I spent much of my formative years in Delaware County. The Republican Party of my youth included iconic figures like Faith Ryan Whittlesey, Frank T. Hazel, Curt Weldon, and Stephen Freind, the father of fellow journalist Christopher. There were also a few Democrats who will be remembered fondly for their bi-partisanship and willingness to reach across the aisle, like Bob Edgar, even though the county was overwhelmingly GOP in those halcyon days in the 70s and 80s. When I turned 18, I registered as a Democrat at the firehouse down the street, one of the few crazy little socialists in my neighborhood (tongue disengaged from cheek.)
Today, as a recovering Democrat and sometime Republican, I would likely be an outlier at home. There’s no doubt about it: Delco has become undeniably blue over the last decade or so when I increasingly distanced myself from its politics. There is nothing, and frankly no one in my old stomping grounds that reflects my values, from the idiotic “Hate Has No Home Here” signs on front lawns to the push for Drag Queen Story Hours at the local public library, to the fact that I was personally doxed over columns that I’ve written and harassed by random women in late model cars. That is the face of Delco Democracy these days: an unwillingness to accept that not everyone follows the Thick Blue Line of the “I Moved Out Of Philly To Find Paradise But Brought The Toxic Policies With Me” crowd.
And if I haven’t made it clear enough, I’m repelled by much of what passes for politics in Delco these days. The hyper-partisanship among the movers and shakers on County Council, our representatives in the State House, and even in the media is depressing to a woman who spent the first 35 years of her life as a voter with a big “D” tattooed on her chest. While I was always a social conservative, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t cast an independent vote, even while staking my territory in what I thought was my family’s traditional party. (I turned out to be wrong, but that’s another column.)
And while there are a few exceptions, like state Rep. Greg Vitali, who is a personal friend and who brings sanity to the madness in Harrisburg and a willingness to work with his political opponents, the majority of those who have grasped the reigns of power in Delco have decided to keep a stranglehold on every office, every source of authority, every decision-making entity.
That goes for the Democratic Committee, which just came out last week and announced it opposed three qualified judges for retention simply because they bore the Scarlet R on their chests. When the committee openly urged its constituency to vote against retaining Common Pleas Court judges Dozer, Capelli, and Mackrides, and Superior Court judge Stabile, it’s unlikely that the blatant, unethical, and partisan power grab by the Democrats will be successful because all of the judges cited have solid records and favorability ratings. It is the mere fact that the Democrats felt justified in doing what they did that is both troubling and a sign that Delco is no longer the haven of bipartisanship that existed when young Christine Flowers was waiting for the school bus to Merion Mercy on Darby Road.
To his credit, DA Jack Stollsteimer opposed the actions of the Democratic Committee and supported retention of the judges. He might disagree with their party affiliation, but he understands that electing judges based on labels is antithetical to our system of jurisprudence.
Stollsteimer’s performance has been mixed. He has worked well with law enforcement to create programs that identify troubled areas and target crimes ranging from felonies to the less serious infractions that destroy our quality of life. However, Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski is the better choice.
Stefanide-Miscichowski is no stranger to the DA’s Office. She worked there under the previous administration, joining in 1995 as an intern while still in law school. While there, she handled four different districts, covering the criminal docket in Media, Brookhaven, and Newtown Square. After her internship, she was an Assistant District Attorney in the pretrial division and became head assistant DA for the City of Chester District Court for nearly two years. When I interviewed her last week, she was particularly proud of her work as the head of the Juvenile Division. Still, she handled all matters from felony homicide cases to grand jury procedures.
When I asked which of the cases she tried stood out in memory, she mentioned a DUI case involving homicide by vehicle. The twist was that the defendant and the victim, a passenger in his car, were college friends. Stefanide-Misichowski spoke with pride that the defendant was found guilty after a jury trial, served his time, obtained a law degree, and is now a productive member of society. This is the kind of prosecutor that we want. She’s concerned with victims’ rights but cognizant that rehabilitation is not only possible, it’s necessary. She also mentioned the rape cases where she learned how to counsel and deal with the trauma of the victims of some of the more horrific crimes and mentoring young Assistant District Attorneys in the Juvenile Division.
Stefanide-Miscichowski left the office in 2002 to start a family. Family has always been important to her, and she has spent virtually her entire life in Delaware County, having been born in Chester, raised in Chester, Eddystone, and Concord, and now lives in Thornbury Township. Like me, she’s a Delco lifer. This is the sort of person you want at the head of the DA’s Office, who understands the unique problems and the many advantages of living in this collar county.
When I asked Stefanide-Miscichowski why she was running, the answer came quickly and without equivocation: the lack of leadership. She accused Stollsteimer of pursuing other state-wide political pursuits, including the Attorney General’s Office. As Broad + Liberty has documented, there is evidence that the current DA has been testing those waters by attending fundraising events in other parts of the Commonwealth. She called Stollsteimer an “absentee parent,” alleging that defense attorneys have complained about the lack of return phone calls, lack of production of discovery materials, and courtrooms being understaffed. She noted that “the policies of this administration are leading to a perceived lack of consequences for criminal behavior, which in turn escalates criminal behavior.”
And led to an increase in crime in Delco.
Another problem is something that Stollsteimer seems to share with Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner: a desire to prioritize de-incarceