- If elected he will be the only physician and only person of South Asian descent in the state’s General Assembly.
In roughly two weeks, On May 17, Pennsylvania primary voters will decide the fate of several candidates, including Indian American emergency physician Dr. Arvind Venkat who’s running for the state House, from the newly drawn 30th District. If elected Venkat, a Democrat, will be the only physician and only person of South Asian descent in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.
An emergency physician with Allegheny Health Network, Venkat immigrated with his family to the U.S. as a child. He says on his website that his parents’ “ethic of hard work and commitment to service” inspired him to become a physician. A Detroit native, he graduated from Harvard and Yale University School of Medicine. He has lived in the town of McCandless for the last 15 years, with his wife and three children.
Venkat is running for the State House because “we need a representative who has served our community through crises big and small and will use these experiences to advocate for everyone in the district,” he says on his website. “I want to bring that foundation of service and common purpose to the State House on behalf of the people of Hampton, McCandless, Franklin Park, Ohio Township, Emsworth, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, and Kilbuck – the new District 30.” He told Pittsburgh NPR station 90.5 that he hopes “to bring my perspective as an ER doc and as someone who has been on the frontlines of these issues to advocate for my communities in order to get more resources for these public services and build a better future.”
He told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he wants to focus his campaign on improving local infrastructure, bolstering public services like EMS and firefighters, and making sure health care is accessible and affordable. His campaign website highlights the issues climate change is bringing to the district, including flooding. He proposes more green space to mitigate stormwater issues, and criticizes efforts to restrict voting access.
The first-time candidate has always looked for ways to give back to the community. He serves on the McCandless-Franklin Park Ambulance Authority and has helped to develop innovative programs in the ER to improve the health of the community. For the past five years, he’s been a leader of Pennsylvania’s state-wide emergency physicians’ organization where he advocated for more affordable and accessible health care, resources to address the opioid crisis, and better mental health services, according to his website.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, District 30 is currently served by state Rep. Lori Mizgorski, R-Shaler, who’s now running for the state Senate, “leaving District 30 vacant.”
Citing Dave’s Redistricting App, a tool that analyzes legislative districts, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted that “District 30 will be a true swing district, with voter preference split nearly 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans.”
However, news reports speculate that “the stakes for the contest could be high” as Republicans currently control the legislature. And if they can maintain that hold “Pennsylvanians could see dramatic changes on issues like abortion rights as well as ballot access.”