Two Democratic members of Congress are endorsing a primary challenger to incumbent State Sen. Daylin Leach, in perhaps the most contentious state race in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon of Delaware County and Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County said Wednesday they were backing Amanda Cappelletti over Leach in Pennsylvania’s 17th Senate District.
It’s unusual for sitting members of Congress to actively campaign against an incumbent lawmaker of the same party. The development underscores the controversy surrounding Leach, who has faced allegations of inappropriate behavior that brought Pennsylvania one of its first #MeToo moments.
“People who call the 17th State Senate District home deserve representation from a public servant who is committed to putting the values of their constituents before themselves. I believe that Amanda is that person,” Scanlon said in a statement. “She brings with her a new voice for this community and a commitment to fighting for the values that bind us, from ensuring our children have good public schools to protecting access to affordable healthcare."
Dean added that Cappelletti “is a breath of fresh air that combines her professional accomplishments and passion for public service.”
Their endorsements came a day after Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced his support for Cappelletti, vice chair of the East Norriton Board of Supervisors and a former director of policy at Planned Parenthood.
Cappelletti also won the endorsement last month of the Delaware County Democrats. She fell a few votes short of the threshold needed to win an endorsement in Montgomery County.
A spokesperson for Leach’s campaign said the senator was “focused on the public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus situation.”
“The decision is ultimately going to be made by the voters and we are not currently focused on political endorsements,” the spokesperson said.
Leach, a longtime champion of progressive causes, started facing calls for his resignation among some Democrats in late 2017 amid allegations that he inappropriately touched female former staffers and made highly sexualized jokes. Leach denied wrongdoing.
Those calls grew over the last year as a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1991, when she was 17. Leach has denied the allegation and sued the woman for defamation.
An investigation commissioned by Senate Democrats last year found that Leach at times engaged in humor that was at times “unquestionably sexual in nature.” Investigators also said his conduct fell short of violating federal workplace discrimination law. They did not form a conclusion on the assault allegation.
The primary election is April 28.