THIS SPRING, state Rep. Brendan Boyle, 37, triumphed in the nationally watched Democratic primary for the U.S. congressional seat being vacated by Allyson Schwartz. Having come from behind in a field of four quality candidates, Boyle is expected to win easily against Republican Dee Adcock this November in the heavily Democratic 13th District, which straddles Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
Boyle sat down in his Somerton district office with Daily News writer Sean Collins Walsh to talk about how he became Philly's likely next congressman and why that was only the third biggest event in his life this year.
Q Early conventional wisdom, which always seems to fail, was that former U.S. Rep. and Clinton-in-law Marjorie Margolies was the front-runner. When did you realize that you had a real shot?
We did our first poll in early June of 2013, and we were down by 32 points. So we just went systematically, literally door-to-door. I held over 225 campaign events personally, and by the time we had polled again, the first week of March, we had pulled within one point of Margolies.
Q So you knew it was neck-and-neck more than two months out.
Yeah, and our thought was, "Let's release the poll publicly. This will boost our fundraising." But then we thought more carefully and said, "You know, we just might have the advantage here. They may not know how close this is."
Q You've talked about this being the most expensive congressional primary in the country this year. How do you feel about the role that money played in this race?
I have very mixed feelings about it. Before this campaign happened, I had been a supporter of publicly financed elections. I even have that view more strongly now.
So I have to play the game as the rules are written, but as a lawmaker with the opportunity to rewrite those laws, I would be on the side of strong publicly financed elections.
Q In your early runs for state House, you came up in opposition to the party ward structure and cast yourself as anti-establishment or reform-minded. Is that a role you still embrace?
It's absolutely a role that I embrace and that both my brother (state Rep. Kevin Boyle) and I feel strongly about. Ten years ago, we were certainly not the ward leaders' choice, and some of those same ward leaders 10 years later were for Margolies.
In order to transform the political culture of Philadelphia, we need to get more people in the system who have public-policy backgrounds, who are interested in public service for the right reasons.
Q You received a good amount of support from the electricians union and its leader, John Dougherty. How do you square being a reformer with being associated with "Johnny Doc," who for many people is the embodiment of insider politics in Philly?
I think that people know that I am who I am and I take positions because I genuinely believe in them. I had overwhelming support from organized labor in part because I had been a champion for working families.
Q As chairman of the Democratic City Committee, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady runs the ward system that you came up in opposition to. Now you'll have to work closely with him in Congress. What's your relationship like?
Bob has been nothing but helpful since I won. I don't doubt that we will be able to work well. His best skill is the ability to bring people together from different sides. We need more folks with that skill set.
Q Aside from your congressional campaign, I understand you've had some other big news this year. How old is your daughter now?
She was 7 months on Aug. 2. It was the most surreal year of my life, between the death of my mother [in October] and the birth of my daughter.
I ended up running and winning for Congress, and that was only the third-most important thing in my life the last 12 months.
Q What committee assignments do you plan to pursue if you win in November?
Anything where I can be a positive voice on tax reform. We have a company right here in Northeast Philadelphia, the former Nabisco plant, that is looking to move and layoff 320 workers because they're building a plant in Monterrey, Mexico, and our tax system actually rewards them for doing that. That's wrong.
Q Then the Boulevard won't smell like cookies anymore.
I love that smell, when you can tell what they're cooking.