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‘I won’t disappear’

Looking ahead: Allyson Schwartz’s congressional term officially ended on Tuesday. She now plans to contribute in the areas of health care cost and quality at the University of Pennsylvania. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Allyson Schwartz does not regret giving up her congressional seat last year to make a run for governor.

Schwartz, a Democrat, started the campaign as the favorite to challenge Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, discussing issues such as investments in education and access to health care.

“It was important to reverse the policies of Governor Corbett,” she said.

Looking back, Schwartz said the turning point of the campaign was when Tom Wolf, until then a little-known former secretary of the state Department of Revenue, dumped much of his personal fortune into seemingly nonstop television commercials.

The York County businessman zoomed to the top in the polls and never looked back. He won a four-way primary, with Schwartz a distant second, 40 percentage points behind. He went on to easily defeat Corbett.

“It didn’t work out,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz served out the rest of her congressional term, which officially ended on Tuesday, when fellow Democrat Brendan Boyle took the oath of office representing Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District.

The former congresswoman delivered her final floor statement on Dec. 10 and took part in her final session on Dec. 19. Her offices in Abington and on Castor Avenue in Rhawnhurst closed on Dec. 5. Her office in Washington, D.C., remained open a little longer to handle constituent questions.

Issues that would take some time to resolve were referred to the offices of U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey.

Some of Schwartz’s former staffers have found work, while others are looking. Annamarie Feeney, who has worked for the local member of Congress since Bob Borski hired her in 1987, has joined Boyle’s staff.

The staff helped constituents in ways ranging from obtaining a passport for their honeymoon to securing health coverage for a child with special needs.

“I think our office was known for good constituent service and responsiveness,” she said.

The transition to Boyle was smooth, Schwartz said, adding that some former constituents still ask her questions when they see her in the supermarket.

Schwartz, 66, plans to stay active in public policy.

“I won’t disappear,” she said.

In fact, she won’t be taking any time off. She’ll serve as a Distinguished Policy Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics and as a Visiting Fellow at the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative.

The ex-congresswoman, who lives in Abington, will contribute in the areas of health care cost and quality.

“There are a number of ways I’ll be able to continue to work on health policy,” she said.

Don’t expect to see Schwartz’s name on a ballot again.

“I do not have plans to run for office again,” she said.

Schwartz, a native of Queens, New York, is a former acting commissioner of the city Department of Human Services and founder of the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women.

In 1990, she defeated Republican Sen. Joe Rocks, and went on to serve 14 years in the Pennsylvania Senate, representing neighborhoods such as Lawncrest, Summerdale and Fox Chase.

In 2000, she made a failed bid for U.S. Senate, finishing second to U.S. Rep. Ron Klink in a six-way primary.

In 2004, Rep. Joe Hoeffel announced he would run for Senate, and Schwartz jumped into the race, beating Joe Torsella in the primary and Republican Melissa Brown and two others in the general election.

In all, she represented Philadelphia and Montgomery County for 24 years.

“I was able to offer a regional perspective,” she said.

Now that Schwartz is leaving office, the 20-member Pennsylvania congressional delegation is left without a woman, a Jewish person and a Montgomery County resident.

Looking back, Schwartz points to several highlights, including legislation she championed to require physicians to submit prescriptions electronically as a way to reduce errors and save lives.

The daughter of a Korean War veteran and a Holocaust survivor, she was particularly proud that President George W. Bush signed her legislation to help veterans coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan find work through employer incentives.

Locally, she pointed to funding for I-95 and SEPTA projects. She believes the countdown timers at Roosevelt Boulevard intersections have contributed to greater safety.

“It makes such a difference to pedestrians,” she said.

In addition, she worked with the Delaware River City Corporation on initiatives such as new parks and recreational trails. And she earmarked federal funds for improvements to the commercial corridors along Frankford and Torresdale avenues.

“We did a lot together with civic leadership,” she said.

Leaving office will allow Schwartz to spend more time with her husband, her two adults sons and her granddaughter. She’ll look back fondly on her 24 years in elected office.

“I’m very proud of my service to Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County,” she said. ••

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