Leach wants to bring controversial issues to the forefront

Second in a series of pro­files of the can­did­ates run­ning for Allyson Schwartz’s con­gres­sion­al seat.

By some meas­ures, Mont­gomery County state Sen. and 13th Dis­trict con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate Daylin Leach is the quint­es­sen­tial “man of the people.” By oth­ers, he is a polit­ic­al mav­er­ick.

Either way is fine with him.

“I think lead­er­ship is about be­ing ahead of the pub­lic, not be­ing be­hind the pub­lic,” Leach said. “If you or any of the voters of the 13th Dis­trict think that is an at­trib­ute that is a good thing to have in a con­gressper­son, then I ask them to sup­port me.”

Oth­er­wise, he said, voters can choose a can­did­ate who will “ba­sic­ally sup­port whatever 51 per­cent of the dis­trict sup­ports every day.”

Leach was born at Jef­fer­son Hos­pit­al and raised in Ox­ford Circle by his single moth­er — his fath­er left shortly be­fore he was born. When his grand­moth­er fell ill and his moth­er had to leave her job, his moth­er filed for pub­lic as­sist­ance and wel­fare.

She put him in the foster care sys­tem for sev­er­al years, as he puts it, “in a dif­fer­ent house with a dif­fer­ent fam­ily and a dif­fer­ent school every few months.”

He spent his time in the North­east Re­gion­al Lib­rary and “at the pub­lic play­ground learn­ing how to play chess and get beaten up.”

At 11, his moth­er had landed a job teach­ing and moved to Al­lentown with Leach. He later at­ten­ded Temple Uni­versity for his un­der­gradu­ate dip­loma and fin­ished law school at Dickin­son School of Law in Cent­ral Pennsylvania.

“The com­munity in­ves­ted in me,” Leach said. “I think I have a very com­pre­hens­ive view of the dis­trict and the needs of the dis­trict.”

He prac­ticed law un­til 2002, when he won a state rep­res­ent­at­ive seat, and in 2008 he won his first term as a state sen­at­or.

Cur­rently resid­ing “a couple hun­dred yards” out­side of the 13th Dis­trict, Leach said he has no in­ten­tion of mov­ing but that his “his­tory jus­ti­fies my as­ser­tion that I am a part of the dis­trict.”

Leach is eas­ily one of the most left-lean­ing mem­bers of the state Sen­ate, if not the most lib­er­al.

He’s been on the fore­front of sev­er­al is­sues in the state, be­ing the first to in­tro­duce two pieces of le­gis­la­tion that would leg­al­ize marijuana and gay mar­riage in the state. He thinks the min­im­um wage should be $12 and ad­jus­ted yearly for in­fla­tion, and he has called for pro­gress­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form that in­cludes a path to cit­izen­ship. 

“The best use of my tal­ents is to try and get the pub­lic to change their mind, which is why I in­tro­duce all this con­tro­ver­sial stuff that is go­ing to get me beaten up and get me hate mail,” Leach said. “I think that’s part of the edu­ca­tion pro­cess.”

He said that his life “would be so much easi­er” if he simply in­tro­duced res­ol­u­tions “com­mem­or­at­ing the con­tri­bu­tion of the wood­chuck to Pennsylvania’s her­it­age,” but that he views his role as that of a cata­lyst.

“That is what I see my role as in the Sen­ate in many ways and what my role would be in Con­gress as well,” Leach said.

When asked if he is con­tro­ver­sial “for the sake of it,” Leach said that he didn’t un­der­stand what there was to gain from his po­s­i­tions.

“I don’t know what I’m sup­posed to be glean­ing by be­com­ing a light­ning rod for people who be­come very angry at me for my po­s­i­tions,” Leach said, adding that his “goal” in pub­lic ser­vice was to bring is­sues to the fore­front so that people would later think, “You know what, he was right.”

“What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not really about chan­ging the vote of your col­leagues be­cause that’s not go­ing to hap­pen,” Leach said. “Your col­leagues will change when the pub­lic changes.” ••

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