Daylin Leach was a dead man walking.
It was last December, and the Inquirer and Daily News had just reported that eight women and three men had accused the state senator of subjecting female campaign staffers to highly sexual comments or unwanted physical contact. Gov. Wolf called on Leach to resign. So did State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky.
Then, in February, Leach ended his campaign for Congress. It seemed like only a matter of time until the Democrat’s Senate career would crater, too.
But if a forthcoming event is any indication, his future in the Democratic Party is alive and well. On Thursday, a birthday fund-raiser is being held for Leach in a Montgomery County pub — and the invitation telegraphs that a broad swath of the party and its financiers are standing behind him.
Here are some of the boldface names and groups listed on the invite as members of Leach’s host committee: State Rep. Greg Vitali. State Sen. Sharif Street. State Sen. Vincent Hughes. State Rep. Matt Bradford. Rep. Tim Briggs. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98. Laborers International Local 135. Plumbers Local 690. Former State Sen. Connie Williams. Former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman Marcel Groen. And, notably, many female party insiders.
But just because they’re willing to put their name on a pro-Leach invitation doesn’t mean they have the guts to talk about why they’re pro-Leach. Street, Bradford, Briggs, Groen, and the labor groups either declined or did not respond to requests to comment. Leach turned down the opportunity, too.
Vitali was one of the few elected officials who explained why he’s still backing Leach: “He’s a great spokesman for the progressive cause,” he said, and “people who called for his immediate resignation … may have been neglecting things like due process, presumption of innocence, and proportionality of crime to punishment.”
Williams said she is “100 percent behind the #MeToo movement.” But she said “there needs to be room in this #MeToo movement for people to acknowledge they made mistakes … and then to make adjustments. … He assured me that he’s taking the comments seriously.”
Interestingly, a few people told us they were on the host committee, but were not going to the fund-raiser or donating to Leach. That includes Hughes: “I feel deeply for the women who have spoken out about Daylin’s behavior and the pain they are going through.”
So why would Hughes give his name but no money? “As a leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus,” he said, “I automatically sign on to sitting Democratic senators’ fund-raiser invitations when asked.”
Some of Leach’s critics, such as Wolf and Krueger-Braneky, also did not comment. Is opposition to him officially dead?
No, at least in some party circles. Gwen Snyder, a community organizer, said that “suggesting that survivors and allies calling for Daylin Leach’s resignation are somehow violating his right to due process is misguided.”
“In order to lead on women’s rights, gender equality, and anti-violence, the Democratic Party must commit itself to holding its own membership accountable to these values,” she said. “Those who refuse to do so must step aside.”
What did Darrell Clarke and Johnny Doc talk about at their secret lunch?
City Council President Darrell Clarke and building trades chief John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty haven’t been on the best of terms lately.
The two men used to be close allies. In fact, Dougherty played a major role in helping Clarke beat Marian Tasco in the race for Council president back in 2011. And in the run-up to the 2015 mayoral primary, Clarke was labor’s top prospect.
According to Dougherty, though, he and Clarke hadn’t met in person in more than a year and a half. Political observers think the freeze began over disagreements about Mayor Kenney’s soda tax. Whatever started it, it couldn’t have helped that Dougherty sent a scathing letter to Council members last week criticizing their proposal to tax construction in order to fund affordable housing.
“This onerous tax proposal at this crucial time essentially tells Amazon that we’re not interested in their business. Dumb,” he wrote.
So Clout was surprised when a tipster told us the two power players were meeting on Tuesday for lunch at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant across from City Hall. They were joined by fellow building trades leaders Ryan Boyer, Anthony Gallagher, and Sam Staten Jr.
What brought Clarke and Doc together? Who asked for the meeting? And, most important, what deals were cut over bread and butter?
No one would tell us who requested the meetup. “Doesn’t matter,” said Dougherty. “The salad was great,” said Clarke.
Clarke was also characteristically mum when asked what they chatted about: “It’s just a group of guys who have known each other for a lot of years getting together for a bite to eat.”
Dougherty was more talkative. He said they discussed taxes — and the importance of keeping in touch.
“There’s been a little bit of a communication breakdown between myself and the Council president,” he said. “We get messages across to each other, but usually through third parties. So we’ve agreed to spend more time across the table together.”
Boyer concurred that was the “biggest takeaway.”
A few bonus details for political junkies: Rumor is Boyer picked up the tab. Clout also heard Dougherty told the table that U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has a serious challenger in Republican Lou Barletta. But Dougherty adamantly denied to us that he’s worried about the Pennsylvania Democrat: “Casey could win by double digits.”
Make of that what you will. Also make of this what you will: On Thursday, City Council amended its construction tax plan to clarify that Amazon wouldn’t have to pay it.
Maybe lawmakers wanted to be precise. Or maybe they just wanted to punt a week on a controversial measure.