Redrawn 7th is more GOP friendly, but race is a microcosm of presidential race
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
In an unusual race because of redistricting, an incumbent congressman is a virtual new face to nearly two thirds of his new constituents — but a district that is likely to be more Republican learning than the previous version, which had switched back and fourth between the parties in recent years.
The new 7th District — cited nationally as one of the nation’s most gerrymandered congressional districts — expanded from a largely Delaware County base (with some Chester County communities) to a large, curved district that runs through an entire swath of Berks, Delaware, Chester, Lancaster and Montgomery counties — including a large segment of Chester County.
The race features one-term incumbent Patrick Meehan, the former Delaware County District Attorney and former U.S. Attorney against Democrat George Badey, an attorney from Radnor.
While both candidates have been visible throughout the area during the 2012 campaign, only Badey made himself available for an interview, and the The Times caught up with him numerous times during the year. Meehan — and his campaign — did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. The information below comes from his campaign Website and other public sources.
Meehan has spent most of his adult life in politics — other than a two-year period just out of college when he worked as a National Hockey League on-ice official. He served on U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s staff and managed campaigns for Sen. Rick Santorum, Philadelphia District Attorney (and current State Supreme Court Justice) Ronald Castille and Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate. When not working in politics, he worked as an associate with the powerful Philadelphia lawfirm of Dilworth, Paxson.
In 1996, he was elected District Attorney for Delaware County, a post he held until 2001. He prosecuted a number of high-profile cases, including the murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz by John Eleuthere du Pont and murder of Aimee Willard, a college student abducted on I-476 and later found dead in Philadelphia.
In 2001, he was named U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by President George W. Bush. Again, Meehan directed the prosecution of a number of high-profile cases including former Philadelphia treasurer Corey Kemp, Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano and powerful Philadelphia State Sen. Vince Fumo.
At the end of 2008, he left public office to join the law firm of Conrad O’Brien Gellman & Rohn. After an aborted run for the Republican nomination for governor (ultimately won by Tom Corbett), in 2010, he ran against Democrat Bryan Lentz (then a state representative) as both sought to replace U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, who was running for U.S. Senate.
Elected to Congress, Meehan has served on the Transportation and Infrastructure, Oversight and Government Reform and the Homeland Security Committees. As a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Meehan chairs the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
Meehan has been a vocal opponent of much of President Barack Obama’s policies, including his votes to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare), supported U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, and he voted to defund Planned Parenthood.
Meehan, his wife Carolyn and their three sons live in Drexel Hill.
When you make a career of fighting for the little guy and winning more often than not, Goerge Badey says, taking on a congressman in a new district designed specifically for him is maybe a little less overwhelming for him than it might be for some.
But that is exactly what Badey, who lives in Radnor, is doing.
As the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 7th District, he is taking on Meehan, a first-term representative running in a district with a vastly different footprint than two years ago — a district Meehan’s critics, Badey among them, have argued is the most gerrymandered congressional district in the state.
Despite being a challenging race, Badey said he felt he needed to do something.
“I see Washington is in gridlock,” he said. “The Republican Party has become so polarized and so different from what it used to be and it has paralyzed things in Washington. And I think we need a change. Our current congressman, who is in first term, has fallen into lockstep with the Tea Party.”
Badey, an attorney, won large verdicts against tobacco companies and was part of the Democratic Party legal team that was dispatched to Florida in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election recount and makes it clear that he won’t shy away from a fight if he thinks it’s the right thing to do.
The numbers suggest that the new 7th is more Republican friendly than the old 7th, held by Democrat Joe Sestak immediately before Meehan won in 2010. While lot of the district is new, Badey notes, making this race a bit more like running for an open seat, the process for creating it put politics over good representation.
“People have to realize that the new 7th was drawn that way by the Republicans and Pat Meehan to help to preserve his seat,” Badey said. “That’s the only reason they drew a district that is the laughingstock of the nation. It is one of the most gerrymandered districts in the entire country, it is by far the most gerrymandered district in Pennsylvania and it was done for one man and that’s wrong. Politicians should not be picking the voters, voters should be picking the representatives.”
The new district which used to be primarily in Delaware County and portions of northeast Chester County, now runs a crescent shape through the southern part of Chester County, with parts of some local communities, such as Pennsbury and Kennett — in both cases, three of four precincts are included, curiously, Badey notes, but excludes the precincts in both townships containing Kendal and Crosslands, which have tended to be reliable Democratic precincts in recent years. The district continues through to Lancaster and Berks counties, creating a district with, at times divergent interests, he argues.
Despite his frustration with the process of creating the new 7th, Badey points out it remains a very winnable district for Democrats — himself in particular, he hopes. He cites the fact that U.S. Senator Bob Casey won the newly constituted district by 10 points in 2006 and President Barack Obama won it by four points in 2008. And while the district is tougher, Badey argues that Meehan benefitted from a lot of outside issues in defeating former state representitive Bryan Lenz in 2010 that likely won’t be in play this year.
“2010 was just a horrible year,” he said. “I thought Bryan Lentz ran a great campaign and he would have made a great congressman. He ran in a bad year for all Democrats.”
And while he says he hates to harp on the district redraw with so many other issues to talk about, he asks whether it was a cynical attempt for his opponent to continue on the public payroll.
“Pat Meehan has had a job, paid for by the taxpayers since the 1980s,” Badey said.