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Pa. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, longtime Montco legislator, won't seek reelection

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) will retire from the legislature when his term ends later this year.

Senator Stewart Greenleaf  JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Senator Stewart Greenleaf JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff PhotographerRead moreJessica Griffin

HARRISBURG — State Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, who made criminal justice reform the focus of his decades-long legislative career, announced Monday that he will not seek reelection this year.

The Montgomery County Republican, who joined the legislature in 1977 and is the longest-serving sitting senator, said he felt it was time to tackle a different challenge.

"I love my job. I couldn't ask for a better job," Greenleaf, 78, said, adding: "But there are some other things I'd like to do."

Greenleaf, the longtime chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee, became known for his work on criminal justice issues, often with an eye toward protecting victims, bolstering rehabilitation efforts, and helping defendants go on to lead productive lives.

Though he has worked to push through well-known acts such as Megan's Law and the Puppy Lemon law, the Huntingdon Valley resident said he is most proud of legislation that allowed child witnesses to testify via closed-circuit television.

"That took me 15 years to pass," Greenleaf said.

In recent years, Greenleaf has come under fire for the committee's role in pushing through legislation that would roll back abortion rights in the state, and blocking a controversial measure that would let Pennsylvania child-sex abuse victims sue over decades-old attacks.

Asked Monday about the toughest moment in his legislative career, Greenleaf could pinpoint none, saying he relished being in a position that allowed him to fix an injustice when he saw one.

"I'm not retiring, I'm just not running for reelection," said Greenleaf. "I want to continue to help people."

Greenleaf is among several Republican legislators from the Philadelphia suburbs planning to leave, setting the stage for potentially bruising fights by Democrats to capture their seats.

Last week, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney of Bucks County said he would not seek reelection this year. State Reps. Robert Godshall of  Montgomery County and Kathy Watson of Bucks County have also announced they will be retiring at the end of their terms.

And Scott Petri, a Republican from Bucks County, recently resigned from the legislature after he was tapped to head the Philadelphia Parking Authority.