Former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies wasted little time answering the near-constant criticism from her competitors in the race for the 13th Congressional District seat.
At a forum held on April 29 at the Portuguese Club, 2019 Rhawn St., Margolies used her short opening statement partially as a way to introduce her background and political goals, but primarily as a means to launch her own attacks on the other candidates.
Her crosshairs landed most squarely on state Sen. Daylin Leach, who earlier in the week had publicly criticized Margolies for allegedly using general election campaign funds during the primary, which is illegal.
“For someone who gets paid full-time by the state taxpayers, you are spending an awful lot of time on me,” Margolies said, addressing Leach. “You alone among the candidates will not be able to vote in this election as you don’t live in the district.”
Leach, well-prepared for such criticism, defended his standing in the district as someone who grew up a foster child and lived in 14 different homes and attended eight different elementary schools through his first 18 years in the Northeast and elsewhere. He now lives in Wayne, which is part of the 7th Congressional District.
“I live about 200 yards from the district. There’s no substance to that charge,” Leach said. “I do not find myself confused when I walk across Brookwood [Road] at the strange land I find myself in.”
State Rep. Brendan Boyle, who had participated in all four previous voter forums since January, chose not to attend this event. Boyle defended his decision in a statement released by his campaign a few hours before the forum, where he suggested that it could not be neutral due to the formal endorsement of Margolies’ campaign by Democratic ward leader John Sabatina, who organized the debate.
“Ms. Margolies has declined all but one invitation to the forums held so far, and will seemingly only participate in events in which she is allowed to read off note cards,” Boyle wrote. “As Mr. Sabatina knows, we never agreed to participate in his ‘debate’.”
Instead, Boyle and his supporters held a rally to support his campaign earlier in the evening. According to his statement, the event was meant to highlight “the emphasis of [Boyle’s] campaign: the needs of working families instead of millionaires like [his] three opponents and half of Congress.”
His empty seat at the Portuguese Club allowed the other candidates to disparage his decision, and particularly, his stance on abortion, without being contested.
Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, the third Democratic candidate in attendance, for the most part avoided entering the tension between Margolies and Leach, but spoke out against Boyle’s policies in this regard.
“It’s been very interesting that Representative Boyle has raised an issue with three weeks to go in this campaign, especially as his record on women’s health has come under scrutiny,” Arkoosh said. She suggested that Boyle is “trying to manufacture an issue” with this debate “to distract voters from how out of touch [he] is with women in this district.”
Leach similarly chimed in, agreeing with Arkoosh and rebutting Boyle’s implication that the other candidates’ financial status places them out of touch with the middle class.
“I would kill to have Brendan Boyle’s childhood,” Leach said. “No one has done more to address income inequality than I have.”
Leach cited his bills to increase minimum wage and end tip minimum wage as support in his defense.
From there, the present candidates seemed to find more common ground. Both Arkoosh and Margolies also expressed support of increased minimum wage. All three, to varying degrees, backed the legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalization of marijuana-related crimes, while only Leach stood firmly for legalization of recreational use. Margolies and Leach took stances against term limits, and Arkoosh supported term limits, but only as the “current gerrymandered system” is in place. Leach and Arkoosh oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline, while Margolies favors a more “wait and see” approach.
All three candidates pledged to support whichever Democrat wins in the primary. But despite these agreements, no two candidates are alike in this race. With the May 20 primary election now less than two weeks away, the candidates must use their differences to find agreement with voters. ••