Updated: 2:04 p.m.
Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach has officially ended his congressional bid.
The Montgomery County Democrat announced his decision in a Facebook post late Saturday night, more than two months after the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reported that multiple women had accused him of inappropriate touching and making sexually-suggestive jokes.
Following the accusations, Leach announced he was “taking a step back” from his congressional campaign. Within weeks, his campaign manager had moved to another candidate.
In last night’s Facebook post, Leach said he was ending his congressional bid because he did not want to disrupt the lives of his two teenage children, and he cited “attacks” on his family, despite his efforts “to listen and learn” over the past few months.
“Some people, most of whom I have never met and don’t know anything about me personally, seem unwilling to accept that,” he wrote. “I typically do not back down from a challenge, but the more these individuals direct attacks at my family — including my children – the more we, as a family asked, ‘is this worth it?’ and ‘what’s the big payoff?’
“I find myself looping back to how unappealing Congress has become, and I think about the life experience I want our 17 and 15-year-old children to have as they go through the stress of adolescence and applying for college,” he added. “I don’t want to spend their last years of childhood at a Quality Inn in DC, or making four hours of fundraising calls a day. I’ve decided it is just not worth it.”
Despite calls from fellow Democrats to step down, including Gov. Tom Wolf, Leach says he will continue to serve in the Pennsylvania Senate.
A changing race
Leach had originally announced plans to run for the bizarrely-shaped 7th Congressional District, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan.
Since then, Meehan’s campaign and the district itself have vanished.
Meehan decided not to seek re-election after it emerged he’d settled a sexual harassment claim from a former staff member. And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has redrawn the state’s congressional map after finding the previous districts constitute an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
The old 7th District — which included parts of Delaware, Montgomery, and three other counties — has been replaced by more compact districts, including a new 4th District centered in Montgomery County, where Leach lives.
If Leach were in the race and undamaged by the sexual misconduct allegations, he would likely be seen as the frontrunner, given his 15-year career in the Legislature, his visible advocacy for progressive causes, and his unsuccessful run for Congress four years ago.
His absence from the race makes it a more appealing prospect for newcomers, setting up an unpredictable, multi-candidate primary battle.
Among the Democrats who’ve announced their candidacies for that new district are two state representatives, Mary Jo Daley and Madeleine Dean, and Shira Goodman, executive director of the gun control advocacy group CeaseFire PA.
Dean had previously announced plans to run for lieutenant governor.
All of the candidates will find themselves challenged to put together a campaign organization and raise money in a compact time frame. Nominating petitions are due on March 20, and the primary is on May 15, less than three months away.
Dean had raised $270,000 for the lieutenant governor’s race as of Dec. 31, but she can’t simply spend that on her congressional campaign, which is subject to federal contribution limits. She can ask her donors to contribute to her new congressional committee, subject to a limit of $2,700 per individual contributor.
There’s also the possibility that a federal court could overturn the state Supreme Court’s order re-drawing the congressional lines. Republican lawmakers have filed two separate suits arguing that the court had no authority to impose new district boundaries.
That could mean that the 2018 primary elections would be conducted under the old boundaries, sending candidates scrambling to decide which district to run in, or whether to bow out of the contest.
It’s all but certain that any federal court order restoring the old districts would be appealed, delaying a final determination and making the campaign schedule even more compressed. Most analysts agree that the new map offers Democrats numerous chances to flip Republican districts to their side as the national Democratic Party seeks to capture control of the House of Representatives.
True to himself
Leach didn’t show a lot of contrition for his alleged sexual misconduct in his statement withdrawing from the race. He addressed it only by saying that he now knows he’s been “profoundly naive” about some things, and that he’s “making a dedicated effort to listen and learn.”
He finished with a touch of the ironic humor the former stand-up comedian is known for.
“I wish all of the other candidates well,” Leach said. “I hope they all win.”
Katie Colaneri contributed reporting.