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Doctor and nurse battle for toss-up state House seat in Allegheny County

A doctor and nurse battle for toss-up state House seat in Allegheny County
A doctor and nurse battle for toss-up state House seat in Allegheny County 02:22

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It's another wide-open race for the state House of Representatives in this region, and it features a Democratic doctor and a Republican nurse.

KDKA-TV political editor Jon Delano, who spoke with both candidates, explains why this race could help determine which party controls the House in Harrisburg.

The 30th Legislative District is a new state House district with no incumbent, and it stretches from the Ohio River north through Franklin Park, McCandless and part of Hampton.

"It's an open seat, and I've been campaigning since February. What I've said to voters across the political spectrum is that this is the opportunity for new representation," says Dr. Arvind Venkat, a 48-year-old McCandless Democrat.

"It's a district that is fairly purple as far as beliefs.  We have a lot of seniors and a lot of young families. A lot of neighborhoods are in transition," says Cindy Kirk, a 65-year-old McCandless Republican.

Voters will choose between Kirk, a registered nurse and former county council member, and Venkat, an emergency medicine physician and past president of the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians.

"I would be the only physician in the General Assembly. In fact, the first one in over 60 years," says Venkat.

"Nurses have the highest credibility. For the last 25 years, nurses have been number one," says Kirk.

So what do the candidates see as top issues in their district?

"That's the easiest question of the day," says Kirk. "Inflation, inflation, inflation."

"Preserving reproductive rights, making our economy work for everyone, curbing gun violence," says Venkat.

Abortion is a key difference, with Venkat saying he's pro-choice because he's seen the consequence of making abortions illegal, while Kirk is endorsed by LifePAC, a prominent anti-abortion group.

"Both as a nurse and as a mother, I am pro-life," says Kirk. "I believe abortions should be safe and rare. I do support the critical exceptions that are in the current Pennsylvania law, which include the health and safety of both the mother and the child and the protections for victims of rape and incest."

"I strongly believe that we need to preserve reproductive rights in Pennsylvania," says Venkat. "I actually treated a woman who had a back-alley abortion and nearly died in my care. My opponent is staunchly anti-choice."

While both candidates recognize that the party that wins the 30th is likely to win control of the state House, they urge voters to vote person, not party.

"Most important thing to consider is who do we want as our representative for our district," says Venkat.

"The people of this district want someone to represent them who have the same priorities," notes Kirk.

The election is on Nov. 8.  

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