Political news and notes: 2014 legislative races kicking off

Final write-in results show poor turnout, participation in 2013

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

UTMikeColLogoThe political news cycle never seems to end these days, on the heels of the final write-in election results being posted Friday, we have a batch of new candidate announcements or pending announcements in 2014 state legislative races — and even, it seems — an early hint about a 2016 race.

First to the headlines: in the hotly contested Coatesville Area School Board Region III race, write-ins Greg Wynn and Greg Axe came up short in their attempt to knock off on-ballot incumbent Laurie Knecht and newcomer Kim Mammel. Although there have been rumors to the contrary circulating in the community, Mammel intends to take her seat and serve.

Knecht got 1,098 votes, while Mammel got 1,024. Wynn got 918 while Axe got 781 — strong showings for write-ins. But low turnout, especially among Democrats, probably doomed the write-in races, even with all of the furor over the school board’s conduct of late.

I have to wonder how many of those folks who were yelling and marching showed up to vote on election day.

Other write-ins around the county were a bit less dramatic.

Modena has a new (old) mayor: current incumbent Ron McCorkle won a race with no candidates on the ballot by getting three write-in votes. In Coatesville, Linda L. Morris won the Fifth Ward unexpired two-year City Council seat with 31 votes. In Kennett Square, Brett Irwin won a two-year unexpired at-large Borough Council seat 43. Both of the those seats also had no candidates — and while no knock on the winners, it is troubling to see candidates elected with such tiny amounts of vote support.

Moving on to the 2014 election races — which maybe a few more folks might show up and vote for — those races got a bit of a change when the state legislature managed to pass a $2.4 billion transportation bill.

The good news, if you like roads and bridges that aren’t about to collapse or ruin your car’s suspension, is that more repair work should come to Chester County — especially as a number of local legislators voted for the package. So, yes votes from Chris Ross (R-158), Becky Corbin (R-155), Duane Milne (R-167) and Tim Hennessey (R-26) could mean some changes in priority to what projects get done.

House Speaker Sam Smith told the Associated Press this week that Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Barry Schoch may have been forced to offer promises to prioritize projects in lawmakers’ districts in order to get more support for the measure, which failed initially this week.

So, potentially, that could be bad news for residents in the 13th (John Lawrence), 160th (Steve Barrar) 156th (Dan Truitt) and 157th (Warren Kampf) districts. Almost all those areas have road and bridge projects that are in fairly dire need of getting done — and now may get pushed down the priority list. That may be mitigated by the fact that all Chester County state Senators voted for the package, but it remains to be seen whether that is the case.

The bill, despite its detractors, appears to be a big win for Gov. Tom Corbett, who finally has been able to get a recalcitrant legislature of his own party to deliver on one of his priorities. For some old school Republicans, it may also change the recently developing narrative that the GOP has suddenly become hostile to business.

In short, the win should help Corbett in his reelection bid, which in turn is probably good news for Republican legislative candidates.


Chester County Republican Committee chair Val DiGiorgio presents gift cards to representatives of Chester County Community Dental, Child Guidance Resource Center, Backing Our Young Sons & GGG, Inc. and Housing Development Corporation, Wednesday, as part of the party’s outreach program. Looking on are Chester County Commissioners Ryan Costello and Terence Ferrell. Harry Lewis, Jr., second from left, looks to be the party’s nominee for the new 74th State House district.

One race where a strong top of the ticket will likely have a major impact is in the new 74th state house district in the Coatesville and Downingtown areas.

The conventional wisdom has the upcoming 74th District state house race as boiling down to whichever Democrat emerges from what already looks to be a contentious battle for the party nomination in the primary.

Granted, having a state house district that appears to lean Democrat is an atypical situation in Chester County, but the new district was a compromise to make the other seats in the county safer for Republican candidates.

Except here’s the thing: The Chester County Republican Committee is refusing to concede the seat.

I got a better idea of the party’s plan to improve outreach in urban areas in the county during a presentation of gift cards this week worth $25 each to be distributed by local community outreach organizations including Chester County Community Dental, Child Guidance Resource Center, Backing Our Young Sons & GGG, Inc. and Housing Development Corporation will be accepting the gift cards for distribution to eligible families to help those in need with food for the Thanksgiving holiday.

County GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio made it clear, when I spoke with him, that his party not only wouldn’t concede urban areas in the county in 2014, but rather would step up efforts to reach out and make the case to local voters and to grow the party.

Although not officially the Republican candidate for the 74th, Harry Lewis, Jr., the former chair of the Brandywine Health Foundation and a long-time teacher and administrator in the Coatesville Area School District, was front and center at this week’s event. Although he wouldn’t confirm he is running for the seat, party sources said this week it is all but a done deal.

If Lewis makes the race, he will be a formidable, well-funded, well-known candidate — and potentially a nightmare for local Democrats who eyed the seat as a likely win when it was first revealed.

At least two Democrats — Caln Commissioner Joshua Young and Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell will be seeking their party’s nomination. At least one other Coatesville-based candidate — rumored to have the blessing of state Sen. Andy Dinniman — may also still be in play, but reports vary about his status and the candidate in question — who I won’t name just yet out of courtesy — did not respond to a request for comments on the matter.

While Lewis will have little more than a coronation in coasting to the GOP nomination, the two or three Democrats seem poised to engage in a bitter, personal fight, which could further rend a county party already deeply divided and largely unable to turn out its voters.

Yes, even a battered and bloody Democratic nominee will have a strong edge in voter registration — but the open question, as seen with the CASD Board of Education races, remains: will enough Democrats show up on election day?

Right here and right now — assuming he makes the run — it’s hard not to see Lewis as a slight favorite to win a seat designed for Democrats to win.

Elsewhere in the county, more good news for the Republicans:

In the wake of Chris Ross’ decision not to seek a 10th term in the state house in the 158th District, the party appears to have recruited a superstar candidate in East Marlborough Board of Supervisors Chair Cuyler Walker.

Walker’s background – his family story is worthy of a history book — and resume are exceptional and his time as a supervisor showed a thoughtful, pragmatic leader. In terms of politicians I’ve covered in the past, he reminds me greatly of former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean.

Although Walker hasn’t made his decision to run formally, he does have an opponent already: New Garden’s Susan Rzucidlo announced Friday that she will make a third run for the 158th District seat. She lost to Ross in 2010 and 2012.

Although as an open seat, the race should be a bit less challenging, Rzucidlo loses key areas of support she had in Kennett and now must look for votes in the new areas of the district, a number of which are areas Democrats don’t typically fare well in.

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One Comment

  1. Sulaiha says:

    East Fallowfield voters wasted countless write in votes by not properly marking their ballots! Many correctly wrote in the candidate’s name and then FORGOT TO DARKEN IN THE OVAL!!! to mark the vote. These ‘votes’ DID NOT COUNT!

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