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Chesco GOP Decries Democrat Officials’ Incompetence in Wake of Prisoner Escape

Candidates and members of the Chester County GOP held a rally on the steps of the old courthouse Wednesday in the wake of the escape of murderer Danelo Cavalcante.

Cavalcante, who was wanted for murder in his native Brazil, brutally stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of her children. A  jury convicted him, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison in August.

While he was being held at the Chester County Prison awaiting transfer to a state prison, on Aug. 31, Cavalcante “crab-walked” up two walls in a narrow corridor to the jail’s roof and made his way off the premises to freedom.

Another inmate used that approach in May, escaping too, but was quickly recaptured.

Also, on Wednesday, the county Prison Board, which includes the county commissioners, sheriff, and district attorney, held a meeting and voted on renovations to the jail, including walls to enclose the exercise yards.

The Republicans promised if the voters elect them, they would do better than the Democrats, who now hold all the county row offices except one commissioner’s seat reserved for the minority party. They all praised the efforts of law enforcement officials who tracked Cavalcante down.

“The world is watching. In my hands is an article from The Washington Post that details how our detractors reveled in our chaos since Cavalcante escaped and made this monster of a man into a cult hero,” said Eric Roe, a former state representative running for county commissioner. “All because our county’s leaders failed to keep him locked up in prison.”

Roe recounted how “men and women stayed awake at night, keeping watch over their home while their spouses and children slept. I was struck by the number of people who listened out their windows for the sound of rustling leaves and footsteps and the sight of flashlights in nearby woods.”

Chester County GOP candidates (left to right) Ryan Hyde, Eric Roe, David Sommers, and Roy Kofroth

“People move here and choose to remain here because safety, until recently, has been at the core of the Chester County experience. But all that changed on Aug. 31. We have to get that back. As your county commissioner, I’ll see to it that we do get that back. Chester County is watching.”

Commissioner candidate Dave Sommers, a teacher, said, “The primary role for any government is the safety and wellbeing of its residents. Chester County Commissioners are responsible for ensuring the safety for our communities as outlined in the Prison  Mission Statement. However, the safety of Chester County was placed in jeopardy.”

“What more evidence need we provide that local and municipal elections matter?” asked Sommers. “Your daily life, for good or bad, is greatly affected by those you entrust to hold public office.   Motivation to vote has become very clear over the past three weeks. Chester County deserves better from its elected officials.”

Roy Kofroth, a former Chester County sheriff’s deputy now running for sheriff, said he had been a deputy under the previous sheriff and the current sheriff, as well as a small business owner.

“Just four years ago, our Sheriff’s Office had approximately 60 working deputies, the ones that you see protecting our buildings, in the courtrooms, transporting prisoners, among other jobs. We now have around 17-18. That means the office is running at one-third capacity.

“We had eight award-winning dogs; that is one-quarter of what we used to have. We had a fugitive apprehension team. That’s gone…The Sheriff’s Office is so unprepared it it was only a matter of time before something would happen.

In the words of Chester County Prison Warden Howard Holland on Monday, ‘If we had dogs, we would have gotten him that day.’”

Ryan Hyde, a lawyer running for district attorney, said, “Three weeks ago, most of us can say our bubble was shattered. The idea of public safety became a punch line for people. I heard on the news he was within two and a half miles from my house. I didn’t sleep that night. An armed and dangerous felon was in the towns within Chester County.”

People tell Hyde they never locked the doors on their homes and cars, but now they do. And they’re noticing more crime.

“Two men, two nights ago, took hammers and broke into a kids’ toy shop to steal Pokemon cards. Last night in West Chester, a man wrestled with two police officers.

“The time where we say that doesn’t happen in Chester County is long gone. Part of it is because of what I like to call erosion,” he said. “We learned to take a little bit more each time. We learned to accept a little bit more.”

“My opponent came out with an ad that says he ‘thinks about public safety.’ All of us think about public safety. All of us do. All of us want to walk out in our yard and be safe. And all of us want to know if someone does break into their house, not only will they be captured, but they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s what we need…We want to go to a world where the police and District Attorney are responsive,” said Hyde.

He promised to bring law and order back to the county if elected.

Chester County GOP Chairman Raffi Terzian led the group of about 25 supporters in a chant, “Chester County deserves better.”

As for their Democratic opposition in the wake of the Cavalcante escape, Terzian said, “Now these elected officials are asking us to re-elect them or promote them to a judicial position. I say Chester County deserves better. This episode exposed a series of systemic problems and failures.”

“We deserve highly competent leadership who puts the interests of its citizens first, who prioritizes safety and security, who act with transparency as the bottom line. We cannot trust those who created the problem to fix it. It is time for a change.”

