In a lengthy late-night Facebook post that name-dropped Robert Frost, Robert Kennedy and President Trump, State Sen. Daylin Leach made it official: His stalled congressional campaign is finished.
Leach’s statement, which was posted online shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday, came a little more than two months after the Inquirer and Daily News first reported that eight women who had either worked for Leach or the Pennsylvania Democratic Party had accused the three-term senator of subjecting them to unwanted physical contact or sexually charged conversations.
Some fellow Democrats, including Gov. Wolf, immediately called on Leach to resign and abandon his attempt to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan in what was then the Seventh Congressional District. But Leach initially demurred, opting to announce that he was simply “taking a step back” from his campaign as he assessed the fallout from the allegations.
A Wolf spokesman said the governor did not have any statement to release about Leach’s decision Sunday night.
Meehan, meanwhile, dropped his reelection bid in January, after it was reported that he’d spent nearly $40,000 in taxpayer money to settle a former aide’s sexual harassment complaint.
“I believe the people who have spent the most time with me the past few months would say that I am making a dedicated effort to listen and learn,” Leach wrote Saturday.
“Some people, most of whom I have never met and don’t know anything about me personally, seem unwilling to accept that. I typically do not back down from a challenge, but the more these individuals direct attacks at my family — including my children — the more we, as a family asked, ‘Is this worth it?’ and ‘What’s the big payoff?'”
STATEMENT I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for Congress in the fourth district this year. I…
Leach will instead remain in his state Senate seat.
“I think he made the right decision, and I’m glad that he made it at this point,” said State Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D., Montgomery), who announced Tuesday that she would run for the Fourth District seat.
That makes her one of three women seeking the Democratic nomination, in itself remarkable in a state that presently has no women serving in its congressional delegation. Daley has been active with Emerge Pennsylvania, an organization that seeks to prepare women to run as Democrats for public office.
“I can tell you that one of my major interests for a long time has been getting more women elected,” she said.
Daley had private conversations encouraging Leach to abandon his campaign for Congress. Another candidate for the seat, State Rep. Madeleine Dean (D., Montgomery) had publicly called on Leach to step away from the race. She also noted the importance of women running to fill the seat.
“Our delegation has no women,” she said. “It’s time for a woman.”
No woman has served as Pennsylvania governor or as a U.S. senator from the state, and only seven have been elected to represent the state in the House of Representatives.
Shira Goodman, a prominent gun control advocate, is the third woman seeking the Democratic nomination.
Leach’s decision will undoubtedly have reverberations in Montgomery County’s newly redrawn Fourth Congressional District, which already already attracted a crowd of Democratic candidates. The redistricting gives the typically divided Montgomery County a district that represents 90 percent of the county.
“It’s a generational shift to absolutely have a seat to itself,” Dean said.
The Fourth District seat is currently held by Republican Scott Perry, who is among the members of that party fighting the redistricting plan in court.
The lingering uncertainty over Leach’s plans created a headache for the state Democratic Party. Thanks to his liberal bona fides and outsize social media presence, Leach had plenty of name recognition and money, with a reported $180,000 on hand as of Dec. 31. But he also had heavy baggage: Running for higher office in the #MeToo era after being accused of inappropriate behavior by multiple women seemed like a dicey proposition.
In his statement, Leach said that he’d been encouraged to run for Congress at resistance forums he organized following Trump’s election. “I made a commitment to run as an unabashed progressive. I’m proud to say that’s what I did,” he said. “I expected Republicans would spend millions attacking me for it, but I was ready for that, and so was my family.”
Leach went as far as to trace his interest in a congressional run back to his childhood — when he imagined working alongside Sen. Kennedy — and detailed misgivings he’d had in the past about mounting a campaign. But his statement didn’t directly address the allegations that were leveled against him by former staffers who had worked with him during the last decade.
His public responses have ranged from lashing out at one accuser on Facebook to writing a letter that expressed remorse for having ever made anyone uncomfortable. He was also criticized for missing out on a sexual harassment training session for the Senate Democratic Caucus because of a scheduling conflict.
Leach didn’t elaborate on the “attacks” against his family but explained that his decision to drop his congressional bid was rooted in consideration for his children, Brennan and Justin.
“I find myself looping back to how unappealing Congress has become, and I think about the life experience I want our 17- and 15-year-old children to have as they go through the stress of adolescence and applying for college,” Leach said. “I don’t want to spend their last years of childhood at a Quality Inn in D.C. or making four hours of fund-raising calls a day. I’ve decided it is just not worth it.”
Staff writer Jason Laughlin contributed to this article.