Q&A With James Craig, Candidate for PA State Senate District 46

James Craig for State Senate

I learned about the James Craig campaign via Facebook. His district includes portions of Beaver and Washington counties as well as all of Greene County. His personal story is rather compelling. He’s the first candidate to respond to this round of Q&A’s. I hope you will give his response your consideration.

We began this Political Q&A series in the spring focusing on challengers in various PA State House races. I urge you to revisit those Q&A’s to read what those who prevailed had to say – Lisa Boeving-Learned, Sara Innamorato, and Summer Lee.

Your Name: James Craig

Your Pronouns: He/Him/His

Your District: PA State Senate – District 46 

How do you describe your identity? As a heterosexual, cis, white, male, I have often been told that I picked a rough year to run for office. While my identity may conform to heteronormative values, my life experiences have shaped me into someone who values people for who they are, not their outward expressions.

Tell us about the first LGBTQ person you met and what impact they had on your life? I thought about this question quite a bit, and I frankly don’t think I could tell you the first LGBTQ person that I met, because it wasn’t unusual for me. I do remember the first time I witnessed discrimination, and that has stayed with me all of these years.

At my rural high school, there was a lesbian couple who had dated for months. Nobody saw their relationship as unusual, and they were well liked by the student body. When prom tickets went on sale, the school administration said they couldn’t buy a couples ticket. We couldn’t believe it and started an uproar. We called the school and started raising hell for our classmate’s rights. Within a day, the school backed down and the couple attended prom together.

My takeaway from this event was that injustice can happen anywhere, but when we come together, we can address discrimination head on. You can’t be quiet in the face of hate, you have to speak out against it, and that’s something that I’ll never forget.

Please tell us about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in your district and the region. I am very connected with the LGBTQ community in our district. From working closely with the Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance to attending Delta Foundation events in Pittsburgh, I do my best to stay connected with the LGBTQ Community in our district and across the region.

Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the General Assembly? How will you respond to those priorities? My understanding of the priorities and concerns of the LGBTQ community fall into two categories. First and foremost, LGBTQ voters care about the same things every other resident of our district cares about: addressing the opioid epidemic, lowering property taxes, creating good, family sustaining jobs, protecting our environment, and ending corruption in our state — all issues I’ve pledged to address in Harrisburg.

Second, but just as important are the LGBTQ specific issues, formalizing housing and employment discrimination protections, expanding protections for LGBTQ youth including an end to “conversion therapy”, and ensuring that the hard-fought gains of the past decade aren’t clawed back by conservative politicians. On all of these issues and more, I will be an advocate for the LGBTQ community. I believe that discrimination in any form is wrong and I will stand up against it whenever possible.

How does intersectionality inform your work? Intersectionality is a driving force in everything we do. No two people are exactly the same, and the way we perceive the world is informed by our identity, upbringing, expressions, and how society views us.

In politics one thing you learn quickly is to take time to listen to every story. It is our job as servant leaders to take the time to listen to voters. It also means we need to be proactive, reaching out to traditionally marginalized communities to engage their perspectives.

Too many of our leaders assume that those interested will reach out to have their voices heard — what they fail to realize is that engagement on this level takes a certain amount of privilege many might not have access too. Calling your legislator takes time away from work, and requires understanding of issues. Instead our leaders need to be proactive in engaging people and understanding how their unique circumstances inform their identity.

The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. How does the General Assembly navigate this equivalency of personal religious freedom with the systemic oppression and control of underserved people? We need to reject this false dichotomy for what it is, a non-issue, and change the language around how we discuss these rights. To be clear, I believe firmly that giving someone the right to be free of discrimination in housing, employment, or other public accommodations does not infringe on anyone else’s “religious liberty”, people used the same arguments to defend slavery, segregation and anti-miscegenation laws — every time our society has rejected these arguments. Christ was very clear when he says “Love one another. As I have loved you…”, and anyone looking to hide their hate behind religion is doing a disservice to their faith and the ideals our country was built on. Passing these protections is the right thing to do morally, and I will be proud to stand against these attacks on our rights.

The Grand Jury Report on child sex abuse by Catholic priests released by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office includes four specific changes to Pennsylvania state law to address sexual abuse of children. These include 1) eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children; 2) creating a “civil window” so older victims may now sue for damages; 3) clarifying penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse; and 4) specifying that Civil Confidentiality Agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement. Will you pledge to support all of these four changes and work to pass the necessary legislation? Please explain your response. Yes. I pledge to support all four of these changes and work to pass the necessary legislation to implement these proposals. It is quite important, for this legislation, that the state work both quickly and diligently to make sure victims can seek relief, but also make sure the changes to law protect civil liberties. There is some discussion that a retroactive elimination of the criminal statute of limitations could be interpreted by federal courts as an “Ex Post Facto” law in violation of the Constitution, so it will be important to carefully word the statutes to avoid challenges to the legislation. As an attorney I understand these subtleties of legislative drafting and will work to make sure any legislation drafted holds up to judicial scrutiny.

What specific policy change would you support related to opioid addiction to meet the needs of those who are addicted and their families? Having lost my brother, mother, and aunt to the opioid epidemic, this is an issue that I care deeply about. I support increased funding for inpatient rehabilitation, including extending the number of days covered by medicaid and private insurance to 60. I support clean needle exchanges and improved partnerships with nonprofits who are already fighting addiction in their communities. I support holding doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and drug dealers alike accountable for their actions in creating this epidemic, including having the state seek compensation from the drug companies.

While not directly related to the opioid crisis, we need to legalize and tax recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania. Studies have shown that in states where cannabis has been legalized, there has been a corresponding decrease in opioid usage. Additionally, this will generate tax dollars to be used in education and drug treatment while allowing our law enforcement officials to focus on the real sources of harm in our communities.

Tell me about your other endorsements and supporters. I am proudly endorsed by: Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Allegheny-Fayette Joint Labor Council, Washington-Greene Joint Labor Council, United Mine Workers of America, Teamsters Local 585, SEIU State Council, UFCW State Council, AFSCME Council 84, Sheet Metal Workers Local 12, United Steelworkers of America Local 14693, Ironworkers Local 3, End Citizens United, PA Clean Money Squad, Run for Something, and Equality Pennsylvania

Why did you agree to complete the Q&A for this blog?I am a firm believer in having an open and honest discussion on the important and pressing issues of our state with any interested party. As State Senator I will always have an open door to citizens looking for redress of grievances along with those looking to implement new and innovative solutions. I very much see the role of State Senator as one that needs to be open and responsive, and that begins with listening to the concerns and experiences of others.

Where can readers find your campaign on social media? Our campaign can be found on social media at: Facebook.com/JamesCraigforStateSenate , Twitter.com/JamesRCraig , and Instagram.com/gimme_jimmy_for_senate.

Thank you

In addition to James, I’ve reached out to multiple candidates running for office in Pennsylvania. It can be statewide, regional, or hyperlocal. If you have someone in mind who should be sent a Q&A, please reach out.

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