I met Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania) at a recent fundraiser at the home of a friend and County Democratic Committee member, and was pleasantly surprised at how approachable and down to earth she was. I shook her hand, had a picture taken with her and I asked her if she thought the government was headed for a shutdown (this was in September). She said unfortunately she thought so.
It reminded me of the time I met then-Mayor Ed Rendell (later he was governor of Penn.) in an elevator at an event my brass quintet was performing for. I told him that I liked the speech he gave at a graduation where my group had played a week before. He smiled, thanked me and said, "Which speech?" I told him Beaver College. I was struck by how personable and real he was. I felt like I was talking to a brother.
Allyson Schwartz is a female Ed Rendell without the controversial gaffes. They both relate to common folks with a humble attitude and both genuinely enjoy helping their constituents. She is married to a cardiologist, Dr. David Schwartz and has two adults sons. As a mother, she connects to the needs of working women.
You won't see Allyson Schwartz on the Sunday morning talk shows or the cable networks or even being interviewed in D.C. It's not that she doesn't like being on camera or campaigning (she has handily won 9 out of 10 elections), it's just that she is not in politics to promote her own ego. She is that rare phenomenon in today's vitriolic political world: a public servant that serves the public. And her record shows it.
While other politicians are posturing for attention, Representative Schwartz is working hard to get things done. As a state senator in Penn. in 1992, she introduced CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), which became law in the state and later served as a model for a federal plan that now provides health insurance to millions of children.
In fact, Ms. Schwartz is one of the leading health care coverage experts in the government. Perhaps it's her background of being Assistant Director of the Philadelphia Health Services Department in 1972-75. She recently authored many key provisions in the Affordable Care Act including increasing access to primary care, banning pre-existing conditions, and allowing young adults to remain on their parent's health plans.
She has also been a fierce advocate for veterans. While many politicians pay lip service to the troops, Allyson Schwartz has authored and been getting legislation passed through congress that gives tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. In 2011 and 2012 respectively, she introduced the Hiring Our Veterans Act and the Servicemembers' Access to Justice Act.
She also does not shy away from controversial decisions. She was the first Democratic House member to call for the resignation of Representative Anthony Wiener when his texting scandal first came out. She was publicly for gay marriage before it became popular. She spoke out for background checks for gun purchases.
She has been consistently pro-choice while a member of a House of Representatives that has continually voted to ban Planned Parenthood. This is personal for Allyson as she was the Executive Director of the Elizabeth Blackwell Center (a Planned Parenthood Clinic) in Philadelphia from 1975-1988. She is an untiring advocate for women's health and equality issues.
And now she is running for Governor of Pennsylvania. In her talk at the fundraiser she was all business, telling us that she would improve and fund education, create jobs through infrastructure spending (she explained that PA is 46th in the nation in job creation), and tax the shale industry that is presently fracking in PA (I asked if it was environmentally safe and she assured us she would seek strict regulations of it.)
So while she showed the differences in policies between her and the present GOP Governor Tom Corbett, she never attacked him personally. She doesn't engage in dirty politics. She doesn't need to. Her record speaks for itself.
So while it is sad that we will be losing a great public servant in Congress as she will be leaving the House to seek the Governorship, I see great things ahead for Pennsylvania if she wins the election in 2014. Representative Allyson Schwartz is that rare thing in politics: a humble visionary who through hard work and mobilization actually makes her visions become reality. She has my full support.