Marjorie Margolies said she is running to represent Pennsylvania’s 13th district in the U.S. House, hoping to recapture the seat she lost two decades ago after a controversial vote, because Washington needs a woman’s touch.
“The public is speaking, saying, ‘Stop it. Get things done. Stop acting like children,” Margolies said in an interview Thursday, speaking of the dysfunction of Congress.
Then-Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky cast the deciding vote in the summer of 1993 to enact President Bill Clinton’s economic plan, which increased taxes $241 billion. Much of the burden fell on wealthy taxpayers, but there was also a hike in the gas tax, and she had promised in her 1992 campaign to oppose tax increases. Voters booted her in 1994.
Margolies (she uses her maiden name after a divorce) defends the costly vote as the right thing to have done. “That set up the environment for the greatest growth in jobs since World War II,” she said.
Since leaving the House, Margolies, 70, has been head of Women’s Campaign International, which develops female leaders in the developing world and works on education and health-care issues affecting women and girls. “I wouldn’t call it seamless, but I’ve been working on health-care issues, education issues, environmental issues around the world, and going back into Congress is not that big a leap,” she said.
The juice of the Clinton family, just offstage, is one factor in the race that has been drawing attention. Margolies can bank on the ex-president’s gratitude for rescuing his economic plan and buttressing his young presidency at a crucial political point, but she’s also a member of the family. Son Marc Mezvinsky married Chelsea Clinton, the former first daughter, in 2010.
“In the primary in ’92 I didn’t run on Bill Clinton’s coattails, and I won’t this time either,” Margolies said. Asked whether she’d turn down help from her powerful relatives if offered, Margolies laughed and said, “fair point.”
Elected in the “Year of the Woman,” 1992, when a record number of women were elected to Congress, Margolies suggested it is no coincidence that the Family and Medical Leave Act and an assault weapons ban passed shortly afterward.
The seat is coming open because incumbent U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D), first elected in 2006, is running for governor in 2014 and will not seek reelection to the House.
Several Democrats have already announced or are exploring the race: State Sen. Daylin Leach and physician Valerie Arkoosh of Montgomery, as well as state Rep. Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia.
Seventy percent of the 13th District's territory is new from when Margolies represented it after two rounds of decennial redistricting. It is now a safe seat for the Democrats, and a majority of its registered Democrats now reside in Northeast Philadelphia.
Back then, the 13th district took in 73 percent of Montgomery. “It was 2.48 to 1 Republican in registration,” Margolies said. It's partisan voting index as of 1994 was +4 Republican
Margolies said that she is the same person who won in the swing district: a moderate Democrat, interested in working across the aisle.