Voters in Chester County set to cast ballots in state and federal elections
The 2016 presidential contest has been stranger than fiction, as two historically unpopular major-party candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump – are vying for the top elected office in the land. The election has been divisive and riddled with scandals on both sides. But it’s almost over.
This Tuesday, voters in Chester County, and across the nation, will choose the 45th president of the United States. They will also cast ballots in several other political races for seats in Congress, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and state row offices. Of the 354,676 registered voters in the county, 155,500 are Republicans, 137,124 are Democrats, and 62,052 are either registered with a minor party or unaffiliated with any party.
There are five presidential candidates on the ballot in Pennsylvania: Republican Trump, Democrat Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle.
Chester County Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio said he’s seen a reversal of Trump’s poll numbers in the county, during this home stretch of the election, and Trump has made double digit gains, to the point where he’s close to Clinton in the polls, and within the margin of error. He said there are several factors that could explain this tightening of the race.
“Even before the FBI reopened their investigation of Clinton, there was a steady drip drip of emails underscoring how corrupt she is,” DiGiorgio said. “Trump started to stay on message, and the FBI announcement is hurting her. We’re also seeing Republican voters come home, so that’s a big reason why.”
He said the news of Obamacare premiums increasing by almost 50 percent is also hurting Clinton. “Clinton wants to double down on Obamacare,” he added.
Chester County Democratic Party Chairman Brian McGinnis said he thinks Clinton will do extremely well in the county, and the get-out-the-vote effort in support of her has been superb. He said he doesn’t think the recent FBI revelations will affect the race.
“People are sick of hearing about emails,” McGinnis said. “They’re more concerned with
the issues at hand, and Hillary has a distinct advantage.”
He said he’s cautiously optimistic about how this election will turn out, but the Chester County Democratic Committee has a great group of volunteers and members who have really worked together in the last year to support candidates, and that support will translate into victories.
“Trump did shake things up a lot, but I feel that Hillary will win,” McGinnis said. “She’s the most competent candidate, and at the end of day the will of the voters will tell us that.”
In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Upper Milford, Lehigh County is running against Democrat Katie McGinty, a former environmental policy official who lives in Wayne, Chester County, and Libertarian Edward Clifford III, an accountant from Marple, Delaware County.
DiGiorgio said he believes Toomey will win Chester County because he’s seen his numbers go up in the polls in the past week, and before that the race was closer to a coin flip. He
said Toomey is beating McGinty on the economy and national security, and her alleged ethical lapses are a problem.
McGinnis said he thinks the Senate race will be close in Chester County and all of Pennsylvania, but he believes McGinty will win because of the get-out-thevote effort across the state. “It’s a good year for statewide candidates with Hillary at the top of the ticket,” he added.
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
There are three congressional races in Chester County. In the 6th Congressional District, freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello of West Goshen is running against Democrat Mike Parrish, a businessman and U.S. Army veteran from Willistown. The 6th District includes parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties.
In the 7th Congressional District, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan of Chadds Ford, Delaware County is running against Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis, a La Salle University professor who lives in the Ardmore section of Haverford, Delaware County. The 7th District covers portions of Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, Berks and Lancaster counties.
In the 16th Congressional District, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13, of West Lampeter, Lancaster County is running against Democrat Christina Hartman, a human rights advocate from the city of Lancaster, and Libertarian Shawn Patrick House, a businessman from Columbia, Lancaster County. Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts of East Marlborough, Chester County has represented the 16th District for nearly 20 years, but he has chosen not to seek re-election. The 16th District includes parts of Chester, Lancaster and Berks counties.
McGinnis said he believes there will be a significant down-ballot affect for congressional races in Chester County. “These candidates are so closely aligned to Trump with the exception of Meehan,” McGinnis said. “Costello and Smucker are Trump supporters.”
Costello “intends to vote for the Republican nominee,” according to a statement from Vincent Galko, a senior adviser to Costello’s re-election campaign. Smucker is “supporting the Republican nominee,” according to a statement from Smucker’s campaign manager, Zachary Peirson.
Meehan called on Trump to withdraw from the presidential race after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released in which Trump can be heard talking about sexually assaulting women. Meehan said he plans to write in Trump’s running mate, Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as his choice for president.
DiGiorgio said Meehan is far ahead of Balchunis in the polls, so his decision not to support Trump won’t be an issue for his chances of winning the 7th District election.
He said it looked for a while like the presidential race would have an effect on the down-ballot races, but now it’s not looking like there’s any effect. He said the Republican Party is running good, quality candidates, and the polls have spiked significantly, so there’s no reason to expect any negative effect.
All state senators in oddnumbered
districts are up for re-election this year. There are two state Senate races in Chester County this year. Incumbent state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, of Middletown, Delaware County is running against Democrat Marty Molloy, a nonprofit official from the Wallingford section of Nether Providence, Delaware County.
Incumbent state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19, of West Whiteland, is running against Republican Jack London of Avondale, a businessman and former police officer.
DiGiorgio said Dinniman tried to body shame London instead of talking about the issues, and those responsible should be ashamed of themselves because of it. “We’ve stuck to the issues, and we’re proud of that,” he added.
“I walked down the street a few times with Jack London, and people stopped him in the street to tell him they’re going to vote for him, even Democrats,” DiGiorgio said. “It’s a phenomenon. The guy’s a rock star; I’ve never quite seen anything like it in Chester County.”
McGinnis said he’s confident Dinniman will win the 19th Senatorial District race by a double-digit margin. He said Dinniman is the stronger candidate, and he has a bipartisan streak that resonates in Chester County.
