By Ted Bordelon
Wire Managing Editor
Editor’s Note: The print-version of the Wire headlined this article “The Lightning Rod.” Second in a series of profiles of the candidates running for Allyson Schwartz’s Congressional seat.
By some measures, Montgomery County state Sen. and 13th District congressional candidate Daylin Leach is the quintessential “man of the people.” By others, he is a political maverick.
Either way is fine with him.
“I think leadership is about being ahead of the public, not being behind the public,” Leach said. “If you or any of the voters of the 13th District think that is an attribute that is a good thing to have in a congressperson, then I ask them to support me.”
Otherwise, he said, voters can choose a candidate who will “basically support whatever 51 percent of the district supports every day.”
Leach was born at Jefferson Hospital and raised in Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia by his single mother — his father left shortly before he was born. When his grandmother fell ill and his mother had to leave her job, his mother filed for public assistance and welfare.
She put him in the foster care system for several years, as he puts it, “in a different house with a different family and a different school every few months.”
He spent his time in the Northeast Regional Library and “at the public playground learning how to play chess and get beaten up.”
At 11, his mother had landed a job teaching and moved to Allentown with Leach. He later attended Temple University for his undergraduate diploma and finished law school at Dickinson School of Law in Central Pennsylvania.
“The community invested in me,” Leach said. “I think I have a very comprehensive view of the district and the needs of the district.”
He practiced law until 2002, when he won a state representative seat, and in 2008 he won his first term as a state senator.
Currently residing “a couple hundred yards” outside of the 13th District, Leach said he has no intention of moving but that his “history justifies my assertion that I am a part of the district.”
Leach is easily one of the most left-leaning members of the state Senate, if not the most liberal.
He’s been on the forefront of several issues in the state, being the first to introduce two pieces of legislation that would respectively legalize marijuana and gay marriage in the state. He thinks the minimum wage should be $12 and adjusted yearly for inflation, and he has called for progressive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
“The best use of my talents is to try and get the public to change their mind, which is why I introduce all this controversial stuff that is going to get me beaten up and get me hate mail,” Leach said. “I think that’s part of the education process.”
He said that his life “would be so much easier” if he simply introduced resolutions “commemorating the contribution of the woodchuck to Pennsylvania’s heritage,” but that he views his role as that of a catalyst.
“That is what I see my role as in the Senate in many ways and what my role would be in Congress as well,” Leach said.
When asked if he is controversial “for the sake of it,” Leach said that he didn’t understand what there was to gain from his positions.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to be gleaning by becoming a lightning rod for people who become very angry at me for my positions,” Leach said, adding that his “goal” in public service was to bring issues to the forefront so that people would later think, “You know what, he was right.”
“What I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not really about changing the vote of your colleagues because that’s not going to happen,” Leach said. “Your colleagues will change when the public changes.”