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State Rep. Madeleine Dean and businessman Dan David contend to represent Montco’s newly drawn congressional district

Pennsylvania Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, is looking for a promotion from voters to go to Congress. She is facing Republican businessman Dan David in the race for the newly drawn Fourth Congressional District seat. The race has heated up in recent weeks with David attacking Dean over her husband's bicycle business and questionable investors.

Democrat Madeleine Dean and Republican Dan David are running for the newly drawn Fourth Congressional District seat.
Democrat Madeleine Dean and Republican Dan David are running for the newly drawn Fourth Congressional District seat.Read moreDAVID SWANSON AND TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS

Glenside resident Bill Holden felt his stomach turn when he saw President Trump on television mocking Christine Blasey Ford's testimony that she had been sexually assaulted by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

"You just sit there and you say, 'You know what? If you are going to talk about women like that, then maybe you need to step outside with me, because you need to get your butt straightened out,'" said Holden, 62, a tile setter who has three daughters and six granddaughters.

But instead, he said, he plans to vote for someone who promises to stand up to Trump in the House: Democrat Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania state representative. She is running against Republican Dan David, a financial research firm owner.

On the other side of Montgomery County, Lansdale resident Wini Hayes was hosting a fundraiser for David and said she thought it was "atrocious" how Kavanaugh was treated following Ford's accusations. Hayes' friend Jane Groben, 69, agreed and said she liked that Trump stood by Kavanaugh during "this horrendous circus."

And so, unlike Holden, they want someone in Congress who will work alongside the president: David.

Dean and David are running for the open seat in the new Fourth Congressional District, carved from pieces of others in Montgomery County when the state Supreme Court ordered redistricting in February to correct partisan gerrymandering.

In the the new district, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about nearly 50,000 and Hillary Clinton carried the territory in 2016 by about 20 percentage points. If Dean wins, she would be at least one of two women from the Philadelphia suburbs to break into the male-only Pennsylvania congressional delegation.

Both candidates have been campaigning full time, knocking on thousands of doors, holding town halls, and speaking at forums. Dean, 59, is a lifelong Montgomery County resident and lawyer who for the last six years has represented Abington and Upper Dublin in the state House.

David, 49, is a native of Flint, Mich., who moved to Montgomery County 25 years ago; he has owned his firm in Skippack for more than a decade. It is his first time running for office.

In Montgomery County, the second wealthiest in the state by per capita income, voters in both parties tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

At a recent debate at Keneseth Israel Reform Congregation in Elkins Park, the candidates sparred over immigration, the environment, and health care, with the latter taking up the most talking time and the biggest difference between the two candidates.

"What Obamacare did was deal with accessibility without dealing with cost," David said. "We need to deal with the cost, we can't just continue to spend money and write a blank check."

David said costs can be controlled, in part, by capping the amount of money patients can get from suing a doctor for malpractice. He said that doctors overprescribe tests for fear of being sued.

Dean said she would like to allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, as well as open Medicare to people between 55 and 65 years old.

People "are worried about access to health care, they are worried about the cost of their premiums, the cost of prescription drugs, and they worry about falling through the cracks," she said.

When a question about preexisting conditions came up, Dean said she wants to make sure everyone has a right to health care. "After all, I'm a woman. Maybe that's a preexisting condition. I'm not sure."

Some in the crowd laughed, others booed.

In his rebuttal, David said that all preexisting conditions should be covered and then said Dean's comment was an example of "over-correction in our society."

"What I've heard over and over this past month is, 'I'm not going to vote for you because you're a man.' Not because you're a Republican, not a Democrat, but because you're a man," he said. "This kind of rhetoric is unproductive, and it's not helping women and uplifting women…. It's pitting women against men, and I'm against it."

At a fundraiser a few days later, David said that in the weeks preceding and following the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, he heard the same message from several women: they don't care what his background or political affiliation is, they just want a woman in office.

"It's horrible," he said.

Suburban women, many opposed to Trump according to polls, are considered the key voting bloc in the midterms.

David promotes his finance background and expertise on China (the documentary The China Hustle was based on his work) as reason for voters to elect him. He says that while all politics are local, there is an increasing threat from global economies, in particular China, that needs to be addressed.

He has attacked Dean on her husband's retail bicycle business, which purchases bikes made in China. David said it's hypocritical for Dean to promote a $15 minimum wage when her husband's business, Advanced Sports Inc., is buying from a Taiwan-based manufacturer that pays workers $2.20 an hour in its China plant. That same manufacturer, IdealBike, has also invested $20 million in Advanced Sports. He has called for Dean to release the names of foreign investors in her husband's associated company, Jadeland Pacific.

"I want to remind my opponent … he is running against me and my record of public service — not my husband — and my ideas," Dean said.

In an interview, Dean dismissed questions about low wages in China, saying that her husband's firm is not paying those wages and that she is not involved in the business. She stands by a $15 minimum wage.

Like many other Democratic candidates, Dean has taken a page out of the Bernie Sanders playbook, calling for free community college. She said that if the federal government was able to afford the most recent round of tax cuts, which she says benefited mostly the rich, then it could fund community college for everyone.

"It's all about priorities," she said.

David rejects the idea of paying for community college for everyone. At a town hall meeting in Conshohocken, he said students with good grades and test scores should get free rides.

"But don't tell me someone who got all D's throughout high school is going to get free college on my dime. That just doesn't make any sense," David said. He added that many jobs don't require a college degree and pay well. "We need to help people rebuild our infrastructure."

On the campaign trail, voters have been telling both Dean and David that they want someone who will bring decency back to Washington.

"I'm not going down party lines, just looking for human beings," Holden said before giving Dean a hug and asking for lawn signs.

"I want the Congress and I want the Senate to start supporting this man," Groben told David, referring to Trump.

David answered with a line that both he and Dean, and many other candidates this campaign cycle, have been using: "We need to stop this divisiveness and put some decency back into politics."

Dean and David will both participate at a candidate forum at 10 a.m. Sunday at Congregation Or in Maple Glen.