Daylin Leach toted his congressional campaign into foreign territory last week. Or depending whom you ask, maybe it was his home base.
Leach, a Main Liner and two-term state senator representing parts of Montgomery and Delaware counties, is one of four Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania’s 13th District, which includes most of Northeast Philly and Eastern Montgomery County. Incumbent Allyson Schwartz has announced she will vacate the U.S. House seat to run for governor this year.
On Feb. 11, Leach invited about 50 likely primary voters to the Four Seasons Diner in Somerton for a meal and a 90-minute discourse. He touted his progressive or left-wing perspectives on the economy, minimum wage, school choice, criminal justice, President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, public housing and many other contentious topics.
The venue was in the backyard of one of Leach’s opponents, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, who is the lone Philadelphia resident in the primary field. Leach’s campaign said it plans to host more similar events locally. Whether Leach can sway moderate Northeast voters could be a key factor in the May 20 primary.
“One of the things (opponents) attack me for is that I’m a tax-and-spend liberal. I don’t care if they call me that,” Leach said. “I think we should have the government we need.”
Not relying on his platform alone, Leach spent the first segment of his dining-room speech touting his own Northeast roots, saying he “grew up” at 6299 Kindred St. in Oxford Circle before his single mother fell on hard times and placed him into foster care. Leach, now 52, said he attended several local grade schools, including Spruance, Carnell, Farrell and Solis-Cohen, while spending much of his time at Max Myers Playground.
Yet he landed in Allentown as a teenager and graduated high school there. After earning degrees from Temple and the University of Houston, he returned to the Lehigh Valley to practice law and launch his political career. During a recent campaign event in Allentown, Leach reportedly reflected fondly on his 22 years as a resident there. He later moved to Upper Merion Township, winning a state House seat in 2002 and a state Senate seat in 2008.
When asked about his current residence, Leach acknowledged that he doesn’t live in the congressional district he seeks to represent and doesn’t plan to move there. Residency is not a legal requirement.
Boyle, a Somerton resident who graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School, Notre Dame and Harvard, described all three of his primary foes as “millionaires from the Main Line,” noting that Marjorie Margolies doesn’t live in the 13th district, either.
Margolies resides in Lower Merion Township, while Dr. Val Arkoosh is a Springfield, Montgomery County, resident.
“I think there’s a pretty clear contrast between their views and mine,” Boyle told the Northeast Times.
Leach thinks so, too.
“We have fundamentally different views, particularly on women’s rights,” he said. “I am pro-choice.”
Boyle responded that he doesn’t believe the four candidates differ “substantively” on women’s issues, which include an array of topics. In the state House, he said, he worked with women’s advocacy groups to propose legislation protecting domestic violence victims.
Meanwhile, Leach criticized Margolies’ record on Social Security. While a congresswoman in 1994, Margolies introduced bills to increase the retirement age and restrict cost-of-living benefit adjustments. But according to an article published on Monday by PoliticsPA.com, Margolies informed the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare last July that she opposes cuts in Social Security to balance the federal budget.
Leach said that Arkoosh lacks the experience to serve in Congress.
“Congress, as your first political office, is a mistake,” he said.
Arkoosh, a physician, has led the four candidates in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports.
Regarding his own record, Leach is proud that Gov. Tom Corbett has called him his “least favorite” senator, while he is the only Pennsylvania senator with an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Leach opposes school vouchers that would allow students to use public education funding to attend parochial or private schools.
“If there’s public money, it should go to public schools,” he said.
He also opposes charter school reform, which would take charter-granting powers away from local school boards.
On criminal justice, he opposes the death penalty and argues that there are too many mandatory-minimum sentences in Pennsylvania’s crimes code. He opposes building new prisons to handle the state’s burgeoning prison populations and prefers alternative ways to deal with nonviolent convicts.
The Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, is a success, according to Leach, who credits the oft-maligned policy for allowing many previously uninsured people to obtain health coverage.
He considers Obama “a moderate, corporate kind of guy,” and thinks that a “racial component” is behind some criticism of the president, although he disagrees with the president on NSA protocols, military drones and the continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
“Guantanamo’s a disgrace,” said Leach, who blamed Democrats for “abandoning” Obama on the issue for fear of being labeled as soft on terror.
Leach supports the legalization of marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational uses, arguing that laws against the drug are a modern version of Prohibition. ••