As Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, a former Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board president and pro-bono attorney has become Delaware County's first female U.S. representative in the wake of a voter backlash against President Donald Trump.
Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon, who jumped into the race only a few months before the primary, went on to win the congressional contest against Republican special prosecutor Pearl Kim. Unofficial results in the 5th congressional race had Scanlon receiving 146,255 votes to Kim's 90,271. In the 7th congressional's unofficial results, Scanlon had 94,119 votes to Kim's 77,550.
"Americans, Pennsylvanians and our neighbors across the 5th Congressional District voted (Tuesday) - not for a continuance of hate and division - but to recommit ourselves to the ideals that have served as the bedrock of our democracy for more than two centuries," Scanlon said. "I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as the next, and first, congresswoman of Pennsylvania's new 5th Congressional District, to have the opportunity to serve the people of a community I have proudly called home for almost my entire adult life."
Her opponent Kim said while she would have liked a different outcome but called the experience positive.
"I don't have any regrets about running and how we ran our campaign," she said. "I want to thank all my supporters and the people who put their faith in my candidacy."
Even though she was hoping to go to Washington, Kim said she hoped her campaign had meaningful resonance, particularly to those impacted by sexual violence, domestic violence or human trafficking.
"I hope that by sharing my story, they know they are not alone," Kim said, adding that she hoped in doing so, it brings those survivors "one step closer to finding healing."
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, resigned in April after he paid a cash settlement from taxpayers' money to a former staff member who made a sexual harassment claim. At the time of the payout, Meehan was serving on the U.S. House Ethics Committee.
Gov. Tom Wolf then set the special election to fulfill the remainder of Meehan's term to coincide with the general election Tuesday. So, voters in many Delaware County locations saw both Kim and Scanlon appear twice – one as the candidate for the newly drawn 5th congressional district and second as the candidate to fulfill Meehan's unexpired term.
The districts were redrawn in Pennsylvania by the Democratic-majority state Supreme Court, who did so following a gerrymandering lawsuit bought by Democratic voters. The new districts were drawn in February, three months before the primary. The 7th District – consisting of most of Delaware County along with parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lancaster counties – became noted nationwide for its odd shape.
After the primary, Scanlon emerged as the Democrats' choice and Kim was the selection of Republicans.
Scanlon, a native of northern New York and resident of Swarthmore, received an undergraduate degree from Colgate University and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She did volunteer law at Bob Edgar's People's Emergency Center and went on to work at the Support Center for Child Advocates, and then the Education Law Center, where she advocated for parents and families in issues involving public schools.
She then went to Ballard Spahr, where she is pro bono counsel and chairs the firm's pro bono committee, where she oversees 550 lawyers in 12 offices throughout the country. In that capacity, she organized and dispatched attorneys to airports when the travel ban was first instituted in January 2017.
Scanlon said her victory comes with work ahead.
"I know that this honor comes with great responsibility as we turn the page on this chapter of our politics," she said. "You've entrusted me to work with a new Congress, one that will look a bit different than the 115 that preceded it, to work to restore our shared values of fairness, civility and opportunity ... I will continue to work tirelessly to create a world we can be proud of - one that is fair and equitable, where opportunity is available to everyone.
"I will work to build bridges where valleys have been created by indifference or anger," she said. "I will fight against partisan gamesmanship. We are at our best when we all participate in our democracy. Progress is only made when we work together.
"And that work?" Scanlon concluded. "Thanks to you, that work starts right now."
Kim is a first generation American, having been raised by her retired pediatrician mother and dentist father, who emigrated from South Korea.
She studied fine arts at Bryn Mawr College through a joint program with Haverford College. In her senior year, she was the victim of a campus sexual assault and changed her career path. After obtaining her law degree from Villanova University, she joined the Delaware County District Attorney's Office in 2007. There, she eventually led the Human Trafficking Unit in the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Division.
Kim helped state legislators to craft newer human trafficking legislation and then obtained the first human trafficking conviction under that law. She also worked on other criminal justice initiatives such as language access.
In 2017, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro chose Kim to lead his campus security initiative.
The 5th U.S. Congressional District includes Delaware County and parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia and a small portion of Montgomery County.