by Chris Brennan and Angela Couloumbis, the Philadelphia Inquirer
The Montgomery County Democratic Committee has called on State Sen. Daylin Leach to resign, saying his behavior since sexual-harassment and assault allegations against him surfaced had “created a divisiveness that threatens party harmony and undermines our cause at a time when we need to be united.”
“Without exaggeration, party members have described your lashing out, lack of judgement and tone deafness, as examples of behavior not becoming a state senator and leader of our party,” said a Thursday letter signed by 38 party leaders, including county chairman Joseph S. Foster, along with several dozen members of the county Democratic committee, several Democratic colleagues in the state legislature, and Congresswoman Madeleine Dean.
Leach responded Friday, declaring in a letter to Democratic county leaders that he “will not resign, under any circumstances.” That letter touted the Democrat’s efforts in the General Assembly and on behalf of the party, and recounted how he had responded to “false accusations of literally the worst kind.”
”Nobody is at their best when they feel attacked,” Leach wrote. “And I am truly sorry for the occasions when I reacted angrily. And while this is not an excuse, my anger was the result of deep personal hurt.”
The party’s letter is sure to deal a crushing political blow to Leach, who is up for reelection next year and whose district falls squarely within Montgomery County. It landed just weeks after the Democratic leaders in neighboring Delaware County, portions of which Leach also represents, also called for the senator to step down.
Other prominent Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, have said Leach should leave public office.
It was unclear what led to the county party’s call for Leach’s resignation. Foster did not return calls. The party had steadfastly stood by Leach since The Inquirer and Daily News reported in late 2017 that eight women and three men claimed the senator behaved inappropriately toward young female campaign staffers and volunteers on multiple occasions between 2008 and 2016.
Since then, a Lehigh County woman has come forward, accusing Leach of luring her into performing oral sex on him in 1991, when she was 17 and he was a lawyer in private practice representing her mother on attempted-murder charges. Senate Democrats last month hired an outside law firm to investigate her allegations. That inquiry is ongoing.
Leach has vehemently denied the accusation. Last month, he sued the woman, Cara Taylor, along with two Philadelphia-area activists, Colleen Kennedy and Gwen Snyder, alleging defamation. The lawsuit has caused controversy -- his critics have said it amounts to political bullying and a brazen move to silence women.
In their letter, Montgomery County Democratic leaders acknowledged Leach’s leadership and championing of progressive issues and causes, long before they were embraced by other Democrats.
They avoided weighing in on the substance of the allegations of harassment and assault, saying that was "for others to decide.”
Instead, they singled out Leach’s behavior in the aftermath of the scandal. Leach has lashed out on social media at several female critics, including Kennedy, whom he called a “truly horrific monster” and “a human wrecking ball of hate." He has since taken down that post.
Leach also took a political swipe at fellow Democratic Sen. Katie Muth of Montgomery County last year, when Muth was running in a hotly contested race for the state Senate. At the time, Leach was angered that Muth, a sexual-assault survivor, had refused to share the stage with him at a political event. He sent a searing email to Foster, calling Muth “a dreadful person” and “a toxic hand grenade,” and suggested that he would work against her candidacy.
In his response to the party’s letter, Leach defended himself by saying he is “pushing back against the propensity of the modern Democratic Party to eat its own, and attack its most progressive leaders. And I am fighting for basic decency in how we treat each other.”
In their letter, Montgomery County Democrats said Leach had created “disruptiveness” in the party. Officeholders, they wrote, have a responsibility to keep the trust of both the people and the party they represent.
“We do not lightly dismiss that trust, but recognize that when behaviors so weigh down that trust as to shatter it to the point of continuous controversy, the damage becomes irreparable," they wrote, adding; "What has been done, cannot now be undone.”