VALERIE ARKOOSH: This Doctor Could Emerge As A Dark Horse In 13th Dist.

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BY JOE SHAHEELI/ ArkooshDr. Valerie Arkoosh could be the dark horse that comes from behind and nips front-runner State Rep. Brendan Boyle at the finish line in the race for the 13th Congressional Dist.

If her fundraising prowess continues, she’s expected to begin her campaign officially with at least a half-million dollars in her campaign chest. That will permit her to launch a television campaign identifying herself as the only “true” Montgomery Co. candidate in a District which includes that entire County and a portion of Northeast Philadelphia Co.

She’s not giving up on Philadelphia Co., though Boyle seems to have a lock there, thanks to his endorsement by Congressman Bob Brady and the Democratic City Committee. That endorsement doesn’t appear to be unanimous since another candidate, former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies, was endorsed by State Sen. LeAnna Washington (D-Northwest), whose district takes in part of the 13th Dist.

Arkoosh will be charging neither Margolies nor Sen. Daylin Leach live within the District, but rather just outside it. Whether that holds water with voters remains to be seen, since anyone from anywhere can run for a congressional district seat outside of their voting address. Examples: the Kennedys.

Her Montgomery Co.base is strong. Her husband is Springfield Township Commissioner Jeff Harbison, with whom she lives with her three children.

Her health-care work has earned her a galaxy of friends and supporters in the 13th Dist. This is especially true of her work on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She spent a great deal of time in Washington during its passage and played a role in its creation.

That makes her the one candidate for the 13th Dist. already embroiled in the nation’s hottest controversy.

Dr. Arkoosh, an anesthesiologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is a veteran of the National Physicians Alliance, which was an early advocate for fundamental reform of the health-care industry. Much of what it wanted, although not all, wound up in Obamacare.

If Dr. Arkoosh goes to Congress, she will bring her expertise to a problem that is likely to be raging throughout the campaign season.

“I believe the ACA is a great first step, but it’s just a beginning of health-care reform and by no means the end. And there are several really important things that we need to concentrate on going forward,” Dr. Arkoosh told Keystone Politics’ Jon Geeting in a recent interview.

Dr. Arkoosh is insistent on the need for computerized record-sharing, which she says will significantly reduce costs she has seen in her practice. “About a third of our health spending goes to care that is unnecessary or duplicated. That’s an area I’m particularly interested in,” she said.

On other issues, Dr. Arkoosh has not staked out new ground. Like most of her rivals, she would tackle joblessness with federal training programs breaks for small business, while cracking down on overseas outsourcing by larger firms. She is leery of federally mandated testing in education, which she judges to be a burden on under-resourced schools. When it comes to entitlement reform, she does not approve of the proposed “chained CPI” adjustment to Social Security.

And like most Southeastern Pennsylvania politicians, she is unhappy with Gov. Tom Corbett’s indiscriminate embrace of natural-gas fracking. In Congress, she would work to repeal the “Halliburton loophole” which exempts fracking from being governed by clean-water regulations.

“As of now,” she says, “there are 19 doctors in Congress, I hope to be the 20th, working to insure all Americans continue to get the finest medical care in the world.”

Dr. Arkoosh appeared at the first forum of gubernatorial candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Gov. Tom Corbett next November. She didn’t make a fanfare of her appearance, but spent time in the audience soaking up what the nominees were saying.

In an interview at the offices of the Philadelphia Public Record, she assured Northeast Philadelphians she will open two district offices to serve those constituents. She will promote herself as a “problem solver. As a medical doctor, I’ve been trained to find answers when a medical problem doesn’t immediately lend itself to obvious solutions.”

She can’t be ruled out as a neophyte, since she has been a close friend of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who is now running for Governor. She understands Margolies will take portions of Montgomery Co. as will State Sen. Daylin Leach, with both seen as competing for the liberal wing of the Democratic vote. She feels she’ll come out with enough of a Montgomery vote and a substantial Philadelphia vote due to her campaign efforts.

Margolies did pick up the individual endorsement of Leslie Richards, Montgomery Co. Commissioner Vice Chair, who cited Margolies’ experience “on the Hill and around the globe.”

Dr. Arkoosh is already a vote-getter in her own right. As a practicing anesthesiologist, she has developed a cadre of friends and loyal patients as she practices in Montgomery and Philadelphia’s major hospitals, including Abington, Jeanes, Fox Chase, Holy Redeemer, HUP and Jefferson. Most are voters who will remember.

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