Theresa Wright, an accountant, says she is running for Congress because "we need someone to go in there and fight for equality and fairness."
She is one of 10 Democrats campaigning for Pennsylvania's Fifth District, which is largely based in Delaware County but also includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
Wright, 39, promises to especially keep a close eye on federal spending. "Our budget is my main priority."
We asked Wright about everything from the Second Amendment to taxes to the $15 minimum wage. Our interview with Wright is the eighth in a series of Q&As with all of the Fifth District's candidates, except for two did who did not respond to our request for an interview. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
Seven Quick Facts About Wright’s Agenda:
Her plan to create jobs: Give tax incentives to small business owners that employ locally
On a $15 minimum wage: "We cannot go from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 an hour … gradually increase it"
Student loan debt: "I absolutely agree that college should be free, especially community college"
Marijuana: Supports legalization of recreational pot
National jobs guarantee: "Where are the funds going to come from?"
Super PACs: They "are basically hidden treasures. … I wouldn't support it"
The budget deficit: To reduce it, increase corporate tax rates
Why are you running for Congress? I'm running because this election is about changing the dynamic within our government so it's in line with the current generation it represents. I am an accountant and bookkeeper for 15 years and the recent tax reform really [was] a slap in the face to us, and we need someone to go in there and fight for equality and fairness. That's why I'm running.
What are the biggest accomplishments of your career? Keeping my client base afloat during the recession. That was a very difficult time for my clients, and my clients range from individuals up until corporations. There was a struggle. A lot of businesses were going out of business during the recession. That I was able to strategically place programs and budgets out to them so they could stay in line and won't go into black, so to say, for accounting purposes.
A recent report found that most Americans can't afford an $1,000 emergency. Wages have been stagnating for the middle class, and income inequality is high. What is your plan to create jobs and raise wages? There is a major push regarding raising minimum wage, but actually the only companies that take advantage of the minimum wage is the large corporations. So the Walmarts and the Targets and the Bank of America. They are the ones that pay minimum wage. The small businesses, which make up 99 percent of the economic workforce, if they're able to pay their employees more than minimum wage, they do. And in most cases, they do. They start at $10 or $8 or $12 an hour depending on the folks' revenue. So I would present legislation that would allow business owners, small business owners, to receive additional tax incentives when they employ within the community.
Does that mean you oppose a $15 minimum wage? I do not at all oppose it. However, we cannot go from $7.25 per hour to $15 an hour. That will be the demise of the small business. Even if I was to give you a short equation of typical small business that grosses about $300,000 a year, they have their cost of goods sold, whatever product they sell or service needs. That's about $114,000, so their gross profit is about $186,000, and not to mention they also have operating expenses, office space, supply in insurance, including employee insurance. Including that, to have wages at $15 an hour, for someone to have four employees. That's $116,000 a year. …
You said you don't oppose minimum wage increase. So if you have your druthers, how would you do it? To pass it today, it would be feasible for it to be $10 to $12 and then gradually increase it. That's like $4.19 for a gallon of milk, tomorrow your gallon of milk is going to cost $8.32. It'll be completely unaffordable.
Talk about your foreign policy positions. Do you see yourself an interventionist, an isolationist, none of the above, or somewhere in between? Somewhere in between. The thing about our foreign policies is it's important that we do have an alliance with our foreign allies and also with NATO, the United States is the top contributor to NATO. So they look up to us, and we also need to make sure that we're taking care of the United States. Also, I am for assisting immigrants and having them. I am for the DACA. … I'm a firm believer of being able to have a chance. And if you're here, let's find a way to get them to a full citizenship. So I'm in support of that, but it would not be my main priority because our tax system and our budget is my main priority. But as far as immigrants, I would not, or foreign policies, we stay in a neutral space with other countries.
What's your position on President Trump's strikes on Syria? Well, everything that Donald Trump is doing now is just wreaking havoc on everything anyway. So the bombing … that's something we should not have been involved in. The question is if we were going to go in and wage war, what the United States has the military capacity to protect us from any type of chemical warfare or any weapons that can be used on us. … We need to band together and boost our military resources instead of boosting our prison system.
How do you look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and any potential solution? It's really difficult to determine that as well because we have different opinions on the lives our citizens. … I wouldn't really trying to impose their laws. If they need help, I would help them. If their enemies of ours, then I would keep them close, but still continue to tread lightly. So it's important to always be neutral and transparent while just imposing on other countries. Well, it was, I would say I would say back away from me. … I would stay neutral. I wouldn't even deal with it, because that's not our fight.
Let's say it's 2019. The Democrats have taken back control of the U.S. House, and Nancy Pelosi and Tim Ryan are running against each other for Speaker. Who do you vote for? Nancy Pelosi because I am pro-woman and we need … she's been there for 20-plus years and she understands the structure and she's done so much for our government. And so I would go with Nancy Pelosi.
