Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D)
Pennsylvania 13th District
Montgomery County is the proximate hinterland of Philadelphia: rolling hills cut on one side by the Schuylkill River and at intervals by the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroad lines radiating outward from Center City. Older suburbs, both rich and modest, grew up around rail stations, with comfortable houses within walking distance for commuters. Further out are 18th and 19th century villages, once surrounded by farm fields, now encroached by subdivisions where people depend on cars, not rail lines, to get to work. Montgomery County has its shopping malls and office parks, but not many freeways. Most of the traffic here is along roads on the area’s diagonal grid or along the old pikes laid out when Pennsylvania was a colony. It is the most populous and second most affluent county, behind Chester, in suburban Philadelphia, with solid job growth prospects.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Quite a different place, though adjacent to southern Montgomery County, is Northeast Philadelphia. This is relatively new urban territory, with more than half its houses built after 1950. When the alley-wide streets of North and South Philadelphia and the river wards were already teeming with people, and the Main Line suburbs were well-settled, the workers of Philadelphia’s docks, factories and offices were just starting to fill up vacant land here. They settled in neighborhoods like Bustleton, Somerton and Torresdale. Many of Philadelphia’s Hispanics live in the industrial river wards along the Delaware River, but the other wards of Northeast Philadelphia are still mostly white and ethnic. Outside investors and Hasidic Jews from New York looking for more space and opportunity have bid up residential prices and have revived a vibrant Jewish community.
The 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania includes much of southeastern and central Montgomery County and most of Northeast Philadelphia. From 2000 to 2007, the district’s population increased 2%. Historically, Montgomery was quintessentially Republican, with a style of politics set for years by Ivy-educated Republican men. But the county, like other affluent suburbs in the Boston-Washington corridor, swung toward the Democratic Party in national politics in the 1990s, with abortion rights and other cultural issues usually trumping economic interests. Montgomery voted by large margins for Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s, but has voted strongly for Democratic presidential candidates since then. Northeast Philadelphia has a different political heritage. Its feisty Republican organization has won some elections and shown facility in making deals to get its share of patronage. Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign made a big advertising and organizational drive in this area in 2008, but Democrat Barack Obama won 60% of the vote in Northeast Philly and 57% in Montgomery County, for an overall 59%-41% win in the district.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Oct. 3, 1948, Queens, NY .
Education: Simmons Col., B.A. 1970, Bryn Mawr Col., M.S.W. 1972.
Family: Married (David); 2 children.
Elected office: PA Senate, 1990-2004.
Professional Career: Exec. dir., Elizabeth Blackwell Center, 1975-88; Dep. comm., Philadelphia Human Services Dept., 1988-90.
The congresswoman from the 13th District is Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat elected in 2004. Her mother fled Vienna as a teenager in 1938, after the Germans annexed Austria, and traveled alone to the United States, where she was taken in by a Jewish foster home in Philadelphia. Her father was a dentist in Flushing, Queens, where she grew up. A graduate of Simmons College with a master’s degree in social work from Bryn Mawr College, Schwartz started a women’s health center in 1975 and worked on health care issues as first deputy commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services. Her husband is a cardiologist. In 1990, Schwartz was elected to the state Senate. In 2000, she ran for the U. S. Senate and finished second in the Democratic primary, with 27% of the vote, behind U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, who had 41%.
|Allyson Schwartz (D)||196,868||(63%)||($1,745,577)|
|Marina Kats (R)||108,271||(35%)||($500,141)|
|John McDermott (CNP)||8,374||(3%)|
|Allyson Schwartz (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (56%)
The 13th District seat opened when Democratic Rep. Joe Hoeffel ran, unsuccessfully, against then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004. Schwartz faced two rounds of serious competition. In the primary, her opponent was Joe Torsella, an aide to then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell. She was backed by EMILY's List, which spent $170,000 on her behalf and also phoned voters and sent out mailings. Torsella did well in the city portion of the district, but Schwartz carried Montgomery County with 62%, for an overall win of 52%-48%.
In the general election, her opponent was Republican Melissa Brown, an ophthalmologist who supported abortion rights. “The two opponents proved that women can sling mud as capably as any men,” The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote. Schwartz called herself a “new Democrat,” not a liberal, but Brown labeled her a radical. Schwartz called Brown “sleazy” because of her links to a bankrupt health maintenance organization and a lawsuit that the state insurance department filed against her. Both candidates emphasized health care. Schwartz emphasized her sponsorship of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provided health insurance for 133,000 children from low-income families. Brown, a physician with an M.B.A, called for changes in tort law, arguing that it would keep doctors’ liability insurance down and lower the cost of health care. Schwartz won 56%-41%, getting 60% of the vote in Northeast Philadelphia and 53% in Montgomery County.
In the House, Schwartz has voted with moderate Democrats, and she is vice-chairman of the New Democrat Coalition. She has focused on health care, joining with then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois to support a plan to automatically enroll all children eligible for the federal SCHIP program, including those with pre-existing conditions. In early 2007, Schwartz got a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over health issues and where she made universal insurance coverage a priority. She sought more funds for preventive health care programs and improved health-information systems. In January 2008, she joined with two other Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Lois Capps of California, in advocating a set of principles to modernize the U.S. medical system with innovation, insurance reform and improved care. In other issues on the committee, Schwartz played a central role in the House’s November 2007 passage of the bilateral trade agreement with Peru. As a condition of her support, she secured assurances of environmental and labor protections in that country.
She has been re-elected easily.