SHOCKER: Democrats sweep row offices, win up and down ballot

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Updated: 3 p.m. with Comments from Chesco Dems chair Brian McGinnis

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Democrats (from left) Patricia Maisano for County Treasurer, Christina VandePol, Coroner, Margaret Reif, Controller and Yolanda Van de Krol , Clerk of Courts, swept to historic wins, Tuesday. Photo courtesy Chester County Democratic Committee.

Chester County’s Democrats won a stunning victory Tuesday, sweeping all four county row office races, meaning Democrats will hold those seats for the first time since before the Civil War. Additionally, Democrats swept to victory in a number of hotly contested District Justice races and held onto a number of key mayoral seats.

An energized voter turnout — 31.7%, a high number for an off-year, municipal election, appeared to fuel the Democratic surge to victory. A number of polling places reported vote totals higher than the entire 2013 turnout — the last time the same offices were up for election — by midday.

While it appears some external factors — such as voters’ displeasure with President Donald Trump — played a factor, Democrats were able to recruit its strongest slate of candidates in recent years, put together a true Get Out The Vote effort and were able to mobilize voters via traditional and social media.

Although Chester County Democratic Chair Brian McGinnis said he was always confident of a sweep, the margin of the win even surprised him a bit.

“I kept telling people that we were going to sweep and people didn’t believe me,” he said.

He said the combination of outstanding candidates, a great message and a united and organized party made the difference in the end.

“Now the hard part is coming,” he said. “Now, we have to govern and keep our promises to the people of Chester County for transparency and honesty.”

Chester County Democratic Chair Brian McGinnis addresses local Democrats after his party won historic county-wide races, Tuesday. Courtesy, Chester County Democratic Committee.

While Democrats celebrated the historic victory, which led to wins up and down the ballot, the county’s GOP seemed to be laying the blame at the feet of President Trump’s low approval ratings without calling him out by name.

“We are disappointed in the results of Tuesday’s election,” Chester County Republican Chair Val DiGiorgio said in a statement. “There was clearly a Democrat wave in all four of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s suburban counties, and our losses in Chester County had little to do with how county and local governments are governed. It is unfortunate that some of our outstanding Republican officials lost due to things that had nothing to do with local politics.

The Chester County GOP is as committed as ever to preserving a high quality of life for our residents, as we have done for over 150 years. We welcome to the table those Democrats who were successful yesterday, and will work with them to the extent that they want to keep Chester County such a great place to live.” 

Democrat Patricia Maisano cruised past Republican Jack London, 53.6% to 46.32% in the only open seat, for County Treasurer.

But maybe more stunning was how Democrats defeated three incumbent Republican row office holders. Margaret Reif knocked off incumbent Norman MacQueen for Controller by a 54.5% to 45.5% margin. Yolanda Van de Krol defeated Robin Marcello 52.7% to 47.1% for Clerk of Courts. Christina VandePol outpaced incumbent Coroner Gordon 54% to 45.8%.

Democrats won a couple of high profile District Justice races, as well. Democrat Bret Binder defeated incumbent Mark Bruno in the West Chester area seat, while Democrat Al Iacocca won a hotly contested open seat over Jane Donze in the Unionville/Kennett area.

Democrats also saw upset wins in a handful of school board elections. In Great Valley, incumbent Republican Carol Palmaccio was upended by Democrat Bryan Paluch and in Kennett, Democrat Paola Rosas defeated Kendra Lacosta, as Vicki Gehrt knocked off incumbent Republican Heather Schaen. In West Chester, Chuck Linn edged Randell Spackman for a Region 3 seat.

In high profile mayoral races, Democrat Josh Maxwell won reelection easily in Downingtown, defeating Republican Adrian Martinez; in west Chester Democrat Diane Herrin cruised past Republican Tommy Ciccarone and in Phoenixville, Democrat Peter Urscheler outpaced Republican Dave Gatreau. Also, Democrat Lorraine Durnan Bell defeated Pam Benjamin in the Oxford Mayoral race. John P Hagan II, a Democrat, won over Republican Mel Keen for Parkesburg Mayor. James Burns defeated Republican Michael Weiss for Mayor of Spring City.

Although a good night overall for Democrats statewide — neighboring Delaware County saw similar county-level gains, including a historic sweep of row offices and two wins for County Council — Republicans carried the day at the top of the ticket, with Sallie Mundy defeating Dwayne Woodruff for an open Supreme Court seat. Democrats fared better on lower judicial races, with Maria McLaughlin, Carolyn Nichols, Deborah Kunselman winning three of four Superior Court seats. Republican Mary Murray won the fourth seat.

There were a handful of shockers on the municipal level as well. In West Goshen, long a Republican stronghold, Democrats Mary Lasota and Robin Stuntebeck defeated Republicans Raymond Halverson and Theodore Murphy. In East Goshen, Democrat David Shuey was the top vote getter, with Republican Mike Lynch taking the second of two contested seats. In staunchly Republican East Marlborough, Julia McGovern Lacy and Robert McKinstry, Democrats, defeated Tom Simpers and long-time incumbent Eddie Caudill.

Elsewhere, in Caln, incumbents Josh Young, Lorraine Tindaro, Democrats, and John Contento, a Republican, all won reelection as Commissioner. Democrats Murphy Wysocki and Mathew Holt defeated Republicans Robin Bond and Raffi Terzian for supervisor in Tredyffrin. Democrat Karen Nocella held off Howard Sacks for supervisor in East Coventry. In East Nottingham, Democrat Samuel Goodley Jr. won one of two supervisor seats — with Michael Watson, running on both lines, winning the other.

In Franklin, Nancy Moshel Morris, a Democrat, defeated Penelope Schenk, for supervisor. In London Britain, Democrat Alieen Hoag Parrish cruised past Republican Russell McKinnon for supervisor.

In the statewide Commonwealth Court race, the parties split, with Ellen Ceisler, a Democrat, and Christine Fizzano Cannon, a Republican, winning one seat each. In West Marlborough, Democrat Jacob Chalfin won unopposed for supervisor. In Uwchlan, Democrat Bill Miller defeated Joe Toner for supervisor. In West Vincent, Democrat Bernie Couris held off Republican George Dulchinos for supervisor.

In Kennett Square, a borough increasingly trending Democratic, La Toya Myers, Brenda Mecomes, Ethan Cramer and Peter Waterkotte all cruised to Borough Council wins, defeating Republicans Dan Maffei, Gregory Deveney, Mathew McGill and Lori Caldwell.

The New Garden library referendum — to fund the Kennett Library with a dedicated tax — passed 1,014 to 651. West Bradford’s Open Space referendum also passed, 1,800 to 888.

The proposed state Constitutional amendment on taxation for school use — which lost in Chester County – won statewide by a 53.9% to 46% margin. The state legislature still would have to pass legislation to change the percentage of exemption, however.

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