John Paul Stevens, a retired U.S. Supreme Court justice, has called for the Second Amendment to be repealed. Where do you stand on that idea? I am licensed to carry. So the ban on assault weapons is something I do agree with. Now the entire Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, we have to understand that if we're going to appeal the entire Second Amendment, that should also pertain to our law enforcement as well, so don't think that's a good idea. I would [support] a ban on assault weapons, because no individual, including me, we're not not trained to maintain and carry those type of weapons, and we also need to hold our [legislators] accountable for things like that because, according to recent studies, there has been 1,600 mass shooting over the past 1,800 days.
And there's legislation involved and that has not been passed until now. Why wait so long, why we have all tragedies to push legislation? If we have legislation now, we should be pushing it. We should be promoting it. And the purpose of it is for us to be protected. So I would fight to keep assault weapons off the street and out of the hands of untrained individuals, but a complete ban on any type of weapons? That is unethical. That is not going to pass. I would support the passing of the repealing of the ban on assault weapons. …
In order to become licensed, you do have to go through a background check and just a local … it should be a national-based background check, because what if someone resides in another area, another state and there's different laws? In order to become licensed to carry, you should go through a more extensive background check, including dealing with the mental capacity of individuals as well. Because I think you would have to trace any domestic issues and things of that sort before we just issue a gun. Because It normally takes about seven days to get a license to carry.
We asked our readers to submit questions to the Fifth District congressional candidates. Here is one: Is your campaign staff unionized? No.
What is your position on Medicare-for-All, free college and a $15 minimum wage? I absolutely agree that college should be free, especially community college, up to an associate's degree. A high school diploma does not get you anywhere. You have to at least have an associate's degree to have sort of a living wage. And so I agree with free college. There is money in our budget. It's just not being allocated because we need to realign it and make sure it's strategically placed so our children can receive a quality education. Health care is another issue. It is not a … there's no reason why individuals in the United States should not have health care. There should be free health care for all. … Free Medicare for everyone, or a single payer that is affordable for everyone.
Do you agree with Nancy Pelosi, who said that Democrats can be pro-life? Or do you agree with Tom Perez, who said "every Democrat" should support abortion rights? I am pro-choice so I will have to agree with my with the fellow here because … you cannot define anyone's position. … It actually shouldn't even be a discussion in government. A woman's choice is our choice. A woman's choice is our choice. It has nothing to do with the government and how it was regulated, so I am pro-choice and agree with [Tom Perez].
What is your position on President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum and other products? And where do you stand on free trade versus trade protectionism generally? A lot of our products that comes into the United States is usually through imports. We see that's where our Walmart and our Targets come in. There should not be any free, any free coming into the United States, that needs to be taxed. Imports and exports.
I believe [Trump] needs to go in and realign that, because of course he's in support of the big business. So the tariffs on imports, it should be increased. … On imports, yes, it should be taxed. On imports, it should be at a point where it's equally yoked … it should be equal. If we're going to have tariffs on imports, it should be tariffs on exports as well.
What is your position on the national jobs guarantee that Sen. Bernie Sanders is expected to unveil, and that others like Sen. Cory Booker have expressed support for? In order for us to even … see this is the problem with our government and how they're trying to implement. We have to start at our core, which is our tax structure. In order to create jobs, we have to have fair tax. So even to jump into this is more like a bait-and-switch to me. It's getting everybody riled up about what they're going to do when they get an office. But when they sit down and go through the budget and they go through how our people are being taxed and who's being taxed. Where's the money going to come from? This is the problem, this is my issue. When they say we're going to create jobs for everyone, well how are you going to create jobs for everyone, where you have tax rates that are not in line with the current society? Where you're taxing small businesses at 15.3 percent and you're taxing corporations or 12 percent. Where are these jobs going to come from? Because essentially these small businesses won't even be able to afford to hire employees if they raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. So I don't agree with all the bait-and-switch taxes that they're doing.
Yeah, it's a great idea. Everybody should have a job, but we need to start over. And we need to restructure our tax system, so our businesses have the means to hire individuals. The question is, where are the funds going to come from? If we're creating all these jobs, where is the money coming from to build infrastructure to create these jobs? That's the question.
Republicans passed a sweeping tax bill last year. What would your ideal tax legislation look like? First thing I would do is bring back the first-time homebuyers credit. That is one of the things that I will do. I will restore the itemized deduction. That is the bulk of our homeowners' way of reducing our tax liability. … I will actually protect the middle class through fair and equally structured tax laws, meaning if we're going to lower our tax rate, we have to lower it across the board. Also, I would reduce the alternative minimum tax. The new tax reform is going to make a lot of the middle class subject to this 26 percent of 28 percent tax. I would reduce it. We can't eliminate it because it's a $60 billion dollar a year revenue stream, but I will definitely reduce it.
