The Uproar

An Interview with Emily Skopov

"To anybody that knows me, I don't seem like your standard politician. I don't sound like your standard politician, I don't look like your standard politician."

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An Interview with Emily Skopov

photo by Alex Flagg

photo by Alex Flagg

photo by Alex Flagg

Nisha Rao, News Editor

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Emily Skopov. You may have seen her signs situated alongside the roads of Allegheny County and positioned before the entrances to neighborhoods and schools. You may even recognize the name. As a former Los Angeles resident, she wrote, produced, and even directed a film and several television episodes before moving to the North Hills and starting her non-profit, No Crayon Left Behind. In the North Hills, she’s become a fixture, as she campaigns to become the representative for the 28th District, a position that Speaker of the House Mike Turzai has held for seventeen years.

It seems difficult for this fresh face to strike a chord in a traditionally Republican region, especially considering that Donald Trump won the district by a 52-43 margin in the 2016 election. However, as the Pittsburgh City Paper reports, a Washington D.C. polling company GBA Strategies found that Emily Skopov is within five points of incumbent Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, with Turzai leading 49-44 among voters in the 28th district.

What follows is a real-time account of my recent interview with Skopov:

As I walk into the Emily Skopov office, I recognize the small, grassroots feel of it. A large, purple tri-fold poster hangs near the entrance, describing Skopov’s previous work experience. In Los Angeles, she also attended graduate school to get her MFA.

“I did encounter some struggles,” she tells me. “It really taught me to appreciate every meal I had, since I was in a job where I had no healthcare and had to constantly figure out how to pay rent.”

Rows of blue and green posters, emblazoned with Emily Skopov, State Representative, plaster the walls behind her. Colorful posters, decorated by her staff and her volunteers, sit alongside campaign posters for other Democratic candidates in the region. Tom Wolf for GovernorLindsey Williams for State Senate. These are some of the names she reads to me as I ask her which local and national politicians she believes are doing a good job. She tells me that she respects people who “speak truth to power and show compassion and decency,” which she finds in Joe Biden, the late John McCain, Kamala Harris, and Corey Booker.

courtesy of Pgh City Paper

“Senator Casey is an incredibly decent man in what is often an indecent profession,” she remarks. “I think Governor Wolf, having met him as a person and not a politician, is a very compassionate person who wants to do right [by Pennsylvania].”

We enter a conference room, where a vast rainbow calendar graces the opposing wall, accompanying a hand-drawn thermometer that measures how many doors the campaign has knocked. As a relatively new candidate, she tells me that volunteers knocking on those doors have been vital to her growing popularity.

“It isn’t rocket science,” explains Skopov. “I just started very, very early. I was willing to just show up anywhere I could and just introduce myself to people, even if they found it laughable that I was new.  It was so early and nobody was ready to talk about it.”

When I ask what she believes is the biggest concern facing Pennsylvania today, she immediately responds with public education, a notable issue in her contest with Turzai, who supports school choice*.

“We have a ton of schools who are underfunded and simply don’t have the materials to do what they need to do,” she says, her voice rising with passion. “Frankly, they’re inadequate.  In the entire country, Pennsylvania has the widest gap between wealthy and poor school districts. That’s incredibly shameful.”

Skopov emphasizes how important it is to educate all students. “If they do not get adequate education,” she adds, “they turn into adults who cannot thrive, they turn into adults who cannot support themselves, they turn into adults who turn to drugs and crime who become a drain on social services. Even from a financial and economic standpoint, we’re failing Pennsylvania’s future by a not educating children today.”

As I reach the end of the interview, I ask her about how young people, more specifically 18 year olds, should engage with politics, especially considering how complex it can be.

“There’s a reason teens are so turned off by politics,” the candidate says. “It’s simply because it’s gross. It’s a whole bunch of adults who are behaving worse than we allow kids to talk in school, yelling and screaming at each other and being petty, throwing tantrums, losing their patience and tolerance.”

As for how to deal with politics, she says to not let it overwhelm you. “Find one cause you care about and ask about that cause and focus on that,” Skopov adds. “That’s the best you can do.”

 

*School choice is a term that concerns itself with the running of charter schools, who receive government money, but operate partly outside of the state school system.

Read the full transcript of the interview here!

The Uproar sent a similar interview request to Speaker Mike Turzai and hopes to write a similar article featuring his positions before the November election.

About the Writer
Nisha Rao, News Editor

Nisha Rao is a senior and longtime student at North Allegheny, where she is involved in Key Club, Speech and Debate, and Student Council. In the future,...

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