Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Anybody running for Congress in Pennsylania’s 13th Congressional district.
Northeast Philadelphia State Rep. Brendan Boyle has opened up his Congressional advertising campaign with a TV spot (above) that showcases his working class roots and says he’s the only candidate in the Democratic primary who isn’t a millionaire.
That charge drew a sharp rebuke from State Sen. Daylin Leach, who yesterday unveiled an ad which leads with a dramatic portrayal of his time in foster care as a young child.
“I would have killed to have Brendan Boyle’s childhood, with an intact nuclear family,” Leach told me in a telephone interview. “He has no idea what it’s like to grow up like I grew up.”
Boyle and Leach are among four candidates contending for the Democratic nomination for the Pennsylvania Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who’s running for governor. Boyle is the only Philadelphia candidate in the district that includes parts of Montgomery County and northeast Philadelphia.
In a race in which the candidates agree on many policy issues, the contenders often seek to distinguish themselves with messages that feature their personal stories. Yesterday State Sen. Daylin Leach rolled out his ad which began with hardships he faced growing up. Physician Valerie Arkoosh casts herself as a problem-solving doctor and the only candidate who isn’t a professional politician. Former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies says she has insight, experience and relationships to do the job. She held the 13th Congressional seat 20 years ago.
Who’s a millionaire?
Boyle’s ad says that right now half the members of Congress are millionaires who “pay lower taxes than firefighters or teachers.” It’s a powerful message, but an important question is whether it’s true that all Boyle’s opponents are millionaires.
Candidates running for Congress have to file a more detailed financial disclosure statement than candidates for state office. Here’s what they show:
If you define being a millionaire has having net household assets worth more than $1million, both Leach and Arkoosh appear to meet the standard. Margolies appears to fall well short, though when she was married to Ed Mezvinsky years ago, the couple were clearly worth more than a million.
You can’t tell a candidate’s exact worth from the disclosures, but the federal forms require candidates to list assets (including those belonging to their spouses and dependent children) within specified value ranges, so you can get an idea. You can search for and view the disclosures here, though I find the site clunky.
Leach insists he’s “not a millionaire,” because the high-value assets on his disclosure form all belong to his wife. He said he has “no access” to those assets, and that his only income is his legislator’s salary. His wife, he said, “is none of Brendan Boyle’s business.”
Leach said he and his wife file seperate tax returns, though they have filed jointly in the past. More important, Leach said, Boyle has no business lecturing him about hard times.
“I was born and raised by a single mother. I was in foster homes for years. I was on welfare,” Leach said. “And suddenly I’m supposed to be Nelson Rockefeller who can’t understand the common man? I would have killed to have Brendan Boyle’s childhood.”
I contacted both the Arkoosh and Margolies campaigns to see if they wanted to respond to the Boyle ad. Neither has so far.
Boyle’s campaign says it has placed a buy of more than $100,000 to run the ad on cable networks over the next two weeks. Arkoosh’s campaign has bought $400,000 in broadcast air time for commercials to run in the last week before the May 20th primary.