Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Registrati­on edge narrows

Chester County voters to make their election choices Tuesday, and close races could hinge on turnout much more so than anytime in decades

- By Jim Callahan jcallahan@dailylocal.com @JimCallaha­n2 on Twitter

Chester County voters will pick a governor, member of congress and representa­tives from the newly aligned districts for the state General Assembly in Tues- day’s election.

Some races will likely be close if for no other reason than voter registrati­on, while favoring Republican­s over Democrats, is closer — a lot closer — than decades past.

Chester County also finds itself near the mixed-up frontier of phil- osophical boundaries of suburban voters who tend to be more liberal on social issues that favor Democrats and fiscal issues that favor Republican­s.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is locked into a tough race statewide with Democratic challenger

Tom Wolf.

Locally, there is an open seat for Congress in the 6th District between Republican Ryan Costello and Democrat Manan Trivedi. This includes the northern half of Chester and parts of Montgomery and Berks counties.

There is the newly created 74th state House district in the Coatesvill­e-Downingtow­n area. Democrat Josh Maxwell, the Downingtow­n mayor, and Harry Lewis, the retired Coatesvill­e Area High School principal, are seeking election.

Politics Pa., a statewide political blog, has called the 157th District race in Tredyffrin-Phoenixvil­le between Republican State Rep. Warren Kampf and Democratic challenger Marian Moskowitz a contest to watch.

The 158th District race between part of West Goshen and down to New Garden, was upended when Republican Cuyler Walker of East Marlboroug­h resigned at the October deadline. State Rep. Chris Ross, who had announced his retirement, was picked to replace him. Democrat Sue Rzucidlo has run an aggressive campaign for election.

Chester County Commission­er Republican Commission­er Ryan Costello and Democrat Manan Trivedi seek to go to Congress in the 6th District.

One will replace Republican Congressma­n Jim Gerlach, who decided not to run again in January.

The district is considered one of the nation’s swing districts because it generally votes for the Democratic candidate for president. Gerlach succeeded in those years but in much tighter races.

Costello, a West Chester resident and former supervisor from East Vincent, has run on his record of public service, particular­ly as commission­er. He has emphasized his record as a fiscal conservati­ve manager, but has pointedly tried to take a more moderate tone compared to national Republican­s on social issues.

Trivedi, a Birdsboro resident, is a medical doctor, who formerly served in U.S. Navy attached to the Marine invasion of Iraq. He ran unsuccessf­ully against Gerlach twice. He has generally campaigned on Democratic Party national issues, including support for the affordable health care act.

Democratic registrati­on in Chester County has risen enormously over the past 20 years. Party registrati­on favors Republican­s over Democrats by 148,000 to 126,500. There are another 60,000 unaffiliat­ed voters or voters registered to other parties to bring total registrati­on to 335,000.

Republican Chairman Val DiGiorgio said his party has an advantage in the higher turnout his party normally displays over Democrats in non-presidenti­al elections.

“This is a turnout election,” he said. “We’re working hard to get out the vote.”

Democratic Chairman Brian McGinnis said his workers are enthusiast­ic over the opportunit­ies presented by Tom Wolf’s campaign for governor over incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett.

“We’ve made a heavy bet in our ground game for our candidates for the first time. We feel very strongly that there will be some definite surprises this year,” he said.

Across the board, Democratic candidates for legislatur­e in Chester County have adopted Wolf campaign themes of criticizin­g Corbett on education funding, and taxing natural gas extraction from Marcellus Shale.

The Corbett campaign has fought back saying education funding has actually gone up during the past four years, and natural gas is taxed competitiv­ely with other states.

Both campaigns make frequent stops in Chester County.

Wolf was in Coatesvill­e and Phoenixvil­le last week.

Corbett will hold a preelectio­n rally Monday at the American Helicopter Museum in West Goshen.

DiGiorgio said the effort is paying off, that Republican­s are “starting to come home” when they recognize that a Wolf administra­tion means higher taxes.

But it’s been tough for Corbett, said Les Leckrone, an assistant professor for political science at Widener University who studies Pennsylvan­ia politics.

“This governor has never been able to get above water,” he said. “This is not normal.”

Leckrone is getting ready to take a sabbatical from teaching to finish a book about Pennsylvan­ia governors from the 1968 constituti­onal convention to the present. The adoption of that constituti­on has allowed governor’s to seek second consecutiv­e terms.

Leckrone said Corbett is the first governor in that time seriously threatened with defeat.

Leckrone said Republican Gov. Richard Thornburgh was threatened in 1982 by a lousy United States economy. Leckrone said Thornburgh won out because of an ability to explain his policies. And the Democratic candidate turned out to be weak that year.

Corbett, however, hasn’t been able to buy luck.

“The biggest reason, I think, is that he started with big budget cuts, and he wasn’t a good explainer, he wasn’t aligned with his legislatur­e,” said Leckrone.

The governor’s campaign has been trying to explain his actions with some success, Leckrone said. Corbett is late, however. “He’s three years behind,” said Leckrone.

Secondly, the governor doesn’t seem to be popular with independen­ts or Democrats – let alone some Republican­s.

Conservati­ves might be rankled with the governor’s support of a gas tax to fix roads and bridges, when he acquiesced when the voter identifica­tion bill was ruled unconstitu­tional, and when gay marriage was declared unconstitu­tional.

And in Wolf, Democrats picked a candidate in their May primary who does not have a record that other Democratic hopefuls might have had in the fall election.

It gives Republican­s a tougher job to make a comparison, Leckrone said.

“Wolf has played not to lose, made it a referendum on Corbett,” said Leckoff. “And that is what it has become.”

There is one important state senatorial race, the 44th, of northern Chester County and parts of Montgomery County. Incumbent Republican State Sen. John Rafferty of Collegevil­le is being challenged by Democratic Chester County Commission­er Sue Cozzone of Uwchlan.

Rafferty, chairman of the Senate’s Transporta­tion Committee, is seeking a fourth term. He emphasizes his work on transporta­tion and law enforcemen­t issues. Cozzone emphasizes her work as county commission­er, and as an opponent to the Republican administra­tion of Corbett.

This will be the first election where the new lines of state districts are used. They were held up after a court ruled the lines were gerrymande­red too much.

When the lines were finally accepted, State Rep. Tim Hennessy of the 26th District, was left without Coatesvill­e. The North Coventry resident was left without a Democratic opponent in northweste­rn Chester County district, the only representa­tive to get a pass.

Other district races include:

• Republican State Rep. Becky Corbin of East Brandywine being challenged by Democrat Jim Burns of Spring City in the 155th Dis- trict;

• Republican State Rep. Dan Truitt of East Goshen being challenged by Democrat Sandra Snyder of West Chester in the 156th District;

• State Rep. Stephen Barrar of Delaware County being challenged by Democrat Whitney Hoffman in the 160th District.

• State Rep. Duane Milne of Willistown being challenged by Democrat Anne Crowley of East Whiteland in the 167th District.

• State Rep. John Lawrence being challenged by Ann Schott in the Oxford area’s 13th District.

Two other congressio­nal districts take in part of Chester County.

Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts of East Marlboroug­h is being challenged by former Democratic State Rep. Tom Houghton of New London. The district contains all of Lancaster County, part of Berks through the Reading area, and part of southweste­rn Chester County up to the Coatesvill­e area.

Most of the campaignin­g has been in Lancaster County.

The Delaware County 7th Congressio­nal District of U.S. Patrick Meehan winds through part of Chester County to pick up extra Republican votes in Lebanon County. Meehan is being opposed by Democrat Mary Ellen Balchunis.

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