Erin McClelland

Age: 39

Address: 918 Carlisle St., Natrona Heights, PA 15065

Running for what office: Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District

Seeking nomination of what party: Democratic Party

Education: University of Pittsburgh, BS 1997; Chatham University, Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, 2002.

Family: Husband, John McClelland, and son, Tristian McClelland

Occupation: Executive director, Arche Wellness Foundation

What’s the top need of the district you seek to represent?

Our economy is built on the purchasing power of the American middle class. Across western Pennsylvania, middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet. It’s getting harder to pay bills and provide for our families while also saving for college and putting something away for retirement.

When our middle class suffers, people stop spending money, and our entire economy slows down. We must strengthen the middle class in western Pennsylvania and across America. We can do that by implementing policies that value real families. In Congress, I’ll fight for real family values that make things a little easier for middle-class families, helping them pay their bills, save for retirement and make sure that their kids have a chance at a better life. So I’ll go to work each day to fight for fair wages, safe streets, good schools and better opportunities for every American.

What would be your top legislative priority if elected?

We can’t solve our problems until we address the $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities related to health care costs. Most of those costs come from preventable medical errors. These errors cost us at least $1 trillion and 200,000 lives every year.

To put it another way, every week we lose enough people to fill four jumbo jets because of mistakes made in our health care system. If four planes fell out of the sky each week, we would work every second of every day until we solved the problem. In Congress, I plan to bring that kind of urgency to solving the problem of medical errors in the American health care system. We need to strengthen the Affordable Care Act to make sure that our health care professionals can address mistakes and errors in a blame-free environment that identifies the root cause of those errors and moves towards eliminating them from the health care system altogether.

What makes you the better candidate for the position?

I’ve spent my entire life identifying the root cause of complex problems and working toward solutions. I’m running for Congress because right now we elect people who spend all of their time telling us who to blame rather than working to help solve the very real problems western Pennsylvania families like mine face every day. I’m not interested in finding someone to blame for our problems. I’m interested in solving them.

I’m the best candidate for Congress because I understand the problems that our region’s families grapple with on a daily basis. As a mom who started her own business, I know that we don’t need less government – we need better government. We need government to understand us and work with us to make things a little better. And for that reason we need representatives in Congress focused on solving our problems, not pointing fingers.

Under what conditions and for what purposes would you support a tax increase?

I decided to run for Congress when Keith Rothfus signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge, vowing to never raise income taxes under any circumstances. To me, that is an act of cowardice, a way to signal to our constituents that he will not make tough decisions. He will not listen to data, and he will not help working Americans if it means angering the extreme factions of his party. I pride myself on examining each problem as it arises, identifying the root cause and finding a solution. I don’t know the exact issues we’ll face during my time in Congress or what will be required to address them. It’s impossible to anticipate the precise circumstances under which I’d vote for an income tax increase. I can promise that I won’t be like Keith Rothfus and vote against something like Hurricane Sandy relief just because I signed a ridiculous pledge.

If elected, what will you do to benefit the area you represent?

When I think about how I will approach my time in Congress, I think about Jack Murtha and Fannie Sellins. Mr. Murtha did so much for this area that he needs no introduction. Fannie Sellins was one of the first union organizers and gave her life in my hometown fighting for working families. They both had the same philosophy: Our communities are only as strong as our most vulnerable families. It is our duty to care for the least fortunate among us, and we can only move forward together. In Congress, I can’t promise we will agree on every issue or that things will immediately get better. But I can promise that I will care about your problems as if they were my own and that I will go to work every day to make life better for our neighbors, our families and our children. I won’t stop fighting for you.