Hope for the GOP in Suburban Philadelphia?

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Dave Galluch is running a radical campaign for Congress: he’s campaigning on the assumption that his constituents want commonsense solutions to everyday problems.

Galluch, a Republican running for the 5th congressional district in suburban Philadelphia, is bucking the conventional wisdom. He has not set out to divide and conquer. He is not running on a platform of identity politics, red meat, conspiracy theories, or the like.

Rather, he is laser-focused on real issues that affect real people in the district: education, inflation, jobs and skills training, crime and public safety, competition with China.

Galluch’s upbringing and background help explain his grounded approach on the campaign trail. His father was tragically killed by a drunk driver just before he was born in the suburbs of Buffalo, where he was raised by his mother (“my hero”) and grandparents. Galluch grew up in a household not particularly interested in partisan politics. “Most people who live paycheck to paycheck, and my mom was certainly one of those people, don’t have the luxury to argue over things that don’t directly impact their lives. Because quite frankly, they don’t have time.”

Nor did Galluch have time to dwell on partisan differences upon joining the military. Following in a family tradition of military service, Galluch enrolled in the Naval Academy after high school. He graduated sixth in his class. While on deployments to the Middle East and Somalia, Galluch “learned to fight for American values, irrespective of politics, race, or religion.” He didn’t have the bandwidth for partisanship. The issues were too real, the stakes too high.

This is the perspective Galluch brings to his campaign against Democratic incumbent Mary Gay Scanlon, who was first elected to her seat in 2018. The district spans a large chunk of Philadelphia’s suburbs – all of Delaware County, along with small pieces of Montgomery County and Philadelphia itself. The district is home to upper-class enclaves like Haverford as well as middle-class bastions like Darby. Galluch moved to the district because his wife, Caroline, grew up in nearby Delaware, and he had landed a job at Comcast after he completed his service in the Navy. While a relative newcomer, he’s felt at home in a district with the same “proud, middle-class, working families” that he grew up with.

Galluch is betting that these families – who range across earnings brackets and demographic divides – share common concerns: “ensuring opportunities for their children, creating an economic environment where they can start a business and thrive, being protected from crime.” Galluch is confident that “these are the issues people really care about,” which is one reason he is adamantly not running a nationalized campaign. He “refuses to be sucked down the rabbit hole” of partisan posturing, identity politicking, and conspiracy theorizing. Instead, he is running a concrete, “commonsense but hopeful” campaign.

Galluch views Congress as a local office – a position of trust to serve his district’s constituents and those constituents alone. Pointing to Scanlon’s recent ethics violation for failing to report her husband’s stock trades on time, he notes that “the higher you rise the more people you work for. Most members of Congress have either forgotten that maxim or never heard it.”

When I asked him what he wants to get done once elected, he didn’t hesitate: “people need to trust government again.” How can that trust be restored? By delivering on the actual concerns of the here and now – cutting spending and reducing inflation, combatting crime, and reforming the ethics laws that create “one set of rules for people in Congress and another set of rules for the rest of us.” But Galluch also has his eyes on longer-term challenges: the skills deficit that keeps so many Americans out of good, sustainable, high-paying jobs, as well as the challenges flowing from our long-term competition with China.

In short, Galluch is running for Congress on local issues and local concerns, in the hopes of reshaping an institution and delivering for his constituents.

Galluch spent much of his time in the Navy dismantling bombs as an “explosive ordnance disposal” specialist. In some sense, that’s what he’s attempting to do for our politics: defusing and disposing of combustible materials. We have already seen flare-ups – the riots of the summer of 2020, the assault on the Capitol on January 6th – and the unsettling question remains whether another explosion is in the offing. 

Whether Galluch’s radical campaign of common sense will succeed remains to be seen. After all, Scanlon trounced her Republican opponent in 2020, winning by a whopping margin of 29.4%. And perhaps Americans have grown immune to Galluch’s brand of politics – a politics motivated by reason. Maybe we have grown so addicted to outrage and division that Galluch’s messaging will fall on deaf ears.

But as Election Day nears, Galluch is hoping that his campaign approach will help him avoid defeat and increase America’s prospects for avoiding detonation.

Thomas Koenig is a student at Harvard Law School from Oreland, PA, and the author of the “Tom’s Takes” newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @thomaskoenig98.



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