Penn profs running for Congress neck and neck in fundraising
Arkoosh has base from Penn faculty, Margolies has backing from Washington powerbrokers
October 22, 2013, 8:27 pm · Updated October 22, 2013, 10:39 pm·
One Penn faculty member vying for a seat in Congress has received campaign contributions from Washington powerbrokers among the likes of Bill Clinton, former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.
Another Penn professor running in the same race has found a reliable donor base a bit closer to home: at Penn Medicine.
Marjorie Margolies and Valerie Arkoosh, the two Penn affiliates running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (D-Pa.) seat in the state’s 13th congressional district, finished neck and neck in campaign contributions for the third quarter of the year. Margolies came out slightly ahead, raising $237,370 in the quarter, compared to Arkoosh’s $228,563. The third quarter ran through Sept. 30.
The other two candidates in the race, state Sen. Daylin Leach and state Rep. Brendan Boyle, raised $171,503 and $151,256 in the quarter, respectively.
The state’s 13th district, which covers parts of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County, is solidly Democratic, and the winner of the May 2014 primary will likely go on to replace Schwartz, who is running for governor.
Arkoosh, the first candidate to enter the race, has maintained a sizable lead in overall fundraising. Leach’s $529,093 in total fundraising is second to Arkoosh’s $732,126. Margolies, the last candidate to enter the race, sits third in total fundraising, at $422,715.
Margolies and Arkoosh are both taking leaves of absence from the University as the race heats up. Arkoosh, a physician and Perelman School of Medicine professor of clinical anesthesiology and critical care, is running for office for the first time. Margolies, a Fels Institute of Government instructor, is looking to win back the 13th congressional district seat that she lost nearly two decades ago, following a controversial deciding vote in support of then-President Clinton’s 1993 budget.
Political consultants say that Margolies, who has the most national political experience in the race, is the early favorite. But Arkoosh, while a long shot, has turned some heads.
Arkoosh’s fundraising prowess so far has been impressive, said Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia-based political consultant who is not involved in the race. As a largely unknown candidate who is going to face substantial name recognition challenges as the primary draws closer, “she’s done what she has to do in terms of raising money,” Bronstein said.
Jacob Dusseau, Arkoosh’s campaign manager, acknowledged that it is critical for Arkoosh to fundraise at a high level compared to her opponents; the 13th district is located in an especially expensive media market, and Arkoosh will need all of the media exposure she can get to be viable in the race.
Through the second quarter of 2013, which ended June 30, Arkoosh had received $48,285 in contributions from 57 different Penn employees — nearly 10 percent of her overall fundraising total at the time. She maintained strong third quarter fundraising numbers at the University, a donor network that Dusseau called “critical” to the campaign.
Margolies, on the other hand, has received just a small handful of donations from Penn employees. Ken Smukler, a senior adviser to Margolies, said the Fels instructor and former congresswoman has been tapping into a more national donor base than her opponents.
Later this month, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will headline a fundraising event for Margolies.
“If Marjorie’s donors happen to have a relationship to Penn, then that’s by coincidence, not by targeting,” Smukler said.
Arkoosh, said Bronstein, faces an uphill battle in shaking off the perception that she is a single-issue candidate. Arkoosh is an expert on health care — in 2009, she became president of the National Physicians Alliance — but will have to convince voters that she is capable of handling other policy issues in order to have a chance in the primary, he said.
Bronstein said he remains skeptical of Arkoosh’s chances in the race. “She’s running as an outsider, but her chances are really too far outside,” he said.
For its part, Arkoosh’s camp is stressing to voters that the Perelman professor has experience in areas beyond health care — education and economics, in particular.
“At the end of the day, if we’re going to be an expert on a single issue,” Dusseau said, “I’m happy that it’s health care right now.”