On Thursday, April 13, Molly Sheehan ‘07 came to Haverford College to discuss her plans to run for Congress in 2018. Pennsylvania’s 7th district, in which Haverford is located, is likely to see multiple candidates on the Democratic side run. Democratic candidates for local offices also spoke. About fifty students in total came to the DC basement to hear Sheehan give the first of many speeches as to why she is best qualified to represent Pennsylvania’s seventh.
Ben Horwitz ‘17, one of the co-heads of the Haverford Democrats, who helped organize the event, was energized by the student engagement. “I believe students saw firsthand how Molly and the other candidates— informed, progressive citizens running for office— can hold Donald Trump and other reckless politicians accountable. The candidates who came to campus are not politicians; They are scientists, entrepreneurs, and teachers. Haverford students are eager to resist and affect change in our world. They were inspired to take action and volunteer for the upcoming local elections.”
Sheehan has had an unorthodox journey into politics. Sheehan holds a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics developing battlefield and remote hospital ready blood substitutes, and is now working to produce new technologies to advance cancer research. Sheehan’s website states that she now is “an internationally awarded medical researcher.”
Because Sheehan is running, in her words, as a “progressive Democrat” and as a political neophyte, she is not likely to receive much establishment support. Sheehan is actively seeking the support of Our Revolution, a Super PAC that is run by former aides of Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign that looks to support progressive candidates and policy initiatives. Sheehan said before the event that she “had filled out their endorsement questionnaire” and it was “the most enjoyable” of all the groups she had reached out to.
The current representative for Pennsylvania’s 7th district is Representative Pat Meehan, a Republican. There has been talk of Rep. Meehan challenging Senator Bob Casey, who is up for reelection in 2018. As of right now there is no prominent Republican in line to replace Meehan, which could make the already swing district of PA-07 even more competitive. Sheehan has already targeted Meehan, saying that he is “too often” taking President Donald Trump’s side.
Sheehan was joined by other Democratic candidates for local offices. Brian Zidek, an executive at a medical reinsurance firm, and Kevin Madden, a manufacturing and technology investor, are both candidates for Delaware County Council (DCC). The DCC is a five-person board that oversees legislative and administrative issues within Delaware County and is currently controlled by the Republican Party. Sheryl Forste Grupp, a former high school english teacher, is running for Haverford Township Commissioner in Ward 2. The Board of Commissioners awards contracts to businesses, and is also currently controlled by Republicans. Dr. Monica Taylor, a current professor and program director at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, is running for school board in Upper Darby. The primaries for these candidates are on May 16.
Democrats are hoping that an energized base, coupled with anger at President Donald J. Trump’s policies will help them take back state and local offices in the 2017 and 2018 elections. Local candidates are at this point in the process trying to get their name out and raise money from supporters. Turnout in midterm and especially special elections in Delaware County is historically very low, and a small number of votes can make all the difference.