Chris DePizzo didn’t always imagine a life in politics. The first in his family to graduate from college, the 2012 Penn Law graduate initially worked at a New York City law firm after leaving campus.
But six years after leaving Penn, DePizzo has returned home to Northeast Ohio and is running for Congress in the state's 13th District. Driven by the desire to provide fresh leadership to the region, DePizzo is committed to his ideals despite running in a district that has been blue for the past decade.
DePizzo, a Republican, is challenging eight-term Democratic incumbent Tim Ryan in a seat that FiveThirtyEight gives Ryan a 99.9 percent chance of winning. Ryan is perhaps best known for mounting an unsuccessful challenge for House minority leader in 2016, losing to incumbent Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Because he is running against an established politician, DePizzo focused his campaign on government transparency and accountability, criticizing Ryan for his lack of local town halls and interaction with his constituents.
DePizzo credits the wide range of opportunities offered to him at Penn as a catalyst for his political career.
“Penn was everything I wanted it to be and more,” DePizzo said. “I couldn’t have been luckier, as there was so much opportunity and so many super-smart, hard-working people.
While on campus, DePizzo was a member of the Federalist Society, participated in Penn Law boxing, and took influential courses on healthcare policy, international law, and public-private partnerships.
Most notably, DePizzo said he was involved in the Legislative Clinic, a unique Penn program that placed him in an internship at Senator Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) office in D.C. Through the internship, DePizzo said he gained valuable experience attending trade meetings and learning more about politics in Washington.
This passion for trade was one of the reasons DePizzo decided to run for office back home in Ohio, a region he said has been negatively affected by United States trade policy.
"This race in Northeast Ohio is about the issues that President Trump raised that won him the Midwest," DePizzo said. "There’s a reason Ohio switched from voting for Barack Obama twice to voting for Donald Trump, and it’s that for 40 years the middle of the country has been net hurt by bad trade deals."
His close friends from Penn Law describe him as a kind and driven individual who truly cares about the people of the 13th District.
Fellow Northeast Ohio resident and Penn Law 2012 graduate Aanand Mehta said even though he holds different political beliefs than DePizzo, he nonetheless wholeheartedly supports him and believes he is the right man for the job.
“Although I’m on the other side of the aisle, I cannot say enough good things about Chris,” Mehta said. “While we obviously disagree about a number of things — ranging from politics to the Cleveland Browns quarterback situation— he has always treated me and his peers with respect.”
Mehta said he met DePizzo in their first-year labor law class and the two have been friends ever since.
“We need more people like him — people who are not only qualified, but who are running for the right reasons,” Mehta said.
Sanjay Narayan, a 2012 Penn Law graduate, also knows DePizzo well — the two were roommates at Penn Law, served as each other's groomsmen at their weddings, and still keep in touch frequently.
Narayan described DePizzo as a "universally-liked" figure at Penn who excelled in his academics and was heavily involved in extracurriculars.
"He's always been well-informed on the issues and been able to articulate his deep knowledge and passion about them," Narayan said. "[His passion for Northeast Ohio has] always been a part of his identity, and I'm so proud to call him a friend and support his campaign."
In particular, Narayan said the 13th District needs change, praising DePizzo's economic stance that advocates for "pro-growth taxes and cutting regulation."
With the election soon, the Republican candidate urged Penn students to turn out and remain politically engaged well past Tuesday.
"It’s absolutely important to our future as a republic and as a representative democracy that people show up and vote," DePizzo said. "For students, it's not just the midterms, but every election is vital — you need to stay involved in the process."
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