What stands out in the May 15 Democratic primary for the newly mapped, mostly Delaware County, Fifth Congressional District is the quality of the candidates, particularly the women. That’s fitting for an election when women have mobilized in great numbers to protect themselves from sexual harassment and inequality, and when support for good health care, gun control, and economic opportunity are needed.
The best candidate to fill the Fifth District seat is Mary Gay Scanlon, 58, of Swarthmore. After 35 years as a lawyer, advocate, and community activist, she has a deep understanding of pressing national, state, and local issues.
When President Trump tried to force his travel ban, Scanlon dispatched lawyers to airports to defend arriving passengers who would be turned away because they came from Muslim nations. When she worked at the Education Law Center, she fought for the rights of disabled students and exposed patronage at the troubled Chester-Upland School District. As a member of the Wallingford Swarthmore school board, she immersed herself in local education policy. As national pro bono counsel at powerhouse law firm Ballard Spahr, she fought for pay equity for women athletes and stood up for crime victims, returning citizens, refugees, and voters.
Scanlon has well-formulated plans to address a variety of issues. She would help workers by rolling back the lopsided Trump tax cuts (especially its benefits for developers) to help pay for investments in infrastructure, education, job training, and growth in renewable energy.
She supports universal health care but in the interim would repair the Affordable Care Act; in part by regulating drug prices and restoring the individual mandate, which can lower consumer costs.
To reduce gun violence, Scanlon would support universal background checks for all gun purchases, an assault weapons ban, require domestic abusers and those who pose a danger to themselves and others to surrender firearms, and fund gun violence research so effective policies could be formulated.
While Scanlon stands out, Ashley Lunkenheimer, 43, of Upper Providence, has considerable attributes as well. A former assistant U.S. attorney, Lunkenheimer knows the power and limits of gun laws and administrative agencies charged with pursuing gun violence. She has prosecuted gang members in Chester and investigated the gun pipeline in Pennsylvania. Lunkenheimer’s life choices are worth noting. When considering a career in law, she decided to first learn more about the deeper issues faced by people who end up incarcerated by getting her masters in social work.
The other Fifth District Democratic candidates include Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, Philadelphia teacher Larry Arata, State Rep. Margo Davidson, former Philadelphia deputy mayor Richard Lazer, former Morgan Stanley financial adviser Lindy Li, biophysicist Molly Sheehan, State Rep. Greg Vitali, and financial planner and entrepreneur Theresa Wright.
The winner will face Republican Pearl Kim, a former deputy attorney general and assistant district attorney, who is unopposed in the GOP primary.
In this exceptional field for the Democratic primary, the Inquirer endorses MARY GAY SCANLON in the Fifth District for her relentless intellect, knowledge, and experience.