As it seems more and more likely that Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz will vacate her seat to run for Governor, the 13th congressional district is buzzing with possible candidates.
The district is 60% Democratic and votes that way, meaning the real race is in the primary.
The real question is geography. Will the tradition of the long reigning line of Montgomery County officials stay intact, or is it possible that Philadelphia can produce a candidate that will be able to take the seat?
Part of the reason for such success in Montgomery County officials retaining this seat for so long is money. The richest county in the state and one of the top 100 wealthiest in the country, something is to be said about the big time money that the Montco crowd can raise in their home base. But given the PA-13 redistricting shift toward Philadelphia (52.3% of PA-13 Dems live there), a strong push by Philly Dems and labor unions could bring it home.
Here are the 6 big names we’re hearing so far.
Northeast Philly State Rep. Brendan Boyle is in his third term as a legislator. He’s also a professor at Drexel University, an Aspen Institute fellow, and he recently finished serving a cycle as HDCC Chairman. His entire legislative district sits within the 13th congressional district, as does that of his brother State Rep. Kevin Boyle.
Two sources close to Boyle confirm he is “100% running” for the seat and has been preparing for a bid since Schwartz’s news surfaced. As an effective fundraiser, he is expected to have widespread support among many of the unions important in Philadelphia politics. Wayne Miller of Sprinklerfitters Local 692 said he thought Boyle could count on union support, too.
“If Brendan Boyle runs we will be 100% in support of him — the plumbers, the steamfitters, all of the building trades” said Miller. “With a district that’s 52% of Philadelphia, Brendan would be a front runner. If he wasn’t we wouldn’t be behind him. He would be great for Montgomery County and he would be great for Northeast Philadelphia. Hopefully he decides to run.”
While not as large as the Philadelphia portion of the district, Montgomery County still retains a sizeable and significant part of the 13th. A leading contender from the suburbs seems to be State Senator Daylin Leach. He’s been making calls and locking down support for a run for weeks.
A long time progressive champion, Leach has been in the legislature for over a decade. He has been outspoken on many liberal causes, including Marcellus drilling, gay marriage and marijuana legalization. He is considered by many to be the wittiest member of the legislature.
As the chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, he helped the party pick up 3 seats in the chamber and showed himself to be an able fundraiser. He lives just over the border in the 7th district, but many of his constituents overlap.
Josh Shapiro or Leslie Richards
Other Montgomery County names being mentioned for the 13th include current Montgomery County commissioners Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards.
Some believe Shapiro, 40 years old and a strong fundraiser, has had his eye on the seat. Others say that he has statewide rather than congressional ambitions. He’s only been in office for a year, he’s consistently getting good press, and many insiders believe that he wants to see through at least a full term before he runs for something else.
One political consultant said, “It doesn’t make sense for Shapiro to run for this because he has too much to lose and nothing to gain. Josh is already the executive of Montgomery County and is a leading candidate for US Senate in 2016 or Governor in 2018. Running for a majority Philadelphia-based US House seat wouldn’t do anything to help his statewide appeal.”
If he doesn’t run, Richards might. A former Whitemarsh Township supervisor and Shapiro’s running mate in their successful 2011 County Commissioner race, she has been notably low key so far during her tenure – but local insiders widely consider her a rising star.
Former City Controller Jonathan Saidel is another well-known Philadelphia name mentioned by insiders – and he the ability to fundraise. Saidel served as city controller before resigning in 2005 to run for mayor, a race from which he eventually withdrew. He lost narrowly to central PA State Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre) in the 2010 Democratic primary for Lt. Governor.
Saidel is well known and well-liked by party activists and has a long track record of involvement in Philadelphia machine politics.
Her seat in the House and rising influence there gives a run for statewide office a high opportunity cost. But she could try to thread the needle.
While the law precludes one person from serving in two offices, nothing says she can’t run for both (except political practicality). It’s unlikely that she could make a serious general election run for Gov, but she could choose to stay on the ballot for both offices through the primary. It would provide insurance against a Gov primary loss.
She told Capitolwire that she wasn’t inclined to run for both, but her answer left enough wiggle room for a primary maneuver as described above.
Q. Will you run for one office or for Congress and governor in 2014? Do you see yourself as choosing one or the other?
Schwartz: I do. I would be asking voters to be all-in for me. It’s really galvanizing people who share my hopes and expectations for Pennsylvania, to be all-in, and I would expect myself to be as well.
If she were to run in both primaries and win, then drop from the Congress race, local committee members from Philly and Montco would meet and vote to choose the nominee.]