County Democrats display passion at local office opening

Crowds pack new Kennett Area Democrats’ campaign facility

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Democrats from around Chester County gathered Sunday to celebrate the opening of the Kennett Area Democrats’ new campaign office on East Linden Street in Kennett Square. From left: State Rep. candidate Susan Rzucidlo, Chester County Democratic Chair Brian McGinnis, Attorney General Candidate Josh Shapiro, Kennett Area Democrats Chair Dick Bingham, 7th Congressional District candidate Mary Ellen Balchunis, 9th District State Senate candidate Marty Malloy and 16th District Congressional candidate Christina Hartman.

KENNETT SQUARE — Republican Donald J. Trump may be surging into the lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in national polls for the presidency, but you would never know it from the enthusiasm shown Sunday at the opening of the new campaign headquarters of the Kennett Area Democrats (KAD) on the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Monday.

The new East Linden Street HQ was packed with supporters — and area folks had to wait in line to sign up to volunteer to help with the fall campaign, as there were so many wanting to help — even more folks were outside in the blistering afternoon heat to hear local and statewide candidates speak.

Five candidates – including Attorney General candidate Josh Shapiro — addressed the gathering of local Democrats. The one theme: how crucial Pennsylvania would be in the upcoming election both for the presidential race, but also for statewide races and area congressional races.

Josh Shapiro tells the assembled crowd that Chester County could well decide how Pennsylania goes in the presidential election.

Josh Shapiro tells the assembled crowd that Chester County could well decide how Pennsylvania goes in the presidential election.

“At the end of the day, the race might well come down the Philadelphia suburbs,” Shapiro told the crowd. And noting that counties such Montgomery — where Shapiro currently serves as Chair of the Board of County Commissioners — and Delaware continue to be seen as “safe” Democrat in presidential elections, Chester County isn’t.

“There is a real question what will happen in Chester County,” he said. While Barack Obama carried the county in 2008, Republican Mitt Romney won narrowly in 2012, making Chester County arguably the swing county in what looks to be a key swing state.

County Democratic Chair Brian McGinnis made brief remarks before needing to head to Philadelphia for the DNC — said the office opening was a great way for the county’s Democrats to kick off the DNC and help get local voters fired up for the fall election. He made it clear he agrees that Chester County is the pivot point for Pennsylvania — and maybe the entire presidential election.

“Whomever wins Chester County will win the state of Pennsylvania,” McGinnis said.

The new Kennett Area Democrats' campaign office on East Linden Street in Kennett Square.

The new Kennett Area Democrats’ campaign office on East Linden Street in Kennett Square.

Dick Bingham, chair of the Kennett Democrats, expressed excitement at the strong turnout for the event and the clear enthusiasm that seems to be building for the Democratic ticket. He cited the growth in the area in terms of local elections, with the Kennett Square Borough Council having a Democratic majority for the first time in recent memory, along with all three Kennett Township Supervisors being Democrats, plus growth in the local organization and fundraising.

All of the candidates lavished praise on KAD — noting that the group has become one of the better organized local party organizations in southeast Pennsylvania.

Christina Hartman, running for the 16th District Congressional race — a race where Hartman and GOP candidate Lloyd Smucker are close both in terms of fundraising and polling, party sources say — said she really loved working the the KAD folks, who are passionate and committed.

While the 16th has long been a GOP seat — typically held for decades by one person, most recently Rep. Joe Pitts — Hartman said things are changing, and changing quickly.

“Never before have we had such a chance to flip this seat,” she said.

Mary Ellen Balchunis — challenging U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan for the 7th District — offered thanks to KAD rank and file for their support during the primary, where Balchunis easily defeated a candidate inserted into the race by the Democratic Congressional Campaign, Bill Golderer.

“I will never forget KAD,” she said, noting that national progressive groups are starting to get behind her race — a boon to campaign and fundraising help. “It’s really revitalized our whole campaign.”

Marty Malloy, who faces a rematch against state Sen. Tom Killion in the fall after losing to him in an April special election, expressed confidence that the November election would have a very different outcome across the 9th Senatorial District.

“We’re going to be fighting every single day,” he said, noting that turnout and get out the vote (GOTV) efforts will be crucial to his race and that of Democrats up and down the ticket.

Susan Rzucidlo — making her fourth run for State Representative in the 158th District — said with the seat now open, she actually enjoys an experience advantage over Republican Eric Roe. A longtime advocate for the rights of disabled children, she worked to create and implement the Pennsylvania Premise Alert System — which warns law enforcement of people with disabilities or special needs at homes registered in the program. She pointed to the incident in North Miami last week where a caregiver for an autistic man was shot by police — an incident that might not have happened had police been better informed.

Still, she noted that getting the state to adopt PA Premise Alert took many years, many trips to Harrisburg and working with elected officials of both parties — the kind of real-world political experience she says her opponent lacks.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman — pressed with other events in the county — came too late to address the crowd, but offered warm praise for KAD, noting that he has worked with many of the local Democrats for decades, going back to his time as a County Commissioner. Dinniman (D-19), who faces a challenge from Republican Jack London, said he saw Chester County as pivotal in the presidential race and was enthused to see so many Democrats turn out for the event, and more importantly, sign up to help with the coordinated campaign.

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