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Jewish Lawmaker Seeks Seat in Congress

April 1, 2013 By:
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State Sen. Daylin Leach hopes to become a member of Congress.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, the Upper Merion Jewish lawmaker known almost as much for his irreverent observations on social media as for his liberal stands on a host of issues, plans to run for Congress.

Leach, 51, planned to hold a Tuesday news conference to announce his candidacy for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is widely expected to give up her seat to run for governor.

According to the email sent out by Leach for Congress, “Incumbent Rep. Allyson Schwartz has announced she will not be seeking re-election to Congress.” But she apparently hasn’t yet made an official announcement.

A source close to the congresswoman said that while Schwartz "plans to open a state-level gubernatorial account in the next few weeks, she has not yet made an official announcement. Schwartz has publicly acknowledged that she won't run in both races.” 

Leach, who has a decidedly non-Jewish sounding name, likes to suprise Jewish audiences by revealing that he’s a member of the tribe. In fact, he became a Bar Mitzvah at an Orthodox synagogue in Allentown. But now Leach, who is married to an Armenian-American, identifies more closely with Reform Judaism.

The congressional district is roughly evenly split between Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County. According to several sources, Leach resides just outside the boundaries of the district. He is not legally required to live in the district, though it could prove an obstacle to winning a difficult Democratic primary. The winner of a spring 2014 primary will be virtually assured to win a general election in November of that year.

Since the buzz really picked up two months ago that Schwartz was seriously mulling over a run for governor, there’s been plenty of speculation about who would run for her House seat. One possible contender is State Rep. Brendan Boyle, a 36-year-old from Northeast Philadelphia. Boyle and Leach both recently took part in a mission to Israel that was funded in part by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. It was the second time Leach went on a Federation-sponsored mission to the Jewish state.

Other Jewish names have been mentioned as well, including former Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel, who still has a strong following in the Northeast. 

Some have pointed to Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro as a potential candidate: Though he hasn’t addressed his plans directly, reports have said he expects to serve a full term in his current office. Fellow commissioner Leslie Richards, also Jewish, has also been mentioned.

At least one other candidate, a non-office holder, is already in the race. Valerie Arkoosh, a Democratic health care activist and anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has filed papers to run. 

Leach, a lawyer by trade, won election to the state House in 2002 and, six years later, won a State Senate seat after the retirement of Connie Williams. He’s strongly in favor of legalizing gay marriage and decriminalizing marajuana use. He’s also strongly opposed to creating a school voucher system in the state.

In typical Leach fashion, he sort of announced his candidacy on Facebook by using a multiple-choice format. Followers were told they could expect an announcement that, he is starting a new campaign,   joining the Miami Heat, changing his name to Phyllis or he “will turn down the Nobel Peace Prize as a protest against not being offered it.”

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