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The No-B.S. Guide to Philadelphia-Area Women Running for Congress

Pennsylvania has been one of the worst states for electing women — but 2018 could prove to be a game-changer.


women running for congress

This post has been updated to reflect both State Rep. Mary Jo Daley’s and Shelly Chauncey’s decisions to drop out of the race in the 4th and 5th congressional districts.

Pennsylvania ranks 49th in the nation for electing women to political office, according to the nonpartisan advocacy group Represent Women.

Only 19 percent of Pennsylvania state representatives are women. Pennsylvania has never elected a woman governor or sent a woman to the U.S. Senate. Pennsylvania currently has zero women representing it on a federal level — and state voters have never elected a Black congresswoman.

This year presents an opportunity for change. In the wake of the 2016 election, the Women’s March, and the unfolding #MeToo movement, women have entered congressional races in unprecedented numbers. Nationally, nearly 450 women are running for Congress. In Pennsylvania, nearly 100 candidates submitted bids for congressional offices this year, 23 of them women. Twelve of them are running in the Philadelphia region.

For the most part, the women say they chose to run to counter the country’s male-dominated political climate. Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, which is largely seen as a boost for Democrats, also played a major role in their decisions. (Only one of the women running in the Philadelphia region is a Republican.)

Here are the Philadelphia-area women running for Congress, organized by congressional district.

congress, congressional map

The new congressional boundaries adopted by the state Supreme Court in February.


1st Congressional District

Includes Bucks County, part of Montgomery County

Democratic candidates: Steven Adam Bacher, Rachel Reddick, Scott Wallace
Republican candidates: U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Dean Malik

Rachel Reddick

Photo via Rachel Reddick for Congress

The basics:

  • She graduated from Temple University and received a law degree from Rutgers Law School.
  • While at Rutgers, she joined the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Reddick served as a military prosecutor on active duty for six years. She was appointed as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2012, when she prosecuted for the Navy in federal court.
  • Reddick has worked as a legal advocate for survivors of domestic abuse. She was involved with nonprofit A Woman’s Place, the only domestic violence agency in Bucks County, where she grew up.
  • Reddick grew up in a Republican family and was previously a Republican. She says she has considered herself a Democrat and voted for Democrats for more than a decade. (She officially registered as a Democrat in 2017.)
  • Endorsed by: Emily’s List, VoteVets, the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, Off the Sidelines.
  • Campaign site: rachelreddick.com

What made her want to run now: “I’m running for Congress because after more than five years on active duty in the Navy, I watched Donald Trump apply to be my commander in chief and win the 2016 presidential election when he had no business doing so. Though I volunteered for the Clinton campaign, as an active-duty Officer I wasn’t able to be as involved as I wanted to be. On election night, I promised my young son that I would do everything I could to fight back. After the last few months of my service, I left the military to become more engaged politically and fulfill that promise to my son.”

Key issues: “My top priorities are universal access to quality and affordable health care, a strong economy for our middle class, and ensuring strong public schools and affordable higher education options for all. Equal representation is also a major priority here in a district that has never elected a woman in the largest state with an all-male delegation to Congress. Since Donald Trump first took office, it became clear that we need strong women at the table to stand up to his dangerous agenda.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I would first fight for making Medicare a public option. Every American deserves the right to quality affordable health care, yet time and again, we have seen the Trump administration and House Republicans attempt to make it harder for Americans to get the care and the coverage they need.”


2nd Congressional District

Includes Northeast Philadelphia, the River Wards

Democratic candidates: U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, Michele Lawrence
Republican candidate: David Torres

Michele Lawrence

Photo via Michele for Congress

The basics:

  • Lawrence worked at Wells Fargo for 28 years. She recently served as area president and senior vice president for the Greater Philadelphia region, which serves 39 locations.
  • She founded her own company, MicheleSpeaks, in January 2017. The company works to promote a person’s or organization’s services through workshops, boot camps, conferences and seminars.
  • She has lived in Fishtown for 14 years. She’s originally from Newark, N.J., and is a Rutgers University graduate.
  • She’s an ordained minister.
  • She hosts a radio program. “Michele Speaks” airs at noon on Wednesdays on WWDB-860. The show will feature guest hosts during the primary season.
  • Campaign site: micheleforcongress.com

What made her want to run now: “The district has been in distress for decades, and I’m answering the call with an S.O.S. of my own: service, opportunities and solutions. It is time to change the district’s trajectory from poverty to prosperity.”

