On a busy petition filing day, Leach, other Pa. senators face multiple challengers

By: - February 19, 2020 6:30 am

Sen. Daylin Leach. (State photo)

This story was corrected to clarify Leach’s status on Senate committees and to reflect language from the Senate investigation into his workplace conduct.   

The race to unseat state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, kicked off last June when political novice Sara Atkins said she would challenge the three-term senator in the 2020 Democratic primary.

It was the first time Leach faced an opponent from his own party since he won election to the Senate in 2008.

But as the embattled suburban Philadelphia lawmaker denied allegations of sexual assault and harassment and ignored calls for his resignation, five other Democratic women joined Atkins in the race to unseat him.

Only three of them remained in the running by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions with the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Unofficial candidate listings from the Department of State show that Parthenia Izzard, of Haverford Township, Amanda Cappelletti, of East Norriton Township, and Elvira Berry, of Lower Merion, all filed petitions to get on the ballot in the April 28 primary.

Haverford resident Ellen Fisher is running unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Cappelletti told the Capital-Star Tuesday that constituents in the 17th District deserve better representation than Leach, who stepped down from his seat on the Judiciary Committee and removed from the powerful Appropriations committee in the wake of the allegations. Leach also stopped attending caucus meetings with Senate Democrats.

Private investigators hired by the Senate Democrats last year found Leach’s lewd jokes and comments could create a hostile work environment for female staffers. The findings led almost all of Leach’s Democratic colleagues to call for his resignation.

Voters in 25 state Senate districts will have the chance to choose new Senators in November, when half of the chamber’s 50 seats are up for reelection.

Unofficial data from the Department of State show that 63 candidates have mounted senate campaigns across the state. 

That number could grow as officials process paperwork from candidates late in the day on Tuesday.

The most contested race so far is in Chester County’s 19th Senate District, where three Democrats and two Republican have filed to get on the ballot in April.

The 19th District has been represented since 2006 by Democratic Sen. Andy Dinniman, who announced his retirement this month. Dinniman spent his career in the General Assembly calling for tighter regulation of natural gas pipelines and greater funding for public schools.

Dinniman has already endorsed his former staffer, Don Vymazal, in the race to succeed him. Vymazal will run against Tredyffrin Township resident Kyle Boyer and state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, for the Democratic nomination.

Republicans Kevin Runey and Amber Little also filed petitions to run in the 19th district.

In the state’s 25th Senate District, which covers a wide swath of rural northern Pennsylvania, four candidates have entered the race to replace Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who announced last week that he would not seek re-election.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, will face James Brown and John Suplizio in the Republican primary. Margaret Satterwhite Brown is the sole candidate in the Democratic race.

In the Harrisburg suburbs in Cumberland and York Counties, Democrats Shanna Danielson, John Bosha, and Richard Coplen are vying for their party’s nomination to represent the 31st Senate District.

The winner will challenge incumbent Sen. Mike Regan, a York County Republican, in the November general election. Regan, who was elected to the Senate in 2016, will run unopposed in the Republican primary.

The Democratic field is also split three ways in the 9th Senate District, where candidates Brett Burman, John Kane and Robert McKinstry are running to unseat Sen. Tom Killion, the Republican incumbent representing parts of Delaware and Chester counties.

Democrats have surge in the Philadelphia suburbs in recent election cycles, picking up seats in county governments and growing their ranks of registered voters.

Killion is the only Republican representing Delaware or Chester counties in the state Senate, according to PA Post.

Republicans have controlled the state Senate for 25 years, and currently outnumber Democrats 29-21.

After flipping five senate seats in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats hope to reclaim control of the chamber — or at least narrow the Republican majority — in this year’s elections. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.