WASHINGTON -- Bill Golderer, a pastor who has founded or revitalized two churches in Center City, is running for Congress in the Delaware County-based 7th district, hoping to win the Democratic nomination to take on the incumbent Republican, Rep. Pat Meehan.
Golderer, 45, has never run for office before, but said public service would be an extension of his work helping people in need.
"I feel like this is an evolution of my current work, trying to see if I can make a difference in a body that I think a lot of people have written off as being kind of dysfunctional," Golderer said in a telephone interview Monday.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Golderer to run, despite having two other candidates in the field for a moderate district that leans Republicann. He filed Federal Election Commission papers formalizing his candidacy Thursday.
Golderer grew up in Wayne and returned to the Philadelphia area to found Broad Street Ministry in an long vacant church across from the Kimmel Center. The church has emphasized serving the needy, bringing non-profits under its roof to collaborate on social services, Golderer said.
He is also the senior pastor at the Arch Street Presbyterian Church, which he built back up after its membership had dwindled. The church now houses a non-profit pre-school that serves both the well-off and those who can't afford to pay.
"I am a faith leader, but I also have the heart and spirit of a social entrepreneur," Golderer said, describing himself as "a serial starter and beginner of things."
National Democrats stopped short of endorsing him, but praised his entry into the race, citing his "positive influence" in the district.
“We are confident that using this same passion, focus and dedication he will be a strong voice in Congress,” said Jermaine House, a spokesman for Democrats' Congressional campaign arm.
Recent Princeton graduate Lindy Li and La Salle political science professor Mary Ellen Balchunis are already seeking the Democratic nomination.
The winner will face a difficult climb against Meehan, who had $2.1 million on hand as of the latest campaign filings and won re-election with 62 percent of the vote in 2014. Democrats won the seat as recently as 2008, but the district has been redrawn to lean more Republican and Meehan has not faced a serious challenge since winning his first term in 2010.
Chris Pack, a spokesman for Republicans' Congressional campaign arm, called Meehan "a bipartisan leader" who "represents his district well, and that is why he will be re-elected next November."