Elections (Archived)

Despite harassment allegations, Leach eyes run in redrawn 4th District

State Sen. Daylin Leach, right, shown here with Gov. Tom Wolf

State Sen. Daylin Leach, right, shown here with Gov. Tom Wolf

How long should someone accused of chronic sexual harassment drop out of the public eye? State Sen. Daylin Leach has decided that the answer to that question is about two weeks – maybe longer to relaunch a mothballed congressional campaign.

In mid-December, the Philadelphia Inquirer broke allegations that the pre-redistricted 7th Congressional District Democratic candidate had faced a string of harassment allegations from former campaign staffers. In the ensuing furor, Leach somberly announced that he would be “stepping back” from his campaign for higher office. Most of his campaign staff quickly made for the exits.

But some, including one of Leach’s accusers, say that the self-imposed suspension was a ruse – a calculated effort to keep Leach’s congressional ambitions simmering while outrage over his misconduct blew over. Others now believe that a new congressional map offered up by the PA Supreme Court will give Leach the chance he’s been waiting for to reboot his campaign.

“He’s being coy. I think it’s ludicrous,” said Emily, a political consultant who told the Inquirer in December that she had been groped by Leach. She agreed to speak on the condition that her last name not be used. “He’s continued to raise money after he ‘stepped back’ and even after his colleagues, like Gov. Wolf, called on him to resign.”

There is some evidence that Leach never intended to fully drop his bid. A year-end FEC filing shows that Leach continued to accept thousands of dollars in campaign donations in the weeks after the Inquirer story broke. By the end of December, Leach was back on social media, burnishing his brand by continuing to spout his trademark barbs skewering President Donald Trump.

Then, in early January, political consultant Adrienne Redd made a public announcement that she would be leaving her current job to “support” Leach’s “reactivated campaign for Congress.” 

A request for comment on the statement was provided by Lisa Longo, another political consultant who described herself as a “friend” performing unpaid communications work for Leach. She insisted that Leach’s campaign is still suspended and has no salaried employees and that Redd’s statement had been made in error.

But other political sources said Leach has continued to make campaign-style appearances. He was spotted at swearing-in ceremonies for Democratic candidates across the region last month. 

Leach was also back in the news in January for an ill-timed absence from a mandatory sexual harassment training session that he blamed on a prior commitment at the Pennsylvania Bar Association Midyear Meeting, held in Florida. But social media posts show that he did double duty that weekend, also appearing at a marijuana conference to promote his political advocacy for medical cannabis.

The likely catalyst for Leach’s potential re-emergence occurred on Monday, when the PA Supreme Court released new congressional maps that would allow Leach to jump out of a crowded PA-7 race and into a redrawn 4th Congressional District with few other established Democratic challengers. If the map survives GOP challenges, former primary foes like lawyer Dan Muroff will migrate to a new 5th District, leaving Leach with a district that encompasses most of Montgomery County, overlapping much of his state Senate district.

Leach did not respond to interview requests but told the Inquirer on Tuesday that he was still mulling a run.

Earlier, he had taken to social media, linking to news stories about the map while cryptically mentioning that he was trying to “assimilate and figure out this new world.” Meanwhile, he made winking offers to visit supportive voters located within the new 4th Congressional district.

Leach would have an advantage given both his name recognition in the new district and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s already raised for a run. But he is unlikely to run unopposed in the new district’s Democratic primary – Ceasefire PA executive director Shira Goodman plans to run for the seat, and state Rep. Mary Jo Daley also filed paperwork today for a run in the district. Christina Hartman, a consultant for nonprofits who recently challenged Lancaster Republican Lloyd Smucker, is also floating her name for PA-4.

Joe Foster, of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, did not return a call for comment on whether local Dems would support Leach again. The state party said that it would not back Leach.

"Democrats throughout the commonwealth are very proud of the new Code of Conduct addressing discrimination and harassment we passed at our recent state committee meeting. It establishes a clear and comprehensive standard of conduct for all Pennsylvania Democrats to abide by and we shall appropriately and accordingly hold all our candidates accountable to it," wrote Jack Hanna, interim chair of the PA Democratic Party. "In light of the allegations against him and the Code’s standards, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party asserts that Senator Leach should reconsider his decision and not run for Congress."

Further, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already inferred that it would not support candidates like Leach.
“Members and candidates must all be held to the highest standard,” DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly said in a statement, shortly after the allegations against Leach became public. “If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that person should not hold public office.”

Gwen Snyder, a political organizer involved in a recent push to oust PA Democratic Party chair Marcel Groen over his torpid reaction to the Leach allegations, said the optics of Leach breaking back into a congressional race against a slew of female candidates were impossible to overlook.

“We're past the era of voters ignoring or willfully overlooking the kind of sexual misconduct that Sen. Leach stands accused of,” she said. “There are so many strong, progressive women leaders in Montgomery County, and they have no patience for sexism and sexual misconduct.”

Emily, one of Leach’s accusers, was similarly unenthusiastic about the prospect of a renewed candidacy. For her, the situation had hardly blown over.

“I believe in redemption and reconciliation. But there has to be a reckoning; there have to be consequences,” she said. “I’m not calling for his head, but I’ve never gotten an apology. I don’t think he’s learned anything.”