Megan Sullivan is an avid hiker—five to 7 miles a day-- and a firm believer in education. She graduated from Nazareth Academy for Girls and St. Joseph’s College and she wants to be a Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge.
The eldest of three children, Sullivan was born into a working class family of Democrats.
While attending Nazareth Academy, she fell in love with theater and wound up going to St. Joe’s on a theater scholarship. In school, she became fascinated with Germany and German literature and would soon make plans to work in that country. For a time, she considered a career on the stage, her most memorable role being Anita in West Side Story, where she sang and danced on multiple fire escapes, a pretty blonde girl with an engaging smile. She even played Cinderella, running from the Ball at midnight and losing one glass slipper that a man named William Kampf “returned” to her with a proposal of marriage.
Megan and William would eventually tie the knot after working together in the Philadelphia DA’s office where Kampf was Assistant DA. William encouraged her to enter politics.
“We met during the Clinton scandals so we had plenty to talk about. Mostly we talked politics,” Megan told me by phone. “We bought a house in the Fairmount area but when he wanted to run for office, we realized that staying in Philadelphia was not conducive to getting elected.”
Her husband, a Republican, had to find greener, more open minded pastures. By now, Megan was also a Republican as was her pro-Union, pro-Life Casey Democrat family. “They became Independents or Republicans,” she says, when the Democratic Party began to change. The couple moved to Paoli, Pennsylvania where they had two children. The marriage, however, did not last.
“We’re separated but he’s still my best friend and confident. We’re raising our two children together,” she said. I mentioned to Megan how German sounding William’s name was.
There was a brief silence.
“I would tell people my married name, Kampf and they would say. “What? That’s it?”
So how did this Philadelphia working class girl come to love everything connected with Germany, not to mention German literature, which is hardly for the feeble minded? “At Nazareth Academy you could shop for a language. The Spanish class was packed. The French class was packed. So, I sat in the German class which had 6 or 7 kids in it, and I thought, ‘I could really learn this language. So, I went on to take German in college because I wanted to become proficient in it.’”
She became much more than proficient. She wound up living and working in a rural part of Germany where she taught English at a boarding school. “I took to it like a duck to water. I was treated like a stink eye for a bit but then the people took me in,” Megan recalled.
After St. Joe’s she did a lot of voice-overs and commercials but the lure of politics prevailed thanks mainly to her ex-husband but also to a nightly ritual in the Sullivan household where her Vietnam War veteran father had each Sullivan kid read a news article in the newspaper and then advocate or oppose the views expressed therein. Megan remembers telling her Dad, “But I don’t want to take that side!” Dad, however, was adamant: “You’re taking that side and you’re going to argue it.”
“My parents didn’t have a lot of money,” Megan continues. “They now have college degrees but at that time they did not. They married young. I was on the way. Dad was a postal worker. He always said, “Education is the key.”
Education is not about getting out of the neighborhood, Megan insists. “Education is about knowing how big the world is and where your place in the world is. That perception has always stuck with me.”
When I bring up similarities between theater and the drama of the courtroom, she tells me that she’s never been afraid of getting up in front of people to make an argument. “They are very different but similar in some ways,” she says. “The courtroom is about the ability to connect with the judge, with your adversary and with the jury. In a courtroom you try and get them to connect with your advocacy, but unlike theater, you can’t emote as much.
I ask Megan about an April 2021 Superior Court Candidates Forum panel she participated in. The entire panel discussion can be found on YouTube. Participants included the three Democratic candidates for PA Superior Court judge, and Megan, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary. Megan held her own as the three Democratic candidates attempted to outdo one another when it came to questions about diversity and all things woke. “I was in a general election, that’s where my head was,” she recalled. “They were in a very different mode and basically playing to their base. They kept taking each other further and further down the base. I thought it was my job to say who I was as a person. I wasn’t going up against anybody.” Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Timika Lane is the Democratic candidate for Superior Court.
Megan says that the Candidates Forum panel was very topic driven. “Many of the key words you heard were touch words from the more progressive end of the Democratic Party,” she said.
In other words, woke.
Sullivan has been endorsed by the Pro-Life Federation, the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the Log Cabin Republicans of Philadelphia. When I asked if she could elaborate on her pro-life views she declined to answer. “I cannot talk about anything that perhaps might come before me as a judge,” she said. “I’m about applying the law to the case. What I believe a policy should be has nothing to do with following the law as a judge.”
She tells me some things about her life in Paoli, once known as the official “end” of the Main Line, with its shopping malls, old stone houses and country roads. “I like the suburbs for the sake of the children, but the suburbs are an in-between area where there are strip malls and you have to get in your car to go anywhere. I like living either in the city or in rural areas. Suburbs are in-between.” She leaves it at that. We also briefly discuss the ‘bluing” of some parts of the Main Line, especially Chester County, which used to be solid Republican territory.
She gives me the run down on touring Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. “Some of these counties are absolutely amazing. There is absolute beauty here. These small Pennsylvania towns have a town center. It’s all a throw back to the 1950s. I can see myself living in any of these counties as well.”
She seems to enjoy life on the campaign trail: “I spend 2 or 3 days in each place. I get into town and try to have a coffee or dinner with somebody in the town who is in the know. This is important in terms of reaching out. Then I will go to an organized event, stay overnight and in the early morning hours I will reserve 2 or 3 hours for hiking.” She says she gets the hiking locations in the small towns on a website called PA Bucket List. There’s also a Facebook post called PA Hiking where one can find designated hiking trails.
“My son is an Eagle Scout so he loves camping outdoors, but I don’t stay over in the wilderness. I go back to the hotel or where I’m staying for a hot meal and a shower.”
I ask a predictable question, given the polarization of American politics, about any adverse experiences she may have had during her speaking engagements around the state. “Have there been hecklers, any negatives?”
“I’ve been in crowds that have a lot of Democrats in them,” she says. “I have to say people are kind when you are kind to them. I’ve been in crowds with my opponent and we gave each other a hug.”
“In a lot of ways, the media wants that fight,” she adds. “I’m not disparaging you, as media. People are Republican because they want to be left alone. They don’t want government overreach. They want to practice their faith, raise their families, they don’t care about being rich—in fact, most of them are not…they just want the government overreach to stop.”
She says she believes that [the political acrimony] in the country is not what they’re portraying on a lot of TV shows. Is the ideological divide in the U.S. somewhat of an exaggerated phenomenon?
“We’re in a time of transition,” she says. “It’s very interesting to watch. This is the stuff that history books will talk about—this time! A Republican in the center of the state is very different than a Republican in southeastern Pennsylvania, not very different but there are different outlooks and perspectives of what that means. The Democratic Party is going through the same thing.”
Of course, one cannot end an interview with a prominent candidate without asking where they stand in the polls. “My campaign has not done a poll because it costs a lot of money. In the end, it’s Pennsylvania, and it’s always going to be a toss up,” she says.
Let’s hope that toss is in the direction of a homerun for Megan Sullivan.