Three Announce Run For Congress

Candidate Debra Wachspress announcing her run for Congress. Credit: Tom Sofield/NewtownPANow.com

They’re running – all three of them.

Last week, three candidates – two Democrats and one Republican – confirmed to NewtownPANow.com that they are running in the 2020 race for incumbent Republican Brian Fitzpatrick’s First Congressional District seat.

In her family’s Lower Makefield backyard, Pennsbury School Board member Debra Wachspress announced that she was in the race. Surrounded by a healthy-sized crowd of family, friends, and supporters, the director of relationship development at nonprofit Langhorne-based The Peace Center declared her intention to run in the Democratic primary.

“On November 9th, 2016, I woke up feeling like I was kicked in the stomach. And I know many of you felt the same way,” she said. “Months of attacks on everyone – immigrants, people of color, women, Muslims, a Gold Star family, the press, the facts, the truth. What planet where we now living on? Watching that kind of bad reality show really shook me to the core.”

The mother of three said she felt “everything I have ever cared about felt like it was under attack when [President Donald] Trump got elected to office.”

Credit: Tom Sofield/NewtownPANow.com

Wachspress has framed herself as “a working mom and advocate for peace” who opposes many of the Trump administration’s policies and the way in which the president treats people. She is using the campaign slogan “A voice you can count on.”

Reporters who attended her campaign kickoff were handed a three-page document that listed her stance on policies, including health care and prescription drugs, reproductive rights, the environment, gun violence, supporting veterans, the drug crisis, the economy, U.S. and Israel relations, and immigration.

“I have nothing personal against Brian Fitzpatrick,” Wachspress said. “We’ve crossed paths many times around Bucks County and have had respectful conversations with each other. But here’s what really bothers me: his self-declared independence looks more like turning a blind eye when he should be standing up and speaking out.”

Judi Reiss outside her home in Lower Makefield.
Credit: Tom Sofield/NewtownPANow.com

During an interview in her living room that is filled with quilts she has sewn, Bucks County Prothonotary Judi Reiss confirmed to this news organization that she will run in the Democratic congressional primary.

Reiss, who was elected prothonotary in 2017 after time as a Lower Makefield supervisor, said it was Trump’s actions and behavior that pushed her to run for Congress. She also feels Democrats have a “lack of representation” with Fitzpatrick in office.

One of the key moments in her journey to running was when Fitzpatrick held a town hall in Bensalem that had a limited number of participants. She asked a question at that event but knew many constituents who wanted to take part were unable to do so.

“You have to stand up for what you believe in,” Reiss said.

“I was raised in the south (Atlanta) and with the idea that I should leave this place a better place,” she said, adding she was running to create a better future. “I have five granddaughters, and I want them to grow up so its 2050, not 1950.”

Reiss, a retired teacher who worked in Trenton schools, said her time leading the prothonotary, which handles family court among other duties, and career as an educator in an impoverished city have shown her the struggles people deal with every day. She said she often hears complaints and worries about important national matters from those using services at her office in Doylestown.

“You have to learn how government works to be effective,” Reiss added, noting her work in the prothonotary office.

Reiss, her husband, and family were first thrust into the headlines when her son Joshua Reiss was killed at just 23 on the 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was working at Cantor Fitzgerald and had talked to his mother the night before.

Wachspress and Reiss both said they have spoken with Scott Wallace, the multi-millionaire Democrat who ran and lost against Fitzpatrick in 2016, and other previous congressional candidates before launching their bids.

The two Lower Makefield women both know each other and did not offer much comment on  each others campaign.

Both Reiss and Wachspress said they feel they can work with Republicans when needed and compromise.

“I’m a moderate. I’m not to the far left,” Reiss explained. “I’m too old for that.”

On the Republican side, president of an  investment advisory firm Andrew Meehan, a Northampton resident, announced via social media and his website that he will challenge Fitzpatrick in 2020. 

Andrew Meehan.
Credit: Submitted

In a cell phone-shot video, Meehan said he was giving voters a chance to “vote for an actual Republican.” He further added that Fitzpatrick, a moderate in modern Republican party, was an “anti-Trump, Trump-hating RINO” who doesn’t support the president’s goals. 

Meehan touted that he is the grandson of longtime Philadelphia GOP leader Austin Meehan.

Meehan was out of the country on vacation and unable to comment in time for this article. 

Fitzpatrick previously beat back a 2018 Republican challenge by Trump-supporting lawyer Dean Malik. 

The summer candidate announcements come months earlier than similar launches in 2018. Several Democratic and Republican sources said the early launches commonly have to do with raising large amounts of funding.  

According to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission, Fitzpatrick campaign had $812,130.81 on hand as of June 30. 

Editor’s Note: Publisher/Editor Tom Sofield’s father, Chris, is working with Meehan’s campaign.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001