In contrast, Chester County Democratic Chair Charlotte Valyo praised the Democrat officials after Cavalcante was captured.

“We can be proud of our elected officials who remained calm and continued to do their jobs under the duress of public scrutiny and criticism,” Valyo said. “Now they are free to share the actions and plans being implemented to ensure this situation does not happen again. Our elected officials have governed well through every crisis presented to them, and they will continue to make the decisions that are best for all of Chester County.”

PA Dems Claim DelVal Victories Gave Them Control of House

A day after dodging a predicted “Red Wave,” Pennsylvania Democrats laid claim to control of the state House.

At a Wednesday press conference, a group of House Democratic leaders said they had won a majority in the lower chamber, crediting ‘fair’ redistricting for the victories. The Democratic State Committee also elected Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) as the new House speaker.

McClinton credited redistricting for making the Democrats more competitive.

“Fifty percent of Pennsylvania voters vote for Democrats,” she said.

Not so fast, said Liz Havey, the GOP chair for Montgomery County.

Not all races have been decided. And for the seat that was vacated by Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, who was elected to the 24th District for the Senate, Donna Scheuren was ahead by 3,000 votes. However, Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Horsham) was only leading Melissa Cerrato by 26 votes late Wednesday afternoon, Havey said.

Stephens could not be reached for comment.

But Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks GOP,  agreed with Havey that the Democrats are jumping the gun.

“I  have not heard or seen the comments of the House Democrats, however, I believe they are speaking too soon.   Several districts throughout the state have not been finalized and I don’t think anyone can conclusively say who will hold the majority in the House,” said Poprik. “As of right now, the 142nd district is definitely not finalized.  Our candidate Joe Hogan is down by only 2 votes and there are many votes still not counted,  including the provisional votes from the polling places, some ballots from the drop boxes and the military and civilian overseas ballots.

“For anyone to claim victory in that race is quite premature . We feel very good about our candidate’s chances of winning the seat and we anticipate favorable final numbers from the Board of Elections in the very near future,” she said.

If Democrats are right — and some GOP sources tell DVJournal they believe it is true — McClinton would be Pennsylvania’s first woman Speaker.

“We’ll finally have a woman who has the gavel,” McClinton said.

McClinton, 40, graduated from Villanova University Law School and LaSalle University and grew up in Philadelphia. She became the first woman House Leader in 2020.

In Tuesday’s election, Democrats Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman won the races for governor and U.S. Senate. House Democrats will start in January to enact their agenda with Shapiro’s help, McClinton said.

“At a time when women’s rights were completely on the ballot, at a time when we are able to create an agenda to work with our governor, Josh Shapiro, and our Lt. Gov., Austin Davis, (it will be) an agenda that supports working families across the commonwealth. An agenda that supports families that were like mine, where there was just one parent doing their best for two children, struggling at different times, and making many sacrifices. But we bring that story of success to every household across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

At the press conference, Rep. Leann Krueger (D-Folsom), chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee, said that it projects most of the remaining mail-in ballots being counted will break for the Democrats.

“We had a deep canvassing program,” she said. “We knocked on over 1 million doors.”

Christopher Nicholas, a Republican political consultant and Eagle Consulting principal, explained what happened when the state redistricted after the 2020 Census.

“The fifth so-called ‘independent member’ of the Redistricting Commission leaned hard into the Democrats’ social justice-oriented redraw of the state House maps and it decimated at least 10 GOP seats. So, before the elections took place, House Democrats had a baked-in gain of 10 seats and they needed a net gain of 12 to take control,” said Nicholas.

“I was pleased to be part of the successful effort to flip two blue House seats to red: the 9th in Western Pennsylvania and the 119th in Luzerne County. Marla Brown in HD-9 and Alex Ryncavage in the HD-119 will both be strong advocates for their constituents and assets to the House GOP caucus,” he said.

Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee, credited the abortion issue with the Democrats’ success.

“The ‘Red Wave’ is barely a ripple in Pennsylvania and even less than a ripple in Chester County. With Republicans in the Pennsylvania House and Senate working to restrict a woman’s right to choose and limit access to the polls, having control of one chamber in addition to the offices of governor and lieutenant governor means those efforts can be stopped and provides the opportunity to create and pass meaningful legislation that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.”

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Raffi Terzian Elected Chair of The Chester County Republican Committee

Dr. Raffi Terzian is the new chairman of the Chester County Republican Committee.

Terzian, who takes over from Dr. Gordon Eck, received 85 percent of the committee members’ votes Tuesday evening, said Felice Fein, the former vice chair.

“It’s time for new leadership,” Terzian told the Delaware Valley Journal previously. The committee members agreed.

