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Map: PA-13 Democratic Primary

The hotly contested Democratic primary election for Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district was one of most noteworthy congressional primaries in the country. The contentious campaign featured four well-funded candidates, including three with significant political experience.

However, State Representative Brendan Boyle’s decisive win on election night left many observers wondering whether or not the primary was ever legitimately competitive. Boyle received 40.61% of the vote, finishing well in front of former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies (27.41%), State Senator Daylin Leach (16.60%), and Dr. Valerie Arkoosh (15.38%).

PoliticsPA took an in-depth look at the PA-13 Democratic primary election results to understand the dynamics behind Boyle’s strong victory.

Unsurprisingly, geography and party unity played the decisive role in determining the PA-13 Democratic primary election results.

Whereas Margolies (Wynnewood), Leach (Wayne), and Arkoosh (Wyndmoor) all hailed from Montgomery County, Boyle was Philadelphia’s only candidate, and the results reflected this split.

While Boyle finished in last place in Montgomery County with 16.05% of the vote, running far behind Margolies (35.34%), Leach (26.53%), and Arkoosh (22.04%), he crushed his opponents in Philadelphia. Boyle took 69.37% of the vote in the City, finishing well ahead of Margolies (18.10%), Arkoosh (7.58%), and Leach (4.96%).

The map below shows the Democratic primary results for PA-13 broken down by municipality in Montgomery County. Municipalities won by Boyle are shown in red, Margolies in blue, Leach in purple, and Arkoosh in green. A light shade represents a victory by plurality, and a dark shade represents a victory by majority.

13th District Primary Map

As expected, candidates showed strength in their respective home bases. Boyle decisively won Northeast Philadelphia and the Borough of Rockledge in Montgomery County (the only portion of Montgomery County located in his State House district).

Leach was criticized for living in a portion of Upper Merion Township located in the neighboring 7th congressional district, yet still won every municipality located in both PA-13 and his Senate district, other than Plymouth Township. Leach also won Ambler, which borders his Senate district.

Arkoosh, from Springfield Township, won her home township handily. She also won nearby Jenkintown.

Finally, Margolies, who lives outside of the district in Lower Merion Township, won the portions of Montgomery County not located in any other candidate’s home region. Margolies’ strength countywide was likely due to her having represented most of the current PA-13 for a single term in the 1990s.

Above all else, the 2014 Democratic primary election results in PA-13 should serve as a lesson that party unity and political geography matter as much as any other factor in a heated primary contest – and possibly more.

A single Montgomery County candidate theoretically could have won the Democratic primary in the 13th district because Montgomery County voters cast 53.9% of the district’s votes, and Montgomery County candidates combined for almost 60% of the vote district-wide.

Unfortunately for the Montgomery County Democratic Party, what allowed for a Philadelphia Democrat to win the seat was that three Montgomery County candidates ran and split the county’s votes. Even if Arkoosh had not run and Margolies would have somehow won all of her votes, their combined vote total still falls 1,988 votes behind Boyle’s.

It is likely that Montgomery County Democrats would have had to unite behind a single candidate in order to defeat a Philadelphia candidate. However, unlike in Philadelphia where State Rep. Mark Cohen dropped his bid and supported Boyle, all three MontCo candidates stayed in the race until the end. This almost certainly doomed any of the Montgomery County candidates’ chances from the very start of the race.

17 Responses

  1. I’m glad Brendan won and sincerely hope his switch to being prochoice is legit. He’s a great guy and will look out for the middle class better than anyone. That said, I hope his switch to choice isn’t a Sally Langston from Scandal move and he renegs on it later. I would have voted Leach had I lived in the district, but to have Boyle over economic Republican lite Margolies is HUGE! I sincerely don’t think he’s dumb enough because he could be branded a flip flop easily and if a Montco woman decides to run against him on it with a clear field, he would lose with getting some Union votes and Notre Dame fan middle aged and older votes while someone like Arkoosh would get everyone else. Hell if Daylin Leach has a clear field and actually came out more with marijuana legalization, Boyle would be left with white Catholics in Northeast Philly over 65 and no one else! He best better watch his votes but I support him… for now.