McGinnis said the election in the 9th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Chester and Delaware counties, is definitely one to watch because there is a lot of money on both sides. He said the result could depend on what turnout is like in the city of Chester and the rest of the district in Delaware County, but Molloy will win the race if he can hold even or win the part of the district in Chester County.
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
All state representatives are up for re-election this year. There are eight contested races for legislators representing Chester County this year, and one legislator, state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26, of North Coventry, is running unopposed.
Incumbent state Rep. John Lawrence, R-13, of West Grove, is running against Democrat Nancy Dean of London Grove.
Incumbent state Rep. Harry Lewis Jr., R-74, of Caln, is running against Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell, a Democrat.
Incumbent state Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155, of East Brandywine, is running against Democrat James Burns, a former Spring City councilman.
Incumbent state Rep. Dan Truitt, R-156, of East Goshen, is running against West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, a Democrat.
Incumbent state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-157, of Tredyffrin, is running against Democrat Hans van Mol, also from Tredyffrin, who is an inventory manager for a music distribution company.
State Rep. Chris Ross, R-158, of Kennett Square, is not seeking re-election. There are two candidates running to fill the seat: Republican Eric Roe of West Goshen, an administrative assistant to Republican Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline; and Democrat Susan Rzucidlo of New Garden, a nonprofit director who also owns and operates a small farm with her family.
Incumbent state Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, Delaware County, is running against Independent David Cleary of Concord, Delaware County. Barrar and Cleary are both veterans of the U.S. Navy. There is no Democratic candidate in this race.
Incumbent state Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, of Willistown, is running against Democrat Joe Denham, who currently serves on the West Whiteland Board of Supervisors.
McGinnis said all of the Democratic state House candidates are doing a great job connecting with voters, and some of the races will be very close because of Hillary at the top of the ticket. He said the Democratic candidates are focusing on the issues that matter, such as women’s rights, education funding and the environment. He said the key to the election is going to be suburban women, and he feels strongly they’ll be voting on the Democratic side because of these issues.
DiGiorgio said the Democratic candidates don’t agree with Chester County voters, and they can’t talk about the issues so they talk about Trump. He said in all his years being in-
volved with politics, he’s never seen this level of hysteria coming out of the local Democrats with accusations against the Republican candidates. In the Roe race, the Democrats are alleging fraud, but Roe has maintained his residency, DiGiorgio said.
STATE ROW OFFICES
Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro of Abington, Montgomery County, a Democrat, and state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44, of Lower Providence, Montgomery County, are running for attorney general, the top law enforcement office in the state. Former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, was recently sentenced to 10 to 23 months in jail for illegally disclosing information from a grand jury investigation and lying about her actions under oath. The current attorney general is Democrat Bruce Beemer, who will return to his previous position as inspector general, after a new attorney general is elected and assumes the office.
Four candidates are running for auditor general: Democratic incumbent Eugene DePasquale of West Manchester, York County; Republican Northampton County Executive John Brown of Bangor, Northampton County; Libertarian Roy Minet, a retired businessman from East Donegal, Lancaster County; and Green Party candidate John Sweeney of Dalton, Wyoming County, a painter and auditor for Falls Township, Wyoming County. As the top fiscal officer in the state, the auditor general is responsible for performing audits of state agencies.
There are also four candidates in the race for state treasurer: Democrat Joe Torsella of Whitemarsh, Montgomery County, who is the founding president and former CEO of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for management and reform; Republican Otto Voit, a businessman and Army veteran from Muhlenberg, Berks County; Libertarian James Babb, an entrepreneur from Lower Providence, Montgomery County; and Green Party candidate Kristin Combs, a teacher from Philadelphia. The winner will lead the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, which is responsible for managing the state’s finances. Pennsylvania’s last elected state treasurer, Democrat Rob McCord, resigned in 2015 after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.
Voters across the commonwealth will be able to cast ballots in a referendum asking if they want 75 to be the mandatory age of retirement for judges in Pennsylvania. The current mandatory retirement age for judges is 70, but that information is not included in the question voters will see on the ballot. The omission of the current retirement age has led to legal disputes over the wording of the ballot question, and critics have described it as misleading and deceitful.
If voters approve the ballot question, justices, judges and magisterial district judges would be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they turn 75. The new mandatory age requirement would apply to all 1,027 state judges, of whom 19 will turn 70 in 2016, Jim Koval, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, had said when the controversy began last spring.
At the highest judicial level in the state, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will turn 70 this year, and Supreme Court Justice Max Baer turns 70 next year.
In addition to the statewide ballot question, two Chester County municipalities will be asking voters to weigh in on referendums specific to their jurisdictions.
Newlin voters will be asked to vote on a referendum to increase real estate property taxes by 0.15 mills, or 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to be used to purchase open space.
In Malvern, a ballot question will ask if residents want to limit the amount of time a person would be permitted to serve on borough council. The proposed revision would prohibit any person from running for borough council for more than two consecutive terms. After serving two elected terms, a person would not be eligible for re-election to a third term. It would also prohibit any person from being appointed to two consecutive unexpired terms or serving any part of three consecutive terms by appointment or election. The change would apply to both the current and future members of borough council.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. Any voter who is in line at 8 p.m. will still be allowed to vote.
Anyone who has questions about voting or needs assistance with voting can contact the Chester County Voter Services office at 610-344-6410 or visit www.chesco.org/156/ Voter-Services.
Follow Digital First Media staff writer Lucas M. Rodgers on Twitter @LucasMRodgers and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ lucasmrodgers.
Election signs call to motorists headed east on Paoli Pike from West Chester Pike in West Goshen. Election Day is finally here on Tuesday.