Science professor begins run for local U.S. House seat

Courtesy of John Stolz’s Campaign Website
John Stolz, environmental science prof, is challenging Keith Rothfus for Congress.
John Stolz
Courtesy of John Stolz’s Campaign Website
John Stolz, environmental science prof, is challenging Keith Rothfus for Congress.

Kailey Love | Photo Editor


Correction 9/29/17: Stolz marched in the Pittsburgh March for Science and the Pittsburgh People’s Climate March. The story originally said he participated in the Washington D.C.-based versions of those events.

John Stolz, professor of environmental microbiology and director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne, is considering a career change.

Unofficially declared back in February, Stolz will be running against incumbent Keith Rothfus (R-PA) for Pennsylvania’s 12th District House seat come November 2018. He officially began his campaign at the end of July.

“It’s going, and it’s very exciting,” Stolz said of the start of his campaign.

Since he officially announced his intent to run for Congress, he has been participating in community events and meeting people across the district to garner support and better understand the issues that impact his potential constituents.

After a 27-year career at Duquesne, Stolz hopes to “be a voice for the people and to bring attention to the fact that we have to protect people’s heart and home” and use his expertise in environmental issues to make a greater impact.

“One of the things that I’ve done in my career here is work with people … after [last] November, it just seemed that it was time to take it to a new level. As a scientist, I bring a different perspective. We need policy that is science based, especially with things such as climate change,” he said.

Addressing the unseasonably warm temperatures at the end of September, as well as the Category Five hurricanes that have been battering the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean for almost a month, Stolz places high priority on addressing the issue of climate change in his campaign. An avid environmentalist, he participated in both the March for Science and the People’s Climate March in Pittsburgh earlier in the spring.

So far throughout his career, Stolz has researched topics spanning from arsenic in the poultry impacting consumers and farmers to exploring how the shale-gas industry affects people. He has been active in promoting a new technology called biodigestion, which converts waste (both agricultural and municipal) into natural gas for transportation and electricity. He also uses solar panels for his own home.

“Most importantly, there are solutions. They exist,” he said.

In addition to academic research, Stolz has also been active in the community prior to running for office. He has worked with the city’s resilience office as part of their climate action plan, and also collaborated with numerous communities across the state on issues related to natural gas development.

One of four Democrats challenging Rothfus so far, Stolz said that he believes he is the strongest contender “because of my background, my established record of my service to the community, [and] the fact that I’ve worked with city and county government to bring projects to success.”

Stolz cites Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) as sources of inspiration that he admires. He believes that Sanders “has done a lot to reawaken this idea of getting back to people,” which is something he also hopes to achieve if he takes office. He also looks up to Franken because, “he came from a different perspective, but he’s an incredibly smart individual and makes a lot of sense.”

While concerning himself with environmental issues, Stolz also places importance on addressing mounting student loan debt, with four percent guaranteed loans as part of his campaign platform.

“Coming from an academic career, education is the key to the future. I would hope that the students that are registered to vote in the district … are able to support the campaign and vote for me, because I will represent students as well. They are the future.”

As someone who has worked with students throughout his career, Stolz pledges to be a voice for students at Duquesne and across the district that he hopes to represent.

“Let’s make this happen, because the thing that gets me excited is walking into the classroom, [seeing] my Environmental Biology class for the first time and seeing all these students, and knowing the reason why they’re in that class is because they care about the environment and they care about the future,” he said.