Kittappa becomes 5th candidate for 16th District seat


Dr. Raj Kittappa

It’s not even 2016 yet, but the race to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-16) got even more crowded this week when a third candidate, Dr. Raj Kittappa announced he would seek the Democratic nomination in the the 16th District. A total of five candidates are now vying for the seat.

Kittappa joins fellow Democrats Dr. Gary Wegman, a dentist from Berks County and Christina Hartman from Lancaster as well as Republicans state Sen. Lloyd Smuckler and Chet Beiler in the race to replace the long-serving Pitts of East Marlborough, who announced his retirement in November.

Kittappa ran unsuccessfully in 2014 for the Democratic nomination, losing out to former State Rep. Tom Houghton, who, in turn lost to Pitts in the general election. He is a molecular biologist from West Hempfield. He argues that the next congress member from the 16th needs to get back to the business of serving the people, not extreme politics.

“For too long, our representatives in Washington have focused on petty political games at the expense of good governance and reasoned discussion,”  Kittappa said in a statement.  “In 2013, the Tea-Party-dominated House of Representatives, including outgoing Congressman Joe Pitts, voted to shut down our government, causing irreparable harm to much-needed medical research of curable diseases and hurting the financial health of our middle-class families who depend on government funding for education, Social Security, and job support.”

If elected, he said he plans to be an advocate for education, especially in the areas of science and engineering.

“As an educator and biomedical researcher, I have a deep understanding of our education systems,” he said.  “I greatly appreciate the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, and will work to strengthen these courses in our schools to prepare Pennsylvania’s students for a new, innovative American economy.”

He said he also hopes to fight the skyrocketing costs of drugs and healthcare.

“I am also very concerned about the ever rising costs of prescription medicines in this country,” he said. “Far too many of Pennsylvania’s hardworking families struggle to pay the costs of these drugs.  In Congress, I will work to leverage the purchasing power of the government to reduce the costs of these drugs and ensure prescription co-pays covered under the Affordable Care Act are affordable for our seniors on limited budgets and for all Pennsylvania’s families.”

He noted that he hopes to put an end to partisan wrangling and focus on solutions,

“As a scientist, I know the value of common-sense solutions, and putting good ideas over partisan politics,” he said. “If elected, I will work towards finding reasonable solutions to problems, rather than relying on political messaging and party-mandated positions that hurt Pennsylvanians.”

After graduating the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, Kittappa worked at the National Institutes of Health as a stem cell scientist, developing groundbreaking models to aid in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  Most recently, Kittappa taught at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.


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