Pennsylvania voters will be going to the polls in less than three weeks, and some local races are hotly contested.
In the May 20 primary election, voters will nominate candidates for the state Senate and House of Representatives, the U.S. House and governor.
In addition, Philadelphia voters will choose a new at-large City Council member. They will also decide on three proposed changes to the Home Rule Charter.
Below is a look at the latest on the campaign trail.
State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democratic candidate in the 13th Congressional District, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, contending that one of his three primary opponents, Marjorie Margolies, spent general election campaign funds after exhausting available primary funds in the first quarter of 2014.
Leach said Margolies “broke the law” by spending more than $71,000 in general election funds from Jan. 15 through the end of the reporting period on March 31. In that time frame, until March 30, Leach said the Margolies campaign failed to maintain more cash on hand than the sum of general election money in its account.
“This is cheating,” he said at an April 24 news conference at his Elkins Park campaign office.
The payments, Leach said, were to consultants and vendors, citing her financial reports.
In a letter to the FEC’s Office of General Counsel, Leach wrote that the Margolies campaign engaged in “blatant, significant and recurring” violations of federal campaign finance laws. He described the alleged breaches as “repeated” and “willful” as her campaign struggled to build a campaign warchest. He maintains that Margolies holds voters and the law in “utter contempt.”
Ken Smukler, a senior adviser to Margolies, rejected Leach’s claims.
“We have never dipped into general election funds to pay for primary expenditures,” he said. “We believe Daylin Leach’s complaint is totally without merit.”
Smukler cited what he called an “identical” case from the 2008 election season. Jennifer Horn, a Republican running for a House seat in New Hampshire, was accused of using general election money during the primary. The FEC rejected the complaint.
Smukler likened Leach to a rodeo clown, but said he is more “sad” than “funny.” He did acknowledge that there is no downside for Leach to file the complaint.
“It’s an easy way to attack the frontrunner,” Smukler said.
Leach denied he filed the complaint to derail Margolies, adding that he does not believe she is the frontrunner, based on her struggle to raise and maintain cash. Leach would rather hear from Margolies than Smukler on the complaint. He said her silence is “deafening.”
“Why isn’t Marjorie talking about this?” he asked.
The FEC is not expected to rule on the matter until after the primary.
Meanwhile, Leach launched his first ad that is running on broadcast and cable TV and on the Internet.
The ad focuses on Leach’s upbringing, when his mother could no longer afford to keep him, and he temporarily stayed with foster families in the Northeast.
Leach talks about how his childhood experiences gave him the drive to take on “bullies” such as Gov. Tom Corbett and the NRA.
“I am incredibly proud of this ad,” Leach said. “When we started this campaign, a little over a year ago, it was always my intention to tell my story, to let people know who I am and where I came from, and how that affects everything I have done in the state Legislature. I needed help once, and I fight for those who need help now, which is why I take on Tom Corbett and the NRA, and in Congress will hold the big banks and Wall Street accountable for wrecking our economy.”
State Rep. Brendan Boyle, another Democratic candidate in the 13th Congressional District, has been endorsed by nine of the 14 ward leaders in the Philadelphia portion of the district.
Backing Boyle are Alan Butkovitz, Bob Dellavella, Mike Stack, Pat Parkinson, Lorraine Bednarek, Sharon Losier, Shawn Dillon, Bernice Hill and Danny Savage.
“We need representation in Washington that will fight for families in communities across Philadelphia,” said Losier, Democratic leader of the 61st Ward.
Margolies has been endorsed by ward leaders Bill Dolbow, Janice Sulman, John Sabatina, Mike McAleer and Elaine Tomlin.
Dr. Val Arkoosh, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 13th Congressional District, recently was selected for the “Game Changers” initiative as part of the Women’s Campaign Fund.
The initiative is a national push to highlight 40 women running for office across the country at all levels. Visitors to the organization’s website are encouraged to make donations to the candidates. The WCF endorsed Arkoosh in April 2013.
