Leach talks with voters at Somerton diner

Daylin Leach

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. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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