Saturday, May 19, 2018

This much we know for sure: Come November, Pennsylvania’s all-boys club also known as the Keystone State’s congressional delegation will come to an end.

And you can thank the voters of Delaware County and the new 5th District for the welcome change.

Voters here will choose between Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, an attorney and former president of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board, and Republican Pearl Kim, a former county assistant district attorney and deputy state attorney general.

Thus will end the all-male makeup of Pennsylvania’s 18 seats in Congress. That’s correct – not one of them is currently held by a woman. In fact over the past quarter of a century, Pennsylvania has sent just four women to represent citizens in the U.S. House. There have only been seven women U.S. reps from Pennsylvania in the state’s history. The first three to do so won special elections to fill the seats of their husbands, who died in office.

No woman has represented Pennsylvania since Democrat Allyson Schwartz represented a suburban district from 2005 to 2014.

It gets worse.

The state has never elected a woman United States senator. Democrat Katie McGinty failed in her bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016.

Or a governor. No woman has ever resided in the governor’s mansion for a reason other than being the state’s first lady. First man? It’s never happened.

But things are changing.

Take another look at this week’s 5th District race. Not only are both parties nominating women, Scanlon was victorious over five other women candidates, including former assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Lunkenheimer, who ran a spirited campaign and garnered the second most votes on the Dem ballot.

And it’s not just Delaware County. Next door in Chester County, Democrat Chrissy Houlahan was unopposed in seeking the nomination for the vacant 6th District seat. She is now a heavy favorite to succeed Republican Rep. Ryan Costello, who also opted not to seek re-election. She will face little-known and underfunded Republican Chadds Ford real estate lawyer Greg McCauley in the fall.

Even more impressive was the showing of Madeleine Dean in the new 4th District in Montgomery County. She rolled to a huge victory in the contested Democratic primary, in the process swamping a guy with some serious name recognition, former county commissioner and U.S. Rep Joe Hoeffel, who also sports unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate and governor on his resume, and another woman, anti-gun violence advocate Shira Goodman.

It’s part of a “pink” wave that was rooted in the stunning rejection of Hillary Clinton two years ago and the election of Donald Trump to the White House. It could be seen in the Democratic wave that hit Delaware County in November, when the county literally turned blue, electing two Democrats to the Delaware County Council, something that has not happened since the county Home Rule Charter was changed in the mid-’70s, as well as sweeping all three county row offices up for grabs.

Across the state and nation, record numbers of women rolled up their sleeves and threw their hats into the ring in runs for public office.

In Pennsylvania eight women won nominations in congressional races, seven Democrats and one Republican. “We are seeing an energy level to elect women in the state,” said G. Terry Madonna, the director of Franklin and Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs.

Madonna pointed to three crucial factors in the spur of women candidates: A clear backlash against Trump; the #Metoo movement that erupted in the wake of sexual-harassment allegations against a number of high-profile men; and progressives motivated by the horror of the latest mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Scanlon was all over TV with an ad featuring former Philadelphia mayor and Gov. Ed Rendell calling her “Trump’s worst nightmare.”

In a way, it’s a reaction to what many see as an ongoing “nightmare” in terms of issues that matter to women: Health care; contraception and reproductive rights; and gun violence.

“It was energizing for a lot of women,” said Democrat Bibiana Boerio, who won the nomination in the new 14th District in Westmoreland County. If the name is familiar to Delco voters, it may be because she’s a one-time chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-7 of Edgmont. “To me, it’s a period of time where women are starting to understand they have a voice. And it’s important as we look at the state that we think about inclusion and everyone having a voice. And one aspect of that is gender representation.”

In the 5th District, across the region, state and nation, those voices were raised as voters went to the polls with a message: A woman’s place is in the House.

The House of Representatives, that is.