“Part of what makes Val such a game changer is her unique background. First, she isn’t a career politician. She is a physician, parent of three and a community leader. As a practicing obstetric anesthesiologist, she has helped thousands of women of all ages, incomes and backgrounds,” said Clare Bresnahan, political and programs director for the WCF.
The Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee announced its endorsement of Jared Solomon in the 202nd Legislative District.
Solomon, president of the Take Back Your Neighborhood civic association, is challenging Rep. Mark Cohen, who has held the seat held for 40 years, in the Democratic primary.
“Jared Solomon is unequivocal in his support for women’s rights — especially about economic empowerment and crafting meaningful legislation to quell domestic abuse and sexual assaults,” said Nina Ahmad, NOW’s local president. “Given the current repressive environment in the Pennsylvania Legislature and its ‘War on Women,’ Philadelphia NOW is focused on endorsing candidates, such as Solomon, who support women’s rights without regard to political expediency. As a lawyer and community organizer, Solomon has a record as an advocate for more accessible healthcare, sound educational reform and immigrant rights.”
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO has endorsed Cohen for re-election.
“I am honored and proud to have the support of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. I have dedicated my career to improving the lives of working families throughout Philadelphia and the entire state. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO stands up for the values of economic justice that I so deeply believe in,” Cohen said.
Cohen is pushing for the minimum wage to be increased to $11.50 an hour.
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democratic candidate for governor, held a conference call with reporters to express her pride in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and called on Tom Wolf and other Democrats in the race to openly embrace the law.
Schwartz is one of the few Democrats in the country to proactively advertise on what she sees as the success of the Affordable Care Act.
“I am the only Democrat in the race that helped write the Affordable Care Act, worked with President Obama to pass it and now am campaigning on the success of the law,” she said. “I have the experience and proven leadership to take on Tom Corbett to expand Medicaid for 500,000 Pennsylvanians and implement the Affordable Care Act to benefit Pennsylvania families in ensuring affordable health coverage.
“Tom Wolf and the other Democrats in the race have been evasive in their support of and pride in the Affordable Care Act.”
Wolf, the leader in the polls, has said that the Affordable Care Act is a “good start,” and in a recent interview with the York Daily Record did not address the law and its impact on Pennsylvania and America. Meanwhile, Schwartz’s campaign released a new television ad highlighting her leadership role in helping write and pass the Affordable Care Act.
“I am proud to have worked with President Obama to write and pass the Affordable Care Act, landmark legislation that is helping 8 million Americans get affordable, quality health coverage,” she said.
Mike Barley, campaign manager for Corbett, released the following statement regarding Schwartz’s ad and MSNBC appearance, fully embracing what he called the Obamacare “legislative disaster.”
“Despite cancelled policies, skyrocketing premiums, lost doctors and jobs, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has turned her back on Pennsylvania for good,” Barley said. “Congresswoman Schwartz has embraced an extreme liberal agenda in Washington, D.C., and the disastrous health-care takeover she helped to write and force upon hardworking Pennsylvanians. Now, Congresswoman Schwartz hopes to bring those failed budget-busting Obama policies to Harrisburg, proving just how out of touch she is with the people of Pennsylvania.”
Matt Wolfe, the Republican candidate for an at-large City Council seat in the May 20 special election, is criticizing Democratic opponent Ed Neilson for comments he made at a recent forum at Abraham Lincoln High School that was intended to encourage 18-year-old students to register to vote.
Wolfe said Neilson was playing class warfare when he said Democrats favor the “have-nots” and Republicans support the “haves.”
Wolfe noted that he lives in a West Philadelphia rowhouse while Neilson “lives in a single family home on the edge of the suburbs.” He also pointed out that Megan Rath, the Republican candidate in the 1st Congressional District, lives in a 600-square-foot walk-up apartment on the edges of North Philadelphia while Democratic Rep. Bob Brady “resides in sprawling single home that abuts the Main Line.”
“Tell me again who are the haves and the have-nots,” Wolfe said. ••