Like father, like son? MontCo attorney to run for retiring dad’s Pa. Senate seat

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Stewart Greenleaf Jr., a Republican attorney, announces he will run for the 12th District state Senate seat his father will vacate; his wife Heather by his side. (Dana DiFilippo/WHYY)

Stewart Greenleaf Jr., a Republican attorney, announces he will run for the 12th District state Senate seat his father will vacate; his wife Heather by his side. (Dana DiFilippo/WHYY)

Two days after one of Pennsylvania’s longest serving state lawmakers — state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf  — said he won’t seek re-election, his son Stewart Greenleaf Jr. announced he wants his dad’s seat.

Stewart Greenleaf Jr., 39, a Republican attorney and married father of two, served as Montgomery County controller from 2012 through 2015. He was just a baby in 1979, the year his father first was elected in the 12th District, which straddles Bucks and Montgomery counties.

Stewart Greenleaf Jr., a Republican attorney, announces he will run for the 12th District state Senate seat his father will vacate. His wife Heather, children Stewart, 9, and Alice, 7, and puppy Penny joined him for the announcement. (Dana DiFilippo/WHYY)

He said he doesn’t expect to coast to easy victory on the strength of his name.

While he applauded his father’s achievements — saying he plans to continue fighting for criminal justice reforms as his father did — he listed education funding and county pension reform as his priorities.

“The voters are going to have to decide whether they want this Greenleaf to serve them in the Senate,” the younger Greenleaf said Wednesday from the dining room of his Willow Grove home, as his wife, Heather, children Stewart, 9, and Alice, 7, and puppy Penny (short for Pennsylvania) stood by in support. “I have a few gray hairs, but I don’t think anyone’s going to confuse me with my father.”

Still, he sounds like his father.

Wednesday, he explained his political philosophy to reporters this way: “It can’t be about politics. It can’t be about Republican ideas. It can’t be about Democratic ideas. It’s got to be about ideas that work.”

On Monday, Greenleaf Sr. said something similar in announcing his decision not to run for re-election: “My mantra has always been that there is no Republican or Democrat idea, that ideas shouldn’t be pigeonholed as liberal or conservative. Ideas that are good for our community deserve to be supported.” He’s one of several Pennsylvania lawmakers to announce in recent weeks they won’t seek another term.

Greenleaf Jr. is one of at least two candidates to announce their intentions, so far, to run in the 12th. The filing period runs from Feb. 13 through March 6.

Democrat Maria Collett, a nurse and attorney from Lower Gwynedd, announced Tuesday that she plans to run too to bring “fresh ideas to Harrisburg, where smart decisions and thoughtful discourse can lead Pennsylvania to the forefront of progressive change.” Collett couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. But on her website, she listed her priorities as transparency and accountability; affordable health care; and public education funding.

The elder Greenleaf, 78, is one of the state’s busiest legislators: He was the prime sponsor of more bills that became law than any other state lawmaker, according to the Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau.

Among his successes: He sponsored Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, intended to protect children from sexual predators, and the Puppy Lemon Law, which enables consumers to recover losses from breeders who sell them sick dogs. He also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and authored the constitutional amendment that allows child witnesses to testify via closed-circuit television.

He said he plans to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.

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