Key issues: “My platform is based around working to provide access to affordable and quality childhood and college education; toward economic equality for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community; encouraging small business to grow and thrive; access to affordable and quality healthcare; and working to help people build a bridge from poverty to wealth, with the understanding that this is not a fast solution.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “The 2nd Congressional District has a diverse constituency that I intend to mirror, with offices and staff that reflect the demographic. I will also make available through these sites tools and resources to allow people to enhance their personal and professional lives.”


3rd Congressional District

Includes Center City, South Philadelphia, Northwest Philadelphia, West Philadelphia; no women are running

Democratic candidates: U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, Kevin Johnson
Republican candidate: Bryan Leib


4th Congressional District

Includes part of Montgomery County, part of Berks County

Democratic candidates: Madeleine Dean, Shira Goodman, Joseph Hoeffel
Republican candidate: Daniel David

Madeleine Dean

Photo via Madeleine Dean’s campaign

The basics:

  • She’s currently a state representative. Dean has served the 153rd Legislative District, which includes parts of Abington and Upper Dublin, since 2012. She is chair of the Pa. House Democratic Southeast Delegation and a member of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
  • She was previously running for lieutenant governor. She dropped her bid to run for Congress instead after the state adopted its new congressional map in February.
  • She co-founded a gun violence prevention caucus. She helped create and lead PA SAFE after the shooting at Sandy Hook.
  • She grew up in Glenside. Dean attended Abington High School and graduated from La Salle University (where she taught as an assistant English professor for more than 10 years) and Widener University Law School.
  • She previously practiced law and served as executive director of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. Membership increased by more than 50 percent while Dean served as the executive director of the organization, the largest metropolitan plaintiffs’ civil trail association in the country.
  • Endorsements: Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, State Rep. Mary Jo Daley
  • Campaign site: mad4pa.com

What made her want to run now: “I am running for Congress to seize the opportunity to serve others and make a greater difference in a government that is failing so many — to speak up for progressive priorities to a silent Republican majority. I am running to restore democratic values that are missing in Washington: to lead the change in politics — including adding a woman to our currently all-male congressional delegation.”

Key issues: “As state representative I consistently fight for education funding, an economy that works, protecting our environment, and ethical good government. In Congress I will continue those fights. The success of our students determines our future: We must reduce student loan debt interest to 0 percent, make community college free, and fully fund our public schools. Our workers are the backbone of the American economy and should be respected – that requires raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and protecting union jobs. Finally, we must rebuild a culture of ethical leadership, transparency, and accountability – speaking, acting, and governing by example.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I have been a passionate advocate [on gun issues] for decades, including forming the PA SAFE gun violence prevention caucus in the PA House of Representatives. I am inspired by the leadership of the young people in Parkland and our own communities because of their determination to make real change. I will be a part of that in Congress – passing legislation for universal background checks, age limitations for buying guns, national lost and stolen legislation, and a full ban on assault rifles, among other measures.”

Shira Goodman

Photo via Shira Goodman’s campaign

The basics:

  • Goodman is a well-known anti-gun-violence advocate. She has served as executive director of CeaseFirePA for the past five years.
  • She has extensive court experience. She served two federal clerkships and work as an associate at Ballard Spahr. She has advocated for judicial equality at the nonprofit Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.
  • She graduated from college at the University of Michigan. She also attended law school at Yale.
  • She’s a lifelong Montgomery County resident. Goodman grew up in Abington and attended Abington High School.
  • Campaign site: voteshiragoodman.com

What made her want to run now: “I’ve spent the last five years fighting gun violence in Pennsylvania. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the gerrymandered congressional maps, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the next step in public service and become a bigger part of the national fight for better gun laws.”

Key issues  “Passing commonsense gun violence prevention legislation and treating gun violence as the public health crisis it is; raising the minimum wage; making college more affordable; providing Medicare for all; fighting Trump’s attacks on our government institutions and press; protecting women’s reproductive health rights; and working for greater equality and full access to justice.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and making firearms safety training a mandatory prerequisite to the purchase of firearms and ammunition.”


