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Democrat Chrissy Houlahan On Pennsylvania's 6th


One big reason President Trump won in 2016 was his success in Pennsylvania. His message about jobs and bringing back struggling industries resonated even with many Democrats. In 2018, if Democrats end up succeeding and taking control of the House, a big reason could be Pennsylvania. The state Supreme Court threw out its congressional map this year, re-drew district lines, and Democrats think they can flip a number of seats. They took some first steps yesterday as Pennsylvania, along with a number of other states, held primaries. And Democrat Chrissy Houlahan won in a district that includes some Philadelphia suburbs as well as the city of Reading. She joins me this morning.

I know you were unopposed, but it's official now. You're the candidate. Congratulations.

CHRISSY HOULAHAN: Thank you, thank you, and thank you for having me on today.

GREENE: Yeah, thank you for taking the time. I want to ask you about one of the big themes yesterday. It looks clear now that Pennsylvania is going to have at least one female member of Congress. Both candidates are women in one district - could be more than one in Congress if you win. Now, Pennsylvania's entire congressional delegation has been men. Politics aside, is there an issue you feel that's been neglected because of that?

HOULAHAN: So I'm not sure exactly if you're asking me if there's an issue with the fact that there are only men in our delegation. I think that's clearly an issue (laughter). And I'm hopeful that - as you mention - that not just one but maybe several of us will be able to make it through the gauntlet in the fall and be able to break that barrier in Pennsylvania.

GREENE: Is there something that has been neglected because they are men? Do you feel like if there are women serving Pennsylvania that there will be some difference?

HOULAHAN: Well, I think certainly that there are a lot of issues that, I guess, would be considered women's issues, but I would argue are more likely called family issues that, I think, probably would be better served by having a more diverse delegation in Pennsylvania. But similarly - not just gender-based - we ought to have a delegation that includes people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. And relevant in my case, as an example, I'm also a veteran, and I'm also an engineer. And so I think that in our congressional delegation in Pennsylvania right now, it's not just that it's largely men. It's largely men who are either businessmen or who have been kind of successful in climbing the ranks of politics.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you about politics. Let's say you have a Pennsylvania voter in your district who backed President Trump - maybe likes the big tax cut, maybe doesn't like the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - feels that the president has shown leadership on the world stage. How do you win that person over?

HOULAHAN: So actually, in talking to a lot of people who are, I guess, would be self-described as Republicans or independents, I actually haven't found a whole lot of people who fit that bill. Most of the folks in my community particularly, who may have voted for President Trump, have now realized that the tax bill that did pass is not necessarily one that is good for them personally, particularly in Pennsylvania. As you probably know, we are one of those state and local tax places. And so that tax bill isn't particularly good for our community, for property values, for schools and that sort of thing. I think also, increasingly, people have come to, relatively speaking, embrace the Affordable Care Act more certainly than they had in the beginning. They, at least in my conversations with them, would like to see the Affordable Care Act shored up to some degree to make sure that we have affordable care. And so I don't think that I have personally run into a lot of people who are Republicans or independents who necessarily have that narrative of why they voted for President Trump.

GREENE: Let me ask you - there seems to be a struggle in your party about strategy. I mean, in a special election in Pennsylvania that made a lot of news, Democrat Conor Lamb won after distancing himself from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Do you support Pelosi?

HOULAHAN: Yeah, and so I have a very similar answer to that. I answered that question yesterday. It's interesting that I only get that question from the press or from media or, you know, from people in Washington, D.C. Again, it's something that doesn't really come up in our community at all. It's something - when we talk about things in our community, it's jobs. It's education. It's making sure that we have affordable health care. And those kinds of decisions, you know, that are sort of inside baseball are not necessarily something that I'm asked on the regular in our community.

GREENE: Chrissy Houlahan is the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District. She'll be running this fall. Thanks so much for joining us.

HOULAHAN: Thank you. I appreciate it very much.

GREENE: Just want to bring in NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell who covered all of the races yesterday. Hi, Kelsey.


GREENE: Lots of focus on Democrats in Pennsylvania. Interesting there to hear Chrissy Houlahan not give a clear answer about...

SNELL: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Nancy Pelosi, saying it doesn't really come up. But also, I mean, there were Republican races yesterday. If you were President Trump, do you like what you saw yesterday? Do you dislike it? How was he feeling this morning?

SNELL: He's probably paying the most attention to Congressman Lou Barletta who won the primary to be the Republican candidate for Senate. Trump recorded a robocall for Barletta, and he's called him a good friend. And we kind of expect that Trump's going to come out to Pennsylvania and campaign for Barletta, which will bring up the question whether or not Republicans want to associate themselves with the president. It's going to be an ongoing question that happens throughout the state.

GREENE: That's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, thanks.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.