Thomas Fitzgerald: A familiar name may run for her old seat in Congress

PHOTOS: LEFT, J. ELBERSON PHOTOGRAPHY; RIGHT, ASSOCIATED PRESS Former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies (left) may seek to fill the vacancy left in her old 13th Congressional District seat after Allyson Schwartz vacates the position during her bid, announced Monday, in the governor's race.
PHOTOS: LEFT, J. ELBERSON PHOTOGRAPHY; RIGHT, ASSOCIATED PRESS Former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies (left) may seek to fill the vacancy left in her old 13th Congressional District seat after Allyson Schwartz vacates the position during her bid, announced Monday, in the governor's race.
Posted: April 24, 2013

When U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, Democrat of Pennsylvania, switched her vote to "yes" that summer night in 1993, jeering erupted from the Republican side of the House chamber: "Bye-bye, Margie!"

As political prognosticators, her tormentors turned out to be right. She lost in 1994, and left Congress after one term.

Margolies-Mezvinsky, a moderate, had cast the deciding vote to enact President Bill Clinton's economic plan, which increased taxes $241 billion; most of the burden fell on the wealthy, but there was also a gasoline tax, and besides, she had promised in her 1992 campaign to oppose tax increases.

Now, two decades later, are 13th District voters ready to say, "Hello, Margie"?

Margolies, who resumed her maiden name after a divorce, is thinking about running for her old seat in 2014, talking to political leaders and allies. "I'm examining it, looking at all the variables," she said Monday. "That's where I am."

The seat is open because its current occupant, Allyson Y. Schwartz, is running for governor in next year's Democratic primary.

Margolies became a symbol of courage to some and naivete (or worse) to others. In Washington, her name is sometimes still used as a verb meaning, roughly, "to commit political suicide."

It probably is tempting to seek vindication. Margolies, 70, who now heads Women's Campaign International, which develops female political leaders in emerging democracies, and teaches government at the University of Pennsylvania, has always defended her reluctant vote as the right thing to do.

With Clinton's administration off to a shaky start in 1993, a defeat on his economic plan might have been crippling. And the revenue, coupled with budget agreements with the GOP that cut spending, led to the first balanced budgets in decades. When Clinton left office in 2001, there was a surplus of $236 billion.

A comeback would not be easy, however. Seventy percent of the 13th District's territory is new from when she represented it; a majority of its Democrats now reside in Northeast Philadelphia. Twenty years is a long time to expect voters to remember you, and several candidates are already fully engaged in the race.

State Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, State Rep. Brendan Boyle of the Northeast, and Valerie Arkoosh, a Penn medical professor active in the fight for President Obama's health plan, were making the rounds Sunday at the spring dinner of the Cheltenham-Jenkintown Democrats.

Of course, Margolies does have the former president. Not only does he owe her big, but they are now related. Her son, Marc Mezvinsky, married former first daughter Chelsea Clinton in 2010.

(Margolies divorced former Iowa U.S. Rep. Edward M. Mezvinsky in 2007. He served five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to defrauding investors of $10.4 million. She was not implicated in any wrongdoing.)

At least two of the candidates vow that the Big Dog can't scare them out of the race.

"I'm 100 percent running," said Boyle, the son of an immigrant maintenance worker who boasts of having knocked on 20,000 doors twice to win his state House seat. "Very few people in Congress are from the forgotten middle class. I think I would bring a unique perspective."

Leach, too, is not going anywhere.

"Marjorie has always been a good friend and supporter," he said. "I welcome everyone to the race. Hopefully, we'll have a vigorous, healthy debate."


Contact Thomas Fitzgerald at 215-854-2718 or tfitzgerald@phillynews.com, or follow @tomfitzgerald on Twitter. Read his blog, The Big Tent, at www.philly.com/bigtent.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|