by Dave Davies
Published on January 4, 2018 on WHYY.org
Two more Democrats have emerged as likely candidates for the Bucks County congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick. Steve Bacher is an environmental activist. Scott Wallace is a wealthy progressive with a pedigree dating back to the New Deal. His grandfather, Henry Wallace served as vice president under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ran an independent candidacy for president in 1948 under the banner of the Progressive Party.
The 1st Congressional District appears to be a swing seat when you look at party registration and presidential votes, which are nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
But freshman Fitzpatrick handily won the seat his brother Mike had held two years ago, and most analysts think it will take a strong national Democratic wave to take it back this year.
But there are now at least three candidates willing to try.
Steve Bacher, 55, is co-founder of two environmental organizations: The Bucks County chapter of 350.org, which advocates for 100 percent renewable energy, and Bucks Environmental Action Group, a coalition which battles against fracking and pipeline construction.
Steve Bacher is a Democrat running to represent Pennsylvania’s 1st District in Congress. (Steve Bacher for Congress Facebook page)
“I’ve spent a lot of time testifying at the Delaware River Basin Commission, working with the Delaware Riverkeepers, protesting and marching and doing everything I can to try and preserve our environment,” Bacher said in an interview.
Bacher worked on the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 and served in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He said he’s been active in Democratic politics for the past 10 years in Bucks County, and was motivated to run in part by the election of Donald Trump.
“I was just so disappointed in the Republican Congress and Fitzpatrick’s vote for the outrageous tax bill,” Bacher said.
Bacher ran for office once before, a campaign for county Freeholder in New Jersey in 2007.
He plans to announce his candidacy in Newtown, Pa., on Saturday.
The “patriotic millionaire”
Scott Wallace, 66, grew up in Bucks County, but has spent plenty of time away pursuing progressive causes.
For the past 14 years he’s run the Wallace Global Fund, which, Wallace said, “is very much shaped” by his grandfather’s ideas.
Henry Wallace ran for president in part on a platform of universal health insurance, greater understanding in international relations, and an end to segregation.
The foundation has focused on the environment, human rights, and civic engagement; Wallace wrote in 2016 that he and his wife Christy had lived “about half the time” over the previous ten years in South Africa, where the foundation has been active.
In that piece, Wallace described himself as a “patriotic millionaire.”
When I spoke to Wallace a few weeks ago, he said he’d never thought of running for office before, but was considering running for 1st Congressional District because “the current situation in Washington is driving me crazy, and this is no ordinary time.”
Wallace still hasn’t announced a decision, but many Democrats expect him to enter the race soon.
When we spoke, he acknowledged he has money to finance much of the campaign himself, which would give him more time to focus on the substance of the race.
Franklin & Marshall political analyst Terry Madonna noted that advertising in the district is expensive, making a healthy campaign fund a critical asset.
“There isn’t any doubt that when you get into the Philadelphia media market, money does make a difference,” Madonna said.
Rachel Reddick, a 33-year old attorney and Navy veteran announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in October.
She said she welcomes Bacher and Wallace, if he runs, to the race and “is excited to have a productive and open dialogue among all the candidates so the voters here can choose which of us is best situated to take on Fitzpatrick in the fall.”
Through a spokesman, Fitzpatrick declined comment on the Democratic field.
The endorsement of the Bucks County Democratic party could be an important factor in the race.
Party chairman John Cordisco said in a phone interview he’s talking to candidates about their plans and what it takes to build an effective campaign.
“I love the optimism and the enthusiasm,” Cordisco said, “but in the end the party will have to make a decision on who’s in the best position to win that race.”
The party will consider an endorsement in February. The primary is May 15th.