  2. A quick look at the district map makes me cringe. The pols say “Let’s make sure we all have safe districts”. The citizens have no real choice in the general elections.

  3. The real conclusion is the need for smarter redistricting in 2020. Why is this a Democtratic battle and why will there not be a single Montgomery County resident in Congress next year? The county was carved up into safe Republican and Democratic districts. We need to reform the Legislature in Harrisburg to bring about common sense non-partisan legislative districts as several other states have done.

  4. Also just wanted to say Boyle ran a great campaign. He focused on get out the vote efforts in Philly part of the district where he was well known and none of the other candidates had a base. The other three candidates split the vote in Montco and he raised a decent amount of money. He ran a smart race and that is why he won the primary.

  5. @ Jules: Anti-public school and anti-choice? Are you kidding me? Good grief, the primary is over. Vigorous opposition to Corbett led education cuts and voting overwhelmingly in favor of measures supported by Planned Parenthood means you’re full of it. And regarding a challenger in 2016, Boyle would crush any one Montco candidate by cleaning up in Philly (he won 69% in a 4 way primary, so you can imagine what he’d pull as an incumbent) and winning incumbent style numbers in Montco once Montco voters become familiar with a Congressman Boyle.

    @ JDF, your remarks excuse yourself from being taken seriously, so kindly go retreat back to your dark corner.

  6. This is a really good analysis of the primary and well written as well. Wolf and Stack won because they had the most money the earliest then spent it and thus got their name recognition well above their opponents. In PA-13 each of the candidates was reasonably well funded and three of the four had run for public office before so they were already well know either district wide or in certain areas so money was less of a factor. Additionally running in a statewide primary is different than running in a congressional district primary. In a statewide race money for television to boost name recognition and favorability is key so things such as field operations and local geographic connections/concerns are not as important. The opposite is true in a small area like a congressional district. Anyway nice article and analysis.

  7. This article is an overreach on the importance of geography. If geography is destiny please explain the results for Governor and Lt Gov. Wolf rolled up impressive victories in SE PA against 3 Philly area candidates. He won Philly. He did great in all four collar counties. Philly’s Mike Stack won counties in the heart of the T against a candidate from there and won areas of the SW against their former member of Congress. Boyle won for a host of reasons and it’s foolish to not emphasize the campaign he ran.

  8. I think extrapolating from a small number of votes in the PA house that Brendan Boyle will be a right-wing conservative member of the US House is an erroneous calculation. Having known him for over a decade, and having known his late mother since the early 1980’s, I am confident that he will be a broad based mainstream Democrat who will well represent the entire Congressional district, just as Robert Casey has constantly worked to represent the entire state as a US Senator.

  9. Perhaps the Montco Dems can get their act together and nominate a progressive over Boyle in 2016. I can’t believe that our district is about to be represented by a conservative, anti-choice, anti-public school, Democrat for the next two years. What a sad state of affairs it is for the majority of this solidly Democratic district.

  10. Boyle’s 69% in the city was way above and beyond what was expected of him especially with Margolies support from five ward leaders. So was his 16% in the burbs. I think the Opposing camps thought Brendan would do 40-45% in philly and 5-7% in Montco. They majorly underestimated the breadth of Boyle’s enormous city support particularly outside his pa 170 and his bro’s 172 base….. A great win for a great guy.


  12. An important lesson for the people of Montco and a cruel punishment besides. Boyle is the worst kind of Democrat (if not the worst kind of person) and progressives are going to weep as he will vote consistently with the other side on issues of social importance. (and probably won’t do much for the district besides.)

  13. Best article yet on this subject. Interesting that Arkoosh won Jenkintown. McCarter delivered.

  14. A fantastic write up. Hopefully, this election was a valuable lesson to the Montco Dems.

  • Does the NYC Verdict Make You More or Less Likely to Vote For Trump in 2024?

    • Less Likely (36%)
    • More Likely (34%)
    • Makes No Difference (30%)

    Total Voters: 112

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