What is your position on legalizing recreational marijuana? I'm for legalizing marijuana. We have never seen anyone overdose by smoking or inhaling marijuana.
Do you support impeaching President Trump? And if so, on what grounds? I would definitely support impeaching him just because of his … when you're representing a country, you're held to a higher standard. And when you talk about things about women and our part in public. … That doesn't show that you deserve to have this seat, so and just to see how you are and how you feel about individuals of color. Or other you know race or ethnicity. You should not represent the country because you're prejudiced. So we can't really base it on those to grounds, to impeach, being prejudiced. But he would find a way to make himself subject to impeachment. It's coming. Trust me. It's coming.
This is another question proposed by a reader: Should we be concerned about the size of the federal budget deficit? If we should, what specific revenue increases and/or spending decreases would you support? Yes. We have to definitely increase the corporate tax rates. He lowered it. Our revenue stream consists of … 95 percent is through income tax and payroll tax. Nine percent is through corporation tax, and 1 percent is through our excise tax. That's cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline. So our excise tax … we need to go in and reevaluate that and structure as far as increasing the excise tax for alcohol, cigarettes, is the leading cause of health issues. So we could increase the excise tax and we should increase the corporate tax. We should also decrease the small business tax so then we can create more jobs.
What's your position on super PACs, and should they be involved in the congressional race? Super PACs are basically hidden treasures. … I wouldn't support it, because the purpose of an election and elected official is who's the voice for the people. … I'm not endorsed by any PACs or any super PACs. For one, they're disregarding me, period. They're not understanding that I am the true fighter for the people. I am the one that's been working in ground zero for 15 years, helping individuals and small businesses stay afloat. … So let's have an election where who has the most people behind him, not the most money. It's about the people. It's not about any particular party. It's about the voters. It's about the taxpayers … and it's about getting their voices heard.
What percentage of your staff and advisers is women and people of color? 98 percent.
This is from a reader: How would you deal with the most pressing public health issue right now — opioids and overdose deaths? Do you support safe-injection sites? No, not at all. No safe-injection sites. There are no reason why we should use a drug to help cure a drug. There are alternatives. There are plant-based alternatives that God created for us to use. There are 2.1 million people in the United States who suffer from opioids, and that is Big Pharma's problem, and it goes back to the nineties when the pharmaceutical companies. They actually reassured the medical community that patients will not become addicted to opioids. So the health care providers, they began to prescribe them at a greater rate, not even having the scientific studies in place. … So that's the problem, the FDA approved out of the 100 percent of medicines that are presented to the FDA, 95 percent of them aren't approved and 5 percent are approved and the 5 percent that are, they're deemed to be deadly 10 days later, just like Prozac.
A lot of the prescription drugs are killing us, more than our plant-based meaning drugs meaning marijuana, THC oil. That doesn't kill us, it actually helps us. So what I would is, I would open up more holistic-based treatment centers, where we're not using a drug to cure a drug. … If the drug I support holistic and plant-based alternatives. … That's what we should be using to attack the opioid epidemic, not a particular drug.
Do you have any experience in government or politics? I am not. I am first-time candidate.
So what would you say to voters who might be concerned that you won't be able to get anything done if you go to Congress, or you'll face challenges at least? I want the voters to know I beat the political machine three times over the past two months. … First time in court, pro se candidate. I beat them. The two most sought-our lawyers in election law, I beat them twice. They tried to combine my cases and I remained on the ballot. One appealed to the Supreme Court. I had to write a 30-page brief during campaign season, during tax season, during election season. I won that case. So I am the true fighter here. If no one will help me, I will figure it out. …
What is your response to voters who say, "Theresa is my favorite candidate, but I'm not sure she's going to win, so I'm going to go with my second-favorite candidate?" There's a lot of reasons why people are running for the Fifth Congressional seat, and some are so power-hungry that they're willing to abandon their public constituency and allow a Republican to take the seat. There's two candidates in this race that's doing that. Some are so power-hungry that they're willing to spend millions of dollars to buy the seat by employing individuals like me, of color, just to make it seem like they're for the people. There's another candidate like that. So my question is, why would you choose anyone other than the candidate running with the best interests of the people at heart? And when I get there, when I win, I'm going to protect the middle class. I'm going to work on the tax reform and I'm going to restore the itemized deduction. It isn't about the money. It's not about the party. It's about the people and our voice. Our voices have been silenced for so long, so anyone who would consider voting for me, understand that your voice will be heard.