Rendell backs Scanlon for Congress in redrawn Delaware County district

Mary Gay Scanlon, running to represent the newly redrawn 5th Congressional District, gets the endorsement of former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Mary Gay Scanlon, running to represent the newly redrawn 5th Congressional District, gets the endorsement of former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. (Emma Le/WHYY)

It isn’t easy to stand out in a congressional race if you’re one of 14 candidates on the ballot.

Delaware County Democratic congressional candidate Mary Gay Scanlon hopes she’s found one way — a brand-name endorsement.

Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and former mayor of Philadelphia, publicly endorsed Scanlon in the primary for the 5th Congressional District seat Wednesday, calling her “as good a citizen-soldier candidate as I have seen.”

Rendell knows Scanlon from her decades directing pro bono work at Ballard Spahr, the same mega-law firm where Rendell parked after he finished two terms as Philadelphia mayor in 2000.

Scanlon is a former member of the Wallingford-Swarthmore school board.

The newly redrawn 5th District is mostly Delaware County, but Scanlon held her endorsement event in South Philadelphia, which comprises a small chunk of the district and where rival Rich Lazer has a base among construction unions.

Scanlon said she’s ready for the challenge.

“I’ve lived in Delaware County for 25 years, but I’ve been practicing law in Philadelphia for longer than that,” she said. “I have contacts and connections across the entire region, so I am not conceding any part of this district.”

Rendell’s endorsement probably isn’t a game-changer, but as mayor he was very popular in Philadelphia — and even more popular in the suburbs.

He’s featured in ads Scanlon’s campaign is now running on cable television and online.

The battle for the Democratic nomination attracted several candidates last year, before incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan bowed out of the race after it emerged he’d settled a complaint over sexual harassment.

The nomination became even more attractive after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew all of the state’s congressional boundaries, putting Delaware County into a new district that’s more favorable terrain for Democrats.

Scanlon was among the last of the field to enter the race. She said there’s a reason for that.

“Last year, I didn’t live in this district. I had been gerrymandered out of the district centered in Delaware County,” she said, adding that she thought she could do more good directing the firm’s pro bono work toward progressive causes.

When the district changed, she said, it was time to take her issues to Congress.

The other Democratic candidates for the seat are Dan Muroff, Molly Sheehan, Shelly Chauncey, George Badey, David Wertime, Ashley Lunkenheimer, Larry Arata, Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, state Rep. Margo Davidson, state Rep. Greg Vitali, Lindy Li, and Theresa Wright.

After a Wednesday debate hosted by the Delaware County Democratic Party, party committeepeople will meet in a convention on Sunday to determine if any candidate has enough support for a formal endorsement.

Attorney Pearl Kim has already won the support of the Delaware County Republican Party.

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