When competing political candidates agree on a lot of policy issues, they seek to distinguish themselves in other ways, perhaps by presenting a compelling personal narrative.

 

So it's hardly surprising that the first TV ad (above) in the battle to succeed U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz opens with the story of state Sen. Daylin Leach's childhood hardships in Northeast Philadelphia, an experience he sometimes refers to as "Dickensian."

Leach's father left his mother before he was born, and Leach's mom struggled to raise her son. When her own mother got sick, and she stayed home to care for her, Leach's mother put the kids into foster care.

"I remember the day my mom said she could no longer afford to keep me.I grew up in foster homes across Northeast Philly," Leach says in the TV ad's voice-over, while the images show a young man getting the bad news from his mom and dropping his suitcase in despair.

The young Daylin in the ad is actually Leach's 11-year old son, Justin. Leach's campaign finance director, Meghan Lane, plays his mom.

Leach told me the experience of being in the homes of strangers made him a tougher, more determined and resilient person, and taught him the importance of having institutions that can lend a hand to those in need. Leach said his foster parents were "not particularly nice people."

"I was beaten at a number of the foster homes," Leach said. "At one of the foster homes, there was three natural children and three foster children, and the three natural children each had their own room. The foster children all stayed in a small room. And there would be two separate dinners. There would be a dinner for the natural children, and then the foster kids would get basically like a potato."

Leach actually spent just over two years in foster care. After the fourth home, he said he told the foster agency that if they sent him to a fifth, he'd run away. By then his grandmother had died and his mother could return to work, so he went home and life was more stable.

This isn't the first time Leach has made effective use of his kids. In this video, Leach's daughter, Brennan, (yes, named after the Supreme Court justice) pokes fun at former President Bill Clinton's support for one of Leach's rivals in the race, former U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies.

More to come

Leach, Margolies, state Rep. Brendan Boyle of Philadelphia, and physician Valerie Arkoosh are running for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District in Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.

Though her campaign hasn't placed TV ads yet, Arkoosh is the beneficiary of an independent expenditure radio campaign paid for by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. She has more money in her campaign treasury than any of her rivals as of the last reporting period, and is expected to wage a significant paid media campaign in the final month of the race.

The most cash-strapped candidate will likely be Margolies, whose campaign has raised more than $800,000, but spent most of it. As of March 31, she reported just under $160,000 on hand.