Is PA’s Most Progressive State Senator Running for U.S. Congress Good or Bad for PA Progressives?

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(Reblogged from Aaron DiDonato’s DailyKos diary)

With Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s run for Pennsylvania governor all but formally announced, state Senator Daylin Leach has entered the race for the seat currently held by her in Congress. But would the banner-waving progressive leaving the PA Legislature for the U.S. Congress be good or bad for the progressive movement in Pennsylvania?

After much speculation and some polling in her favor, Politico reported late last week that Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA 13th) will definitely be running in the Democratic primary for governor in 2014. While Pennsylvania Democrats must decide whether Schwartz is too left-wing or too right-wing to warrant the gubernatorial nomination, Pennsylvania progressives are faced with the prospect of losing one of our most reliable champions in state government and politics. State Senator Daylin Leach (17th District – Montgomery & Delaware counties) has called himself “Pennsylvania’s leading progressive state senator,” and showed how richly he deserves this label by introducing bills that would enact some of the most progressive public policies in the nation in Pennsylvania, including marijuana legalization, marriage equality, and mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Daylin Leach

And because his progressive credentials are so uniquely impeccable (I confess to sometimes thinking of him as the Bernie Sanders of the PA Senate), I’m forced to wonder what the effects on state government and politics would be if Leach were to win that U.S. Congress seat. What would the PA Senate be like with or without him, and what would the U.S. Congress be like with or without him? If my tone hasn’t given it away yet, I have to say, I’m leaning towards the opinion that he does more to bring the PA Legislature and state-wide political discourse to the left then he would do the same for the nation if he was in Congress. It’s true that the U.S. House of Representatives has recently lost some of its most celebrated lefties like Dennis Kucinich and Barney Frank, but they still have people like Alan Grayson staking out key left-wing policy positions and arguments.

Alan Grayson

Alan Grayson explaining Republicans’ health care reform proposals

Without Daylin Leach, the U.S. House is still going to have that progressive role fulfilled by members like Alan Grayson and the existence of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. But in the PA Senate, without Leach these public policy proposals considered far-left may never see the light of day or shake up our collective political discussions as a state. I don’t doubt that he could do a lot of good in the federal government, and I don’t fault him for trying to get to the next stage of his political career (especially if it leads to him running for governor someday), but I’m concerned that the absence of his unique voice from state government and politics will leave the progressive movement in Pennsylvania at a much greater loss than him not joining the chorus at the national level would leave the national progressive movement.

Here are some highlights of a conference call with reporters Leach held today to discuss his candidacy courtesy of Politics PA:

Why so early?“When you run for Congress, there’s an awful lot to do. You have to raise a lot of money, you have to reach out to 700,000-some people,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time. We’ve tried to be respectful of Allyson’s timeline.”

What of those who want better representation of women in Congress, seeking a woman to replace Schwartz?

“I don’t think every time a man and woman run against each other in America, the woman should necessarily win. I think it matters who the candidates are and what their records are.”

“I think in the last 30 years or so in the Pa. legislature, my record is second to none on women’s rights.”

“At the end of the day, look, I’m not a woman. That’s clear. I can never be a woman. But I have something to contribute and I have contributed toward the advancement of women’s rights in Pennsylvania and I think I can do that nationally.”

What kind of campaign will it be?

Leach said he’s spoken with all the prospective candidates in the race and promised a positive campaign.

“I am not running against anybody. I am running for the issues that I care about,” he said. “I’m not gonna focus on any other candidate. I’m not gonna go negative on other candidates.”

Will Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro run?

“I’m not gonna reveal the content of specific conversations. I do not know ultimately what Josh decides to do. I do not see any indication that Josh is interested in this seat at this point.”


Leach chairs the Pa. Senate Dems’ campaign committee, but said he’d take a hiatus during the heat of the congressional primary. As will Platt, the SDCC’s Executive Director. If he wins the primary, it will be sorted out then.

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

7 Responses to Is PA’s Most Progressive State Senator Running for U.S. Congress Good or Bad for PA Progressives?

  1. If Leach moving to the national stage hurts PA Democrats, doesn’t that speak badly of the Democrats ib Harrisburg?

    • Aaron says:

      Yes it does, part of the premise is that the PA Legislature has much weaker progressive infrastructure than the U.S. House does.

  2. Miketivist says:

    It would be nice to have a progressive in Schwartz’s seat.

    • Aaron says:

      Yeah, it would. I would not take it as a negative if he won it, I just hope there would be equally unabashedly radical progressive voices in the PA Legislature without him.

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