First Possible Dem Challenger to Meehan Floated

Jack Stollsteimer, the former state-appointed Safe Schools Advocate, is considering running for the Seventh District congressional seat against freshman Republican Rep. Patrick J. Meehan, and has met with top Washington Democrats about the race.

"Party leaders have approached me to consider running, and I'm honored by that," Stollsteimer said in an interview. "I am thinking about it, though it's a bit early in the process...I have a lot to consider."


The Seventh, which is centered in Delaware County and includes parts of Chester County, is a swing district that had been trending Democratic in national elections - President Obama carried it in 2008 and John Kerry won it in 2004. Party leaders want it back, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put PA-7 on its priority target list.

Former Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat, left the seat to run for the Senate. Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. Attorney for Southeastern Pennsylvania, won the seat handily last November.

Many local Democrats hope that Sestak, who narrowly lost the Senate race, will decide to run again for the House - including Stollsteimer. "Congressman Sestak has the best chance of returning the seat to the Democrats," he said.

If he does run, Stollsteimer would be going up against his former boss. He worked as an assistant prosecutor under Meehan in both offices and was a press spokesman.

"At this point, Pat Meehan has voted the straight Republican leadership line," Stollsteimer said. "He's a leadership vote. At this point in the nation's history, we need independent thinkers in Washington."

Stollsteimer met with Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the DCCC chairman last Friday at a fund-raising event with Vice President Biden in Philadelphia, and he has also traveled to Washington to talk with Committee officials, according to several Democratic sources.

Stollsteimer's possible candidacy was first reported by the PoliticsPA website Tuesday afternoon, and was confirmed by The Big Tent.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell appointed Stollsteimer in 2006 to be the Safe Schools Advocate, responsible for monitoring the Philadelphia School District's compliance with laws regarding violence in schools. He was abruptly dismissed in 2009. The Rendell administration said it was for budgetary reasons, but supporters say that Stollsteimer was punished for explosing lapses in the Philadelphia district.