Pitt student seeks to unseat City Council president


Photo courtesy of Chris Kumanchik

Twenty-five-year-old Computer science major Chris Kumanchik will run as a Democrat for the District 3 seat on City Council.

By Stefan Bordeianu, Staff Writer

Chris Kumanchik is a novelist, a business owner, a state constable and a 25-year-old student studying computer science at the University of Pittsburgh.

He’s also a pro-gun Democrat challenging City Council President Bruce Kraus for the District 3 seat on the council. District 3, which is comprised of neighborhoods including Central Oakland, South Oakland, South Side Flats and the South Side Slopes, includes Pitt. Primary elections for City Council are May 21, and the general election will be Nov. 5.

“City council is the smallest form of government that we have here in the United States,” Kumanchik said. “So I’m not going to be doing anything that’s going to change the world, but as a legislator for a local government, I feel that it’s important to ensure you’re doing what the people want, but also what’s sustainable and what’s responsible for not just your small sector of society but for the bigger picture.”  

Kumanchik’s candidacy comes at a time when City Council has made gun control a priority, as it attempts to pass a set of bills that would increase regulation of firearm ownership in Pittsburgh. Kumanchik, a member of the National Rifle Association, said he believes people should have a right to own many types of firearms, though he agrees with his “fellow Democrats” that bump stocks should be made illegal.

Kumanchik said his other goals including changing parking restrictions at certain times in the South Side to match the rest of the City of Pittsburgh and working to improve snow removal.

“The small issues pile up, and they get to people. And legislators should pay attention to the little things. But at the same time, there are bigger issues, like guns or other controversial hot topics, just to name a few,” Kumanchik said.

The other candidates joining Kumanchik in challenging Kraus for the Democratic nomination are Amy Schrempf, chair of the Allegheny County Board of Property Assessment Appeals and Review and Ken Wolfe, Kraus’ former chief of staff.

Kraus assumed office as a member of City Council on Jan. 7, 2008. Kraus has been re-elected twice since, and has served as president of the Council since 2014. He is also the first openly gay elected official in the City of Pittsburgh.

Kumanchik said he believes he can do a better job than Kraus — otherwise he wouldn’t be running.

“If I believed he was doing his job as well as I could do it, I wouldn’t be running against him. I would move somewhere else and run against the other person who is not doing their job well,” Kumanchik said. “As a person, his character, I actually hear decent things about him. I have also heard things that are hearsay and are negative.”

Kraus said he welcomed the competition.

“I sincerely welcome Chris to the race. It is our democratic process, and I welcome the competition. I look forward to debating Chris on the facts of my record, and not ones on imperative speculation,” Kraus said in an email.

As for the other candidates in the race — Schrempf and Wolfe — Kumanchik said he doesn’t know them too well.

“I don’t know what Amy’s story is. I don’t know what Ken’s story is. I don’t know what Kraus’ story is. I know where I’ve come from and I know what I’ve seen. For a young guy, I tend to give people a run for their money,” Kumanchik said.

Wolfe said in a phone call he believes anyone can run for office.

“Everybody is a credible candidate. Anybody who wants to run can go out to get votes and win,” Wolfe said.

Schrempf said she didn’t know much about Kumanchik as a candidate, but that she was willing to meet with him.

“I would love to hear his intentions and experiences,” Schrempf wrote in an email.  “I am looking forward to several candidates nights that various groups are hosting to determine his positions and to declare mine. I hope that he will attend.”

Kumanchik said he was seeking endorsements from several unions.

Outside of school and his campaign, Kumanchik is a state constable in Pittsburgh’s 4th ward, an owner of the RK Contracting LLC — a home repair and remodeling business — and a novelist set to publish a science fiction novel on his Wattpad this year.

He also served as the director of administration for the nonprofit Pennsylvania College Access Program — a nonprofit educational workforce outreach program that works to provide assistance to individuals who may need help applying to college — until he resigned to focus on his campaign.

Kumanchik said his work at the nonprofit and as a constable has affected the way he thinks about the justice system.

“I believe in being tough on crime. I’m a state constable. At the same time, if somebody serves their sentence, and they’ve gone through all of the trials and tribulations, and then they come to me and say, ‘I want to come and better my life now,’ there’s no reason why we can’t be forgiving and help that person,” Kumanchik said.

Kumanchik’s interest in politics extends to his writing, and the novel he plans to publish this year.

“It is a science fiction novel of a post-apocalyptic world in which a young engineer is a member of a society that has this worldly goal of repopulating the planet earth, but doing it with a very specific intention to do it the quote-unquote right way. And he’s going to face challenges that any leader today would face in a political setting,” he said.

Kumanchik also said the leader lives in a utopia.

“Everybody works together. It’s the best version of communism,” Kumanchik said. “I’m by no means a Communist, but it’s just the way I’m writing it.”