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Former Fox29 anchor Dawn Stensland considering a run for Congress in the 7th District

Former Fox29 anchor Dawn Stensland considering a run for Congress in the 7th District

More than two years after she and her husband Larry Mendte became the center of a local media firestorm, former news TV news anchor Dawn Stensland is considering a GOP run for Congress in the 7th District, a move that could significantly shake up what has been a clear primary field for Pat Meehan.

If she ultimately got into the race—and a decision doesn’t seem imminent—Stensland would likely benefit from a raft of early, free publicity that could make her formidable, even as the party establishment is firmly behind Meehan, the former U.S. Attorney. Stensland already has name recognition not only from her eight years as Fox29’s news anchor, but also from the scandal that embroiled her husband for months last year, as Mendte admitted having an “improper” relationship with his CBS3 co-anchor Alycia Lane, eventually got a probation sentence for hacking and leaking Lane’s e-mails—and Stensland won some plaudits in media circles for handling the whole thing with grace.

Reached briefly by telephone Wednesday morning, Stensland, whose interest in the race was first floated by columnist Chris Freind on the right-leaning blog PAWaterCooler.com, was hesitant to discuss her possible candidacy on the record. But she did not deny being interested in the race.

“The only thing I can tell you you is I was married in Delaware County, half my family is in Delaware County, I love Delaware County,” she told pa2010.com. “That’s all I can say.”

The political obstacle Stensland would confront in the race are not insignificant. She and Larry live in Chestnut Hill, which is not in district, and would have to decide whether to move and face the inevitable “carpetbagger” charges or run from outside the district. And local Republican leaders, who exercise tight control over local races, have been firmly behind Meehan, to the extent that they helped prod businessman Steven Welch out of the primary earlier this year. With the GOP anxious to recapture the seat being vacated by incumbent Democrat Joe Sestak, the party has been determined to give Meehan a clear path to the general election.

But her media profile would no doubt provide a helpful, early advantage. She left Fox in the fall after her contract wasn’t renewed. But she shared her experience of her husband’s scandal in a candid interview with Philadelphia Magazine last year.

December 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

--Dan Hirschhorn

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