Democratic congressional candidate Madeleine Dean and her daughter Stephanie were knocking on doors among neatly-trimmed lawns in Cheltenham Township yesterday when a steady rain started to fall.
Caught without an umbrella, Dean just held a clipboard over her head and kept going. When she introduced herself to Diane Ryan as she parked in her driveway, the startled Democrat said, “Hi, Madeleine — you should run to your car! And I’m voting for you on Tuesday.”
It was uplifting encounter.
Miles to the south, Molly Sheehan, a candidate in the 5th Congressional District was canvassing with her husband, Ian Yuan, in South Philadelphia.
John Mastrobuoni greeted her politely on 16th St. and said he could support “any candidate that’s truthful.”
A moment later I asked if he’d been following the race, and he said yes, he was a retired electrician working with the union that’s spent more than $300,000 supporting one of Sheehan’s rivals, Rich Lazer. No sale for Sheehan on this one.
Many of the 22 candidates in contested congressional primaries were doing some retail campaigning on the last weekend of what will likely be one of the consequential primary elections in years.
Rumble in Delco
Sheehan is one of 10 Democratic candidates competing in the new 5th District, which consists of all of Delaware County, and a piece of south and southwest Philadelphia.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court re-drew all 18 of the state’s Congressional boundaries after declaring them unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
The new 5th district leans Democratic, and since Republican Delaware County U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan decided to retire after facing a sexual harassment scandal, the race became an attractive one for Democratic aspirants.
Fourteen candidates filed for the race. Four have withdrawn, leaving voters with only 10 to get to know.
Jack Stollsteimer, chairman of the Haverford Township Democratic committee acknowledged in interview Friday the field can be confusing to voters.
“I think it’s confusing, but great,” Stollsteimer said. “The reality is that voters can’t say they don’t have a choice. This a reflection of people becoming active in the Democratic party and wanting to change things both in Washington and in Harrisburg.”
The candidates mostly share a common progressive Democratic agenda, and have sought to distinguish themselves by their experience and abilities.
Campaign polls have shown no one with as much as 25 percent of the vote, and a large number of undecided voters,
The Democratic candidates are Sheehan, Lazer, former prosecutor Ashley Lunkenheimer, financial analyst Lindy Li, attorney Mary Gay Scanlon, educator Larry Arata, state Rep. Margo Davidson, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, state Rep. Greg Vitali, and activist Theresa Wright.
The winner will take on former prosecutor Pearl Kim, who is unopposed in the Republican primary.
Change in MontCo
Dean, a three-term state representative from Abington, is running in the new 4th District in Montgomery County, which also leans Democratic.
Before the re-districting, Montgomery County was represented by five different members of Congress. None of the candidates in the race this year is an incumbent.
Dean faces two candidates in the Democratic primary – former U.S. Rep. and former county commissioner Joe Hoeffel, and leading gun control activist Shira Goodman.
State Rep. Mary Jo Daley also filed to run in the race, but withdrew in April, endorsing Dean.
Daley said staying in the primary would have led to a divisive battle, which she said could result in “blowing a rare occasion to send a strong, progressive woman from Pennsylvania to Washington.”
Skippack businessman Dan David is unopposed in the Republican primary.
Battle in Bucks
The new 1st District in Bucks County is the one in the region mostly like its former self, the former 8th District, where incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is running for re-election.
He’s challenged in the Republican primary by attorney Dean Malik, an enthusiastic supporter of President Trump.
A lively battle in the Democratic primary pits Rachel Reddick, a former Navy attorney who’s backed by the group Emily’s List, against independently wealthy philanthropist Scott Wallace and environmental activist Steve Bacher.
Unlike the other Democratic Congressional primaries, the Bucks County contest has been marked by harsh attacks between Reddick and Wallace. Wallace has attacked Reddick because she was formerly a Republican, and Reddick attacked Wallace’s wealth and years of living outside Bucks County.
Chester County Switch, and Philly races
Neither party has a contested primary in Chester County’s 6th District, but it appears likely November will bring a party switch to the seat.
The re-drawn 6th District is more Democrat-friendly, and the decision of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello to withdraw from the contest after having filed left the GOP with first-time candidate Greg McCauley alone on the ballot.
He’ll face Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, touted by national Democrats as a rising star in the party. She already had $1.5 million in her campaign fund as of the last reporting period. McCauley had less than $4,000.
In Philadelphia, incumbent U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle are running for re-election in districts that are substantially modified from the ones they now serve.
Both are facing under-funded challengers in the Democratic primary.
Pastor and nonprofit executive Kevin Johnson is challenging Evans in the 3rd District, and retired banker Michele Lawrence is running against Boyle in the 2nd District.