5th Congressional District

Includes South Philadelphia, part of Delaware County, part of Montgomery County

Democratic candidates: Larry Arata, George Badey, State Rep. Margo Davidson, Thaddeus Kirkland, Richard Lazer, Lindy Li, Ashley Lunkenheimer, Daniel Muroff, Mary Gay Scanlon, Molly Sheehan, Gregory Vitali, David Wertime, Theresa Wright

Republican candidates: Paul Addis, Pearl Kim

Margo Davidson

Photo via Margo Davidson’s campaign

The basics:

  • She’s currently a state representative for the 164th Legislative District. Elected in 2010, Davidson was the first African-American woman to hold the seat. She serves as vice chair of the PA SAFE Caucus.
  • She was raised in West Philadelphia. She graduated from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1980. She earned a bachelor’s from Temple University in 1988. She received an MBA from Saint Joseph University and a business management certificate from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • She used to host a politics radio show on WDAS-FM.
  • She was twice charged with driving and crashing a taxpayer-funded car while her license was suspended this year. She is pleading not guilty to an incident on February 2nd and said she plans to fight charges that resulted after a January incident as well. When asked to comment, a spokesman for Davidson told Philadelphia magazine “Who hasn’t been involved in a fender bender? Margo’s campaign is focused on the issues to matter to local working- and middle-class families — like standing up to Donald Trump and the right-wing Republican congress to deliver more school aid, pass commonsense gun control, raise the minimum wage, and fight to reduce income inequality.”
  • Endorsements: Montgomery County sheriff Sean Kilkenny; state Rep. Maureen Madden, D-115, of Monroe County; Darby Borough Council president Darlene Hill; Upper Darby councilwoman Barbarann Keffer; state Rep. Patty Kim; state Rep. Carol Hill-Evans; Lansdowne mayor Tony Campuzano
  • Campaign site: margoforcongress.com

What made her want to run now: “We need new leaders in Washington, who understand what everyday Americans need and who are willing to put aside differences and get things done. Our values are under attack, and I want to defend olur commonsense, middle-class values against the Trump agenda in Washington. I want to serve in Congress because I know this community and my experiences in the state legislature have prepared me well to lead in Washington.”

Key issues: “Economic and social justice. Breaking down the systems that create poverty, income stagnation and wealth disparities must be eradicated, and that includes:

  • Supporting women. Delivering paid family leave and pay equity, as well as protecting our right to choose.
  • Empowering the workforce. Fighting for the minimum wage, supporting small businesses, and creating good family sustaining jobs.
  • Supporting seniors. Expanding Social Security and Medicare and protecting them from right-wing Republican attacks, including shifting resources to build ridiculous walls, military excesses and the industrial prison complex.
  • Protecting families. Ending gun violence and tackling the scourge of the opioid epidemic that is devastating a generation.
  • Bettering our schools. Ensuring our teachers and students have the resources they need to succeed.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “In my first year, I want to change federal Title I funding to go to the most disadvantaged and under-resourced schools and fight for a national $15 minimum wage. This one-two punch could significantly address the suffocating income gap in our country.”

Lindy Li

Photo via Lindy Li’s campaign

The basics:

  • Li is a longtime Democratic and environmental activist. She has been active in the Democratic Party — she first ran for Congress in 2015, when she was 24 years old.
  • She’s previously worked as a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley.
  • She’s a 2012 Princeton University graduate. While at Princeton, she started a campus-wide initiative to curb excessive energy use, called Do It in the Dark.
  • She’s a Chinese-American immigrant. She grew up in Malvern.
  • Endorsement: U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright
  • Campaign site: facebook.com/lindyforcongress

What made her want to run now: “A deeply thankful first-generation immigrant, cancer research advocate (I’m trustee of the American Association for Cancer Research) and small business owner, I’m running for Congress to serve this amazing country that gave me and my family a chance at the American Dream. English is my second language and we came to America with a few dollars, but perhaps it takes an immigrant to keenly appreciate how incredible our country is despite our challenges. And I am running to solve those challenges, including widening income inequality, rampant gun violence, climate change, and a lack of affordable healthcare, gender parity, and high-quality education.”

Key issues: “More broad-based economic opportunity and prosperity in southeastern Pennsylvania through the creation of well-paying jobs and workforce training. Raise minimum wage to $15. Protect Social Security and Medicare. I’m in favor of Medicare for all, because healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege for the wealthy few. Being a woman should not be a preexisting condition. We need members of Congress who are willing to vocally back an assault weapons ban, three-day waiting periods, universal background checks, the closing of gun show and internet loopholes, restrictions on high-capacity magazines, and a ban on bump stocks, which are just a few of the many commonsense measures we should implement and for which there is almost universal support among the American public.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “Politicians should first and foremost be public servants — emphasis on servants — which means that we absolutely must get money out of politics. So many of our problems stem from the fact that we’ve institutionalized bribery. The Supreme Court decision on Citizens United was a tremendous blow to our republic. In short, we need campaign finance reform.”