“I’m excited,” said Terzian on Thursday. “One of my goals is to unify the party and to move the party forward in Chester County. I’m grateful to the committee for putting their faith in me and my team. And I’m looking forward to serving.”

Terzian ran on a platform of vitalizing the party by having decentralized leadership, improved fundraising, communications and outreach to members and independent voters.

The Chester County GOP faces about a 5,000 voter registration deficit. And the county board of commissioners and district attorney’s office flipped to Democrats in 2019.

Asked to comment, Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats said, “The Chester County Democratic Committee is 100 percent focused on electing Democrats in November and advancing the values of our party.”

Trained as an ER doctor, Terzian is married to Roseanne Terzian, and the father of four children. The family has called Chester County home for 19 years. Terzian,  a first-generation son of Armenian immigrants, holds a master’s degree in public health and also has experience in occupational health.

“I currently serve in an administrative capacity as an executive of a health care advocacy company where I lead a team of nurses and doctors who provide healthcare system navigation support,” he said.

Terzian also serves on the Tredyffrin Parks and Recreation Board, and is a board member of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, as well as the Chester County Board of Health.

The family belongs to St. Katharine of Siena Church in Wayne and Terzian is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

A slate of officers also ran with Terzian and have been elected as well. They are: Executive Vice Chair John Emmons; Vice Chair Paula Tropiano; Treasurer Noan MacQueen; Financial Secretary Barbara Spall; Secretary Ann Marie Franciscus; and Assistant Secretary Trish Milanese.

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Chester County Democratic Committee Leadership Re-elected 

From a press release

At its quadrennial reorganization meeting last night, held virtually, the Chester County Democratic Committee (CCDC) voted to continue with the leadership team that began its work last year. That team, led by Chairwoman Charlotte Valyo and Vice Chair Jerry Pyne, was rewarded with a four-year term for successfully continuing the election trends began in 2017 to elect Democrats to local and county positions and provide strong majorities for state-wide Democratic victories. Also re-elected to their current positions were Alex Treplyakov as Secretary and Elva Bankins Baxter as Treasurer. Voting for these positions plus the CCDC Audit Committee were 332 attending precinct committeepersons or their proxies who were elected in the May 17, 2022 Primary Election, many serving for the first time.

In her pitch to the Committee for re-election and subsequent message afterwards, Chairwoman Valyo centered on two elements that she believes are intertwined and necessary for Democrats: Unity and Focus.  Valyo reiterated the purpose and goal of the organization: “CCDC is the voice and face of the Democratic Party in Chester County. We are a political committee whose mission is to elect Democratic candidates at every level. Our success is measured by election results and our ability to financially support our zones and candidates, providing the resources they require to win.”

The reorganization will continue in the coming weeks with naming of working committee chairpersons and members of the CCDC Executive Committee. In addition, with 2022 redistricting, many of the 20 area ‘zones’ that make up the Chester County Democrats’ extended field organization may be modified to more closely align with new state house districts. The Chester County Democratic Committee looks forward to the 2022 campaign season ahead confident that their hard work, voter outreach, strong candidates, and messaging will continue to appeal to Chester County voters.

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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan Headline Chesco Democrats’ Spring Dinner Event

From a press release

On April 20, the Chester County Democratic Committee, under the leadership of Chairwoman Charlotte Valyo, welcomed member of the Democratic House Leadership Hakeem Jeffries to Chester County to present the keynote address at their annual Spring Event.

The evening also featured special guest Chester County’s own Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) and an appearance by Congressman Conor Lamb, who is running in the primary for the U.S. Senate.

Houlahan introduced her colleague Jeffries (D-NY), the Democratic House Caucus Chairman. She mentioned the need for the party to not give up any ground gained in historic trends since 2016, recognizing the “significant progress that Democrats have made at every level of government here in Chester County. That said, we cannot go backward and must continue to grow and fight for the Democratic majority.”

In a moving speech Jeffries gave a triumphant summary of significant accomplishments of the Biden administration, from a robust COVID vaccination program to economic stimulus and recovery, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and more. He touched on the dangers our country faces with divisiveness, and the need for us “as a people, not just a party, to stand together to protect our Republic.”

Chairwoman Valyo summarized the evening: “We were so moved that, as a county party committee, we were able to come together to hear from such an amazing array of Democratic leaders. Our committee time and time again has stepped up to the call of service, and I am so grateful. We are looking forward to a critical election year when we are going to elect Josh Shapiro as our next Governor and elect a Pennsylvania Democrat to the US Senate; the stakes are just too high. We are also so thankful to have Hakeem Jeffries come here to Chester County to rally the troops and prepare us for this upcoming election season.”

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