on bills that have done a number of really good things for the Lehigh Valley: extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program to make sure kids are covered with health insurance and improving the reporting systems for children who are suffering from abuse and neglect. 

Q: What is Wild’s stance on health care?

KG: Another issue that she’s incredibly focused on is health care. Making sure everyone has access to good care that they can afford is one of the reasons she ran for office in the first place in 2018, and it has continued to be something that drives her work every single day. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, she’s looked for ways to increase access to care and make sure prescription drugs are more affordable. She’s taken votes to do things like crack down on surprise medical billing and cap out-of-pocket expenses in order to make health care coverage more affordable. She took a vote to cap insulin costs for people who really need that insulin. 

She is going to do everything in her power every day that she is in Congress to protect Americans who have pre-existing conditions. That’s extremely important to her, particularly because COVID survivors are people with a pre-existing condition. That’s one reason she introduced an amendment to the Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act. That amendment would authorize a cap in health care premiums. It would prevent the Trump administration and any future administrations from increasing the cost of health care premiums for people. She’s done a lot of work as well on making sure that mental health care is also covered, that we’re working to end the stigma around mental health care, that people are starting to think of mental health care as part of health care.

Q: What is Wild’s stance on student debt?

KG: As a parent of two children who have just now graduated from college, she knows personally how hard it is to pay for a college education. In America, no matter what economic background you come from, you shouldn’t have to struggle to pay for college. 

One of her priorities in Congress has always been talking to and listening to people about their concerns, and this is one of them that comes up from parents all of the time. Susan herself has said publicly that student debt is hamstringing an entire generation of young people and it’s hurting our economy in the future. It’s holding our young people back. That’s one reason she introduced a bill HR4670, also known as the Simplifying Student Loans Act. That bill would replace existing loan repayment plans with one fixed repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan. 

She also says that Congress has to pass the College Affordability Act, which would make higher education much more accessible and affordable for everyone. She’s committed to addressing the student loan crisis in Congress and ensuring that future generations of students don’t have to continue to face this burden of student debt that is crippling so many young people today.

Q: How has Wild’s campaign functioned during the coronavirus pandemic?

KG: Obviously this campaign season is different than how it normally looks, and Susan believes that the health and safety of her constituents is the most important thing and certainly comes before any kind of traditional campaigning. Our campaign has found a lot of new ways to be creative and keep people engaged without putting them in danger. Despite not doing traditional door-to-door canvassing at this point in the campaign, we have not seen a decline in grassroots enthusiasm for Susan Wild. We have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who are joining the Susan Wild campaign because they’re so engaged in re-electing her and the election in 2020 in general. We are talking to voters almost all day, every day right now by making phone calls and sending text messages. The ability to have a conversation about what Susan Wild stands for, to answer voters’ questions that they might have about the congresswoman and Democrats down the ballot — we’re able to do those things over the phone. 

Q: What is on Wild’s agenda for the upcoming term?

KG: She is dedicated to bringing her colleagues together in Congress to sit down and pass another piece of legislation that would help people get through the coronavirus. That’s one of her immediate priorities. 

Looking forward, another one of her priorities will always be, it has to be right now given the situation before the Supreme Court, to protect the Affordable Care Act. Twenty million people got access to health care with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and the percentage of people who are under the age of 65 who don’t have health insurance is lower now than at any point within the last 50 years. So, the Affordable Care Act has to be protected and strengthened, and Susan is absolutely committed to doing that. She’s done a lot already on trying to lower health care costs and trying to make affordable coverage more accessible to a lot of people, and she’s committed to continuing to do that. She’s laid some of the groundwork in the last two years and will continue to work on lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Susan knows that life-saving prescription drugs are useless if the people who need them can’t afford them. 

Particularly during coronavirus, there have been too many times where we have seen shortages of those life-saving drug supplies, increases in drug prices, and significant job losses that have left a lot of people without health insurance. In April, she led 56 of her colleagues in a letter calling for immediate price caps for critical, life-saving prescription drugs, in particular for the prescription drugs that treat medical conditions most adversely affected by the coronavirus: medications like insulin for diabetes, inhalers for asthma. She knows that prescription drug pricing is crippling a lot of American families. 

Q: How is Wild’s campaign present on Lehigh’s campus?

KG: We have a big Youth Vote program on the Susan Wild for Congress campaign. We have 25 Team Wild college captains at local colleges and universities, including Lehigh. What these college captains help us do is engage students and young voters that are on those college campuses. They’re responsible for reaching out to their fellow students at these campuses, talking to them about this election, and trying to get them involved in our campaign. Our college captains host weekly or biweekly voter contact events. 

Right now those are phone banks and text banks which aim to reach out to other students and young voters. We also talk to a lot of students on Instagram and on other social media platforms. We’re always looking for more people who care about this election to join up with us, so if anyones interested, they can email [email protected]

Q: What message does the campaign want to share with Lehigh students?

KG: I want to make sure that everyone knows, voting in Pennsylvania should be easier than ever this year because there are, for the first time, multiple ways that anyone can vote. You can request a ballot in the mail, you can vote in-person at your county board of elections office by now, or you can vote on Election Day. And while you need to make sure you’re voting correctly, no matter which way you choose to vote, voting in this election literally could not be more important. 

If anyone at Lehigh University doesn’t know how — even if they are a registered voter — to vote or has questions about voting in Pennsylvania this year, we are always happy to talk to people about that. There’s a voter protection hotline in the state of Pennsylvania that they should call. That number is 833-PAVOTES. We want to make sure that everyone knows about these changes in voting this year, and that everyone can cast their ballot and is engaged in the political process because this election could not be more critical. 

All of these issues are on the line this year, whether that’s affordable health care, whether that’s affordable education, whether it’s well-resourced education. Wherever your issue is that you care about, that is on the line this year. It is extremely, extremely important to find out if you’re registered to vote in Pennsylvania. Just make sure you’re exercising your civic duty in voting this year.

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