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Valerie Arkoosh on Sept.14, 2020 (Photo from Governor Tom Wolf | CC BY 2.0).

Penn Democrats continued their speaker event series this semester, hosting a virtual conversation on Monday with Valerie Arkoosh, Montgomery County Commissioner's chair and candidate for U.S. senate.

With an audience of 20 students in the Zoom call, the conversation revolved around her campaign efforts and focused on reforms in public health, climate change policy, and abortion rights — amongst other topics. 

In the online event, Arkoosh presented her platform as a U.S. Senate candidate representing Pennsylvania. She highlighted her focus on public health and healthcare access, and stressed that her previous experience as a physician has helped her gain perspective coming into the role of public service, especially during the pandemic.

“I share with folks that I fought for my patients in the operating room,” Arkoosh told attendees. "You cannot ‘BS’ your way out of a problem in the operating room."

She spoke about the instances that prompted her to transition from her work as a doctor towards a career in government. 

“Over time I came to see so clearly that many of the things impacting the health of my patients were things happening outside the exam room," Arkoosh said. "So many patients didn’t have health insurance or had insurance denials, kids with asthma that could not play outdoors because the air in their neighborhood was too dirty, and pregnant moms that had to take two buses just to get to a grocery store.”

Arkoosh currently serves on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, where she governs the third largest county in Pennsylvania. During the event she said that she has taken action to reduce the local impact of COVID-19 and worked to increase the usage of renewable energy sources in the area.

She also touched on other components of her Senate campaign. These ranged from increasing vaccination numbers to putting an end to fracking in populated areas of Pennsylvania and reducing gun violence at a federal level.

The event concluded with Arkoosh offering advice to the attendees about how to manage their plans for the future.

“Don’t think you know how the journey’s going to be,” Arkoosh said. “If you know what it is that your goal is, just take that path to find it. And it might not be the journey that you thought it was going to be, but be open to that.”

In 2020, when Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced that he would not seek reelection, it opened the door for many others to consider running in the battleground state. The primary election that determines which two candidates will face off in the general election will take place later this year — on May 17.

Penn Democrats Political Director and College sophomore, Lucy Kronenberg said she appreciated hearing Arkoosh speak and “remind us what is at stake in the midterm elections this year.” 

Kronenberg said that, in line with the organization of this event, one of the club's big goals is to get as many people registered to vote as possible in order to increase turnout in the upcoming election. 

Similarly, Penn Democrats Treasurer and College sophomore Leo Cassel-Siskind said that he is worried about turnout on Penn’s campus, as the primary election takes place after final exams are over.

Looking forward, Cassel-Siskind said that he was very impressed with the ideas that Arkoosh brought to the table. He said that he thinks she will be well-prepared if she is elected into the U.S. senate.

“I think [Arkoosh] can bring a new perspective to the Senate as a medical professional. I think that she can counter a lot of misinformation that we’ve been hearing,” Cassel-Siskind said. “I also think that her detailed knowledge of policy is going to allow her to work both with Democratic and Republican Senators to pass legislation that can be impactful”