Philadel­phia’s sub­urbs roar in an­other post-Trump elec­tion

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - WEATHER - By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG, PA. >> For the sec­ond straight year fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, vot­ers in Philadel­phia’s po­lit­i­cally moder­ate sub­urbs flexed their mus­cles to help Democrats.

Bucks, Ch­ester and Mont­gomery coun­ties recorded the high­est turnout rates in the state, ac­cord­ing to an As­so­ci­ated Press anal­y­sis of pre­lim­i­nary re­sults from Tues­day’s elec­tion. Mont­gomery County led the way, with nearly 67 per­cent turnout, and party of­fi­cials there cred­ited a groundswell of ac­tivism in re­sponse to Trump.

“There was a lot of en­ergy, and that en­ergy started af­ter No­vem­ber 2016 and grew and grew and grew, and there were a lot of mo­ti­vated peo­ple can­vass­ing for months and it just built up un­til No­vem­ber, and all that hard work paid off,” said Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Mont­gomery.

Philadel­phia’s four sub­ur­ban coun­ties, in­clud­ing Delaware County, ac­counted for a larger share of the statewide vote than they usu­ally do, ex­ceed­ing 23 per­cent. In past statewide elec­tions, that per­cent­age has topped out at just above 22 per­cent.

Vot­ers there flipped at least 12 state House seats and four state Se­nate seats from red to blue, the big­gest sin­gle pick­ups by Democrats in decades. Democrats could ex­pand their catch: five House and two Se­nate dis­tricts, all but one most re­cently in Repub­li­can hands, re­mained too close to call Thurs­day.

Sub­ur­ban vot­ers gave Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf a stag­ger­ing 320,000vote mar­gin over Repub­li­can chal­lenger Scott Wag­ner, the big­gest mar­gin since 2006 when then-Gov. Ed Ren­dell blew out Repub­li­can chal­lenger Lynn Swann in the four coun­ties by 374,000 votes.

Demo­cratic Sen. Bob Casey also won by 283,000, beat­ing Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Lou Bar­letta on Tues­day.

Win­ning the sub­urbs has al­most al­ways been nec­es­sary to win the rest of Penn­syl­va­nia. But in 2016, Trump lost the sub­urbs by 188,000 votes to Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton on his way to be­com­ing the first Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date since 1988 to claim Penn­syl­va­nia’s elec­toral votes.

Now, Trump’s per­for­mance as pres­i­dent is help­ing drive strong turnout and stronger elec­tion per­for­mances for Democrats in the four heav­ily pop­u­lated coun­ties, of­fi­cials from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties said Thurs­day.

In last year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, Democrats in­flamed by Trump scored big vic­to­ries in county and mu­nic­i­pal races across Philadel­phia’s sub­urbs, ad­vanc­ing a decades-long shift in those one-time Repub­li­can bas­tions.

“It’s go­ing to be even more prob­lem­atic for many of th­ese folks two years from now that are run­ning on the Repub­li­can ticket,” said John Cordisco, Bucks County’s Demo­cratic Party chair­man.

Democrats have long sought deeper in­roads into sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia’s bloc of eight state Se­nate seats. Cur­rently, Democrats hold one. Af­ter Jan­uary’s swear­ing in of new sen­a­tors, Democrats will hold a ma­jor­ity of those eight Se­nate seats.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Jay Costa, D-Al­legheny, cred­ited good can­di­dates, a cou­ple open seats and an out­pour­ing of vot­ers.

In the House, Democrats now con­trol a ma­jor­ity of the roughly 40 seats that sprawl across the four sub­ur­ban coun­ties.

Still, the news wasn’t all bad for Repub­li­cans in the sub­urbs: U.S. Rep. Brian Fitz­patrick nar­rowly won a sec­ond term in his closely di­vided dis­trict in Bucks County.

Around the rest of the state, Repub­li­cans held on to their ma­jori­ties in the state House and state Se­nate, and two other Repub­li­can con­gress­men from around the state nar­rowly sur­vived stiff chal­lenges. Turnout was rel­a­tively poor in sev­eral coun­ties where it could have helped Democrats.

For in­stance, in the north­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia con­gres­sional seat de­fended by four-term Repub­li­can Rep. Mike Kelly, turnout in heav­ily Demo­cratic Erie County barely broke 50 per­cent. Mean­while, turnout broke 55 per­cent in the four coun­ties won by Kelly, help­ing him to a 4 per­cent­age point win over Demo­crat Ron DiNi­cola.

In Lan­caster County, one of the most pop­u­lous Repub­li­can-ma­jor­ity coun­ties, turnout broke 60 per­cent, as it did in sev­eral other less-pop­u­lous Repub­li­can-ma­jor­ity coun­ties. Repub­li­cans said Thurs­day that Trump is mo­ti­vat­ing their vot­ers, as well as Democrats.

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