Ashley Lunkenheimer

Photo via Ashley Lunkenheimer’s campaign

The basics:

  • Lunkenheimer worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for almost 10 years. During that time, she prosecuted drug-trafficking gangs and doctors who prescribed drugs illegally in Chester.
  • She served as legal counsel for AmeriHealth Caritas, where she helped clients attain Medicaid.
  • She received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, then her master’s in social work from Columbia University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • She grew up in Delaware County. She lives in Upper Providence with her wife.
  • Campaign site: ashleylunkenheimer.com

What made her want to run now: “My experiences as a social worker and federal prosecutor showed me the enormous good that can be achieved through thoughtful and informed use of government discretion and power. But they also demonstrated the incredible damage that can be done through neglect, unjust systems, and abuses of power. This is why it is so frightening to watch Donald Trump use law enforcement and government agencies to tear apart families, blatantly attempt to interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation, and put families at risk of losing their health coverage. I am running for Congress because we cannot allow these policies to continue.”

Key issues: “Because of my experience, implementing commonsense gun safety laws are a priority for me. Protecting the ACA and continuing to increase access to quality health care were key drivers in my decision to run. As the only openly gay candidate running for Congress from Pennsylvania, you can count on me to see hate for what it is, regardless of how it is framed or at what community it is directed. I will fight for our civic and human rights.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I would like to pass legislation to strengthen the individual mandate and ensure the comprehensive implementation of the Affordable Care Act. My priority will be working to make sure that the health care system works as well as possible for as many Americans and 5th Congressional District residents as it can, while we work to a broader, long-term solution for our nation.”

Mary Gay Scanlon

Photo via Mary Gay Scanlon’s campaign

The basics:

  • Scanlon is an attorney with a focus in child advocacy. She has served as volunteer attorney or board member of the Support Center for Child Advocates since 1985. She is currently co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, and she was previously co-chair of the organization’s Commission on Children at Risk. Scanlon has testified before the Pennsylvania legislature about the harms of zero-tolerance policy in schools. She was previously an attorney for the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania, with a focus in education law and policy. She has served as a Judicial Clerk for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
  • She served as national pro bono counsel at Ballard Spahr for 14 years. There, she represented women seeking fair compensation, refugees, victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking.
  • Scanlon lives in Swarthmore. She served on Wallingford Swarthmore School Board between 2007 and 2015.
  • She is a graduate of Colgate University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
  • Campaign site: scanlonforcongress.com

What made her want to run now: “The constant daily assault by the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress on women, children, immigrants, people of color, public education, fair elections, the LGBTQ community, commonsense gun legislation and ethics. I’ve seen everything that I have been fighting for for the last 35 years under constant attack. With the redistricting of Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered districts, I realized I could now do this work, and help more people, from Congress.”

Key issues: “My first priority is stopping the Trump agenda and its attack on our American values. My focus will be on gender equity, education and voting rights.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I want to expand the Voting Rights Act. We need to reauthorize the portions of the voting rights act that were gutted by the Shelby decision. I believe in a reflective democracy, and in order us to achieve that, there shouldn’t be barriers to access the ballot.”

Molly Sheehan

Photo via Molly Sheehan’s campaign

The basics:

  • Sheehan is an award-winning scientist. She received her Ph.D in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. She primarily researches cancer therapies and the brain. Time magazine featured Sheehan in a package titled “Why More Scientists Are Running for Office in 2018.
  • She was born and raised in Delaware County and Montgomery County. She’s a Haverford College graduate.
  • After college, Sheehan moved to Uganda. There, she worked on women’s cooperatives and soccer programs. She earned the Clarence and Lily Pickett Award for Quaker Leadership for her work.
  • Endorsements: The Political Revolution Reddit; the Party of Reason and Progress; Women Under Forty PAC; Demand Universal Healthcare; Our Revolution (SE Pa. Chapter)
  • Campaign site: mollysheehan.org

What made her want to run now: “The national excusing of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was my major activation. I could not watch our country subject my daughter and the next generation to the same abuses as I have experienced. The only way forward is with voices of reason and empathy, and I bring that as a bioengineer and mother.”

Key issues: “I’m running to bring bold policies that will provide for our vital interests, including #MeToo legislation, universal pre-K, single-payer healthcare and growing a world-class technical sector in the Philadelphia region.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I will push for legislation that improves the efficiency of our healthcare system, lowering the cost of care, while improving quality and access. We must test drugs and medical treatments properly in women and minorities, ensure our medical records transfer between providers, and expand our non-physician provider networks to underserved areas. We must also expand medical coverage to include dental, mental and vision in the base insurance plans. Such legislation will lay the foundation to the transition to a single-payer universal healthcare system while being able to garner the bipartisan support to make it through a Republican White House.”

Theresa Wright

The basics:

  • Wright is an administrative and financial entrepreneur living in Montgomery County. She was born in Tacoma, Washington and raised in Philadelphia.
  • She’s the president of C3 Professionals and Associates, Inc. There, she provides business support, bookkeeping and tax preparation services to individuals and businesses.
  • Campaign site: votetheresamwright.com

What made her want to run now: “I am one of the millions of voters and taxpayers who are tired of the disregard for the well being of the people. I am determined to defy the odds and change the status quo in the political system.”

Key issues: “I am running a campaign based upon the needs of the people which is proper education and resources for our declining school system. It starts there.”

Pearl Kim

The basics:

  • Kim is a former prosecutor. For nine years, she worked as an assistant district attorney in Delaware County, where served in the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Division and was chief of the vision’s Human Trafficking Unit. She helped lead attorney general Josh Shapiro’s office of public engagement in 2017.
  • Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea.
  • Endorsed by: the Delaware County GOP.
  • Campaign site: facebook.com/PearlKimPA

What made her want to run now: “My parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea with next to nothing. This country afforded me and my parents the opportunity to achieve the American dream. I am running for Congress because I want to ensure the opportunities afforded to me and my family are available to all Americans.”

Key issues: “I want to continue the nation’s current economic growth by holding the line on taxes and focusing on maintaining and creating both tech and manufacturing jobs in the region. I’m particularly concerned about the impacts that federal regulations could have on thousands of jobs at local refineries and our manufacturing and energy sectors. As the daughter of immigrants, I will work to address the issue of illegal immigration and securing our borders in some fashion so we can focus on legal immigration. I will use my experience as a prosecutor in the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office to address the issues of human trafficking, sex crimes, the opioid crisis, mental health, and campus sexual assault.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “I built my career as a special victims prosecutor – securing the first human trafficking conviction in Pennsylvania and working with legislators to update the law and expand protection to victims of trafficking and sex crimes. As a member of Congress, I will continue to expand protections for victims on human trafficking and work on a regulatory framework that protects sexual assault victims on college campuses.”


6th Congressional District

Includes part of Berks County, part of Chester County

Democratic candidate: Chrissy Houlahan
Republican candidate: Gregory Michael McCauley, Sr.

Chrissy Houlahan

Photo via Chrissy Houlahan’s campaign

The basics:

  • She was a captain in the United States Air Force. She served on active duty for three years and on inactive reserve for 13 years.
  • She served as the chief operating officer of AND1 Basketball, where she “transformed the company from a startup to a major apparel and footwear brand,” according to her campaign website.
  • She’s the founding COO of nonprofit B-Lab, which promotes companies certified by the nonprofit B-Lab to meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency,” according to the organization’s website.
  • She’s a former North Philly chemistry teacher and Teach for America member.
  • She served as president, chief financial officer and chief organizational officer of Springboard Collaborative. The organization is a Philly-based national nonprofit focused on improving early childhood literacy.
  • She is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and U.S. Navy captain.
  • She has an engineering degree from Stanford (with an ROTC scholarship). She received her M.S. in technology and policy from MIT.
  • She’s seen as a frontrunner, especially after U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello dropped out of the race in March.
  • Endorsements: Former vice president Joe Biden
  • Campaign site: chrissyhoulahanforcongress.com

What made her want to run now: “I could not stand by and watch President Trump misrepresent our values while Congress stood aside. I fear the American dream that I benefited from is in danger. Many Pennsylvania families are working harder and struggling to get ahead, while many career politicians seem to have lost interest in their constituents’ lives, in creating quality jobs, in affordable healthcare, and in educating our youth.”

Key issues: “If elected, I will bring my experience to Congress to create good jobs, expand access and affordability to healthcare, improve and strengthen education, fight for veterans and hold this administration accountable.”

One concrete change she’d like to make during her first year in office: “If elected, I am committed to making meaningful campaign finance reform a top priority, including limiting the influence of special interests, full disclosure of who donates so voters know who is paying, and keeping foreigners and foreign governments from secretly spending to influence our elections.”