Rep. Costello won’t seek re-election
Ending weeks of speculation in local and national political circles, U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello confirmed to Digital First Media that he is dropping his bid for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District.
“It was a combination of factors,” Costello said of his startling decision, citing personal and political considerations that weighed heavily on him and a distaste for the prospects of waging a bitter and costly campaign to hold the office the Republican incumbent has occupied since 2015. “It has been a deeply personal decision and evaluation.
“But those who love me agree and those who I love agree with it,” a seemingly resigned and subdued Costello said in a oneon-one interview in West Chester. “I will not be running for reelection.”
He said his decision to leave the race was not a matter of fear that he would be defeated by the presumptive Democratic nominee for the newly drawn 6th Congressional District, political newcomer Chrissy Houlahan. Despite the new district boundaries that lean toward a Democratic victory in November, the overall voter registration figures are in Costello’s favor and internal polling suggests that he could still eke out a win.
Rather, Costello cited the “political environment” for his decision. “Whether it’s (President Trump’s rumored affair with porn star) Stormy Daniels, or passing an omnibus spending bill that the president threatens to veto after promising to sign, it’s very difficult to move forward in a constructive way today.
“Plus I think there is a lot of hate out there, from the left especially, and it’s a very angry environment,” he said. “It is a sad commentary on the state of our culture and political environment. It’s not me doing it, but I am the one who gets the brunt of it.”
Costello filed the required paperwork to place his name on the May 15 primary ballot last Tuesday, but decided to ask state officials to remove his name. That leaves Chadds Ford tax attorney Gregory Michael McCauley as the lone Republican on the ballot.
Already a long shot to defeat Costello in May, McCauley would face an uphill battle of enormous proportions against Houlahan, who has raised more than $1 million and secured the endorsement of Democratic leaders across the state and nation.
Costello, an East Vincent native and former township supervisor, Chester County recorder of deeds and Chester County commissioner, was elected to the 6th District seat in November 2014 after the incumbent congressman, Jim Gerlach, announced that he was not running for re-election. He won his first term by beating Reading doctor Manan Trivedi by 13 percent. In 2016, he beat Democratic challenger Mike Parrish by a greater margin of 15 percent, even as presidential challenger Hillary Clinton won the district.
His prospects changed radically over the past six months. Houlahan, a military veteran and businesswoman, announced that she would run for the office and immediately began raising money from national liberal political organizations that neither of Costello’s previous challengers had access to.
A series of scandals involving sexual harassment of women and general dissatisfaction with Trump’s administration improved Democratic changes across the board for 2018.
Then, in January the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map that had been adopted in 2011 as an unconstitutional form of gerrymandering. The court gave the state Legislature and Gov. Wolf a chance to redraw a new map, but then the parties could not reach an agreement, the court itself in February handed down a new map that redrew the boundaries of the 6th district.
Where previously the district included central and northern Chester County, as well as parts of Montgomery, Berks and Lebanon counties, now it included the entirety of Chester County and a portion of Berks, including the City of Reading, which is heavily Democratic.
In political terms, it went from “+1 Hillary” to “+9 Hillary.” Earlier this month, a federal court in Harrisburg and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in lawsuits by Republicans, including Costello, to put a hold on the new maps.
Costello, in the interview Sunday about his decision, said he remains deeply troubled by the court’s decision, which he said previously was a corrupt process meant to target him.
“I was surprised and am still absolutely shocked that the Supreme Court got away with what it did,” he said. “Their objective was to take me out politically, and that’s what they did.”
Since then, pundits and media speculators have been asking whether Costello would stay in a race that he seemed poised to struggle in and possibly lose. But he continued to raise campaign funds and delivered nominating petitions to the state to have his name placed on the ballot.
But Costello confirmed on Sunday in the interview that he had been discussing the possibility of suspending his campaign or dropping out with both party leaders and family members, and came to the his final decision the pevious week. He noted that there had been threats made against his family over time, and that the tenor of discourse against him on social and other media had been unusually vitriolic.
“It’s not the kind of environment I want to raise my kids in,” he said. “Some of the stuff that gets said about me, some of the things that people do, I find extremely distasteful. Now is the time to take the appropriate look at the environment and say, even upon winning in November I think the way things are going to be baked into the cake through 2020, and I am not interested in putting my family through that.”
An attorney, Costello said he does not have any immediate plans for what he will do going forward, except that he will re-enter the private sector for period of time.
“It’s been an honor to do this job,” he said. “In some respect’s my ego says to run. But when I look at what is the right decision for those who rely on my and the state of our body politic, I am convinced that no matter how bipartisan and open and transparent I am, there is so much anger out there that it doesn’t matter.”
The 6th Congressional District currently includes the following Berks County communities: the boroughs of Bally, Bechtelsville, Birdsboro, Boyertown, Kenhorst, Shillington, St. Lawrence and the townships of Colebrookdale, Cumru, District, Exeter, Herford, Lower Alsace and Washington.
Some of those communities will shift to new districts under the redrawn maps.
U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello