Rematch: Meehan vs. Balchunis in 7th District
Candidates previously squared off 2 years ago
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Chadds Ford, and Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis have faced each other before – but not in an election like this.
For one, it was not a presidential election year in 2014.
Secondly, the two faced primary challenges they both overcame – Meehan faced Montgomery County businessman Stan Casacio and Balchunis, at one point, faced two contenders, Bill Golderer and Lindy Li.
With thousands of new voters recently registered to vote, more people are expected to show up at their polls to make their voices heard through their ballot selection.
Meehan is certainly a familiar name in Delaware County. He’s held his U.S. congressional seat since 2011, when former Navy Admiral Joe Sestak, who previously served the 7th Congressional District, unsuccessfully sought a U.S. Senate position.
In Washington, Meehan serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, its Oversight and Human Resources subcommittee, the House Ethics Committee and the House of Representatives’ chief tax-writing committee.
He has also chaired the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity.
Previously, Meehan was the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In his capacity as Delaware County district attorney, he formed the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He also was a referee in the National Hockey League for two years.
Meehan lives in Chadds Ford with his wife and their three sons.
Meehan’s support has come from a variety of places including the Southeastern Pennsylvania Chambers of Commerce and the National Realtors Association; the Philadelphia and Delaware County Councils of Building and Construction Trades; the Pennsylvania State Education Association and Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy.
The representative outlined why he is seeking reelection to his post.
“I want to continue to work on behalf of the constituents
of my district fighting for the things that they care about and continuing to be a thoughtful, independent voice in Washington,” Meehan said.
The 61-year-old identified his priorities as constituent jobs, the economy and safety.
He pointed to the bipartisan effort with U.S. Rep. John Carney, D-Del., in saving 700 jobs that were in jeopardy when Cigna Global Health Benefits was considering abandoning its Wilmington, Del., facility to go overseas due to costs emanating from the Affordable Care Act. Meehan was among those who successfully fought for a modification to that, resulting in the company remaining here.
He said he expects to continue to fight for the V-22
Osprey, a large portion of which is constructed at the Boeing plant in Delaware County.
And, Meehan said he’d continue to use his position on the Ways and Means Committee to influence policies that will protect workers in the district’s backyard.
Balchunis is a political science professor at La Salle University and a Fulbright Scholar. She also was executive director of The Resource Center for Human Services and was an assistant to the Philadelphia mayor.
She lives in the Ardmore section of Haverford with her daughter.
Balchunis has also received endorsements from a variety of groups from the Pennsylvania and national chapters of the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood; Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, AFSCME Local 1199C and SEIU Local 668.
The 62-year-old said she is running because she felt it is time.
“I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go all the way to the end,” she said.
She spoke of a revelation that occurred to her while teaching her classes.
“You can do a lot of good with politics,” Balchunis said. “I think it’s more important now to be in Congress. I felt like it’s time to walk the walk not talk the talk.”
The Democrat said raising the minimum wage and securing equal pay for women were among her top issues.
“It’s a justice issue,” she said. “We should be paid fairly.”
She also voiced concern for seniors and Social Security, affordable college as well as a ban on assault weapons.
“I would work to protect Medicare and Social Security,” she said.
In addition, she participated in a walk with 100 people to Meehan’s Springfield office in June to call on a ban of assault weapons, following the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 49 people.
Balchunis has also said she would fight for background checks.
“We need to bring closure to that and get that passed,” she said.
Balchunis said her numbers are looking good.
“The polls showed we were within striking distance,” she said, adding that the AFL-CIO endorsement has traditionally gone to the incumbent.
“We’re working with Hillary-coordinated offices,” she said, pointing to Clinton’s
position in polls done in the Philadelphia suburbs. Balchunis is a long-time Clinton supporter dating back to 1992 when she lectured in one of her La Salle University’s classes.
She said the presidential candidates are giving a boost to individuals running in local elections.
“The top of the ticket is going to really help us,” Balchunis said.
Concerning the race to the White House, she said Meehan’s opposition to Trump comes a little too late.
“I’m upset with Meehan for not coming up earlier and criticizing Trump for the racist comments, the comments against women, comments against disabled people,” Balchunis said. “I feel like he’s just looking at the polls now and deciding what to do.”
A little more than two weeks ago, Meehan called on Trump to end his campaign.
“I have stated publicly that I had asked Donald Trump to step down in the aftermath of the revelation of his comments regarding various women,” the representative said.
He explained that was not an easy conclusion for him to reach.
“Donald Trump earned the support of the Republican Party by leading the primaries,” he said. “I wanted him to earn my vote by his conduct as a candidate and he did not.”
Meehan will not be voting across the column, though.
“I will not support Hillary Clinton,” he said. “I will be writing a vote in for Mike Pence on Election Day. I want to continue to fight for our candidates up and down the ticket.”
The 7th District spans much of Delaware County, as well as parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and a small slice of Lancaster.
Mary Ellen Balchunis
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan