46th District includes portions of Washington County
Rueben Brock is a psychologist, a counselor, an assistant university professor, and now—though he insists he is not a politician—an office seeker. He is the endorsed Democrat in the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 46th legislative district.
If he wins, he would be the first African American to hold the seat, and only the second Black state representative in southwestern Pennsylvania from outside the City of Pittsburgh. He takes inspiration from the first, Austin Davis, who won the special election to represent the 35th District in January.
“Ten years ago, people would have said what he did was impossible, but now we can have a seat at the table we didn’t before,” Dr. Brock told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview. “The concerns of Black and brown people aren’t different from other groups, and I’m hearing that people are tired of the system being run by the insiders. People are recognizing that government is being run by people who have no concern for the average Joe.”
With a private practice that concentrates on treating adolescents, and his university position, it is not surprising that revamping the way education is funded at the state level is one of his major campaign issues. He said relying on local property taxes as the prime mechanism yields too many inequities, condemning poorer children to a substandard education.
“You have Burgettstown ranked as one of the 50 worst in the state right next to Peters Township, which is a top district. We have districts where kids can’t take home textbooks, let alone a laptop,” he said. “It’s segregation—economic segregation, and the educational outcomes are a byproduct. Poor kids are punished for being poor.”
Dr. Brock is also an advocate for making reforms to the criminal justice system, particularly with respect to drug arrests and sentencing—which has disproportionately affected young Black males.
“Our nation’s war on drugs has been a failure. We should not be locking up heroin addicts, we should be treating them,” he said. “And we should legalize marijuana here and tax it. People are getting locked up for what’s legal in Colorado.”
He also brings a psychologist’s perspective to relations between Black residents and the police.
“The (Melanie Carter) arrest is indicative of the total disconnect between the Black community and law enforcement,” he said, referring to the North Versailles police encounter with Carter outside of a movie theater that was captured on video. “It’s like they don’t even see our humanity. It’s an adversarial relationship, both sides are reasonably in fear of the other. We have to find a way to reconnect, so that when they interact they don’t see a threat.”
As for his campaign, Dr. Brock said he is getting a positive response as he crisscrosses Washington County and the parts of Allegheny County that comprise the district. He also noted that while the rising costs of housing have led to Blacks being forced to leave Pittsburgh and weakened voting blocs in “Black” districts, it is creating opportunities to elected Black representatives like Austin Davis, and perhaps, himself.
“Me winning in Washington county is different from what Ed (Gainey) and Jake (Wheatley) are doing,” he said. The state House districts of Gainey and Wheatley fall within Pittsburgh city limits. “But we are everywhere else, so we should be influencing everywhere else.”
Dr. Brock, who is an assistant professor at California University of Pennsylvania, is unopposed in the May Primary election and will face Republican incumbent Jason Ortitay in November. The district includes the Allegheny County municipalities of Bridgeville, Collier Township, Heidelburg, McDonald, Oakdale, South Fayette Township, and in Washington County; Burgettstown, Canton Township, Cecil Township, McDonald, Midway, Mount Pleasant Township, Robinson Township and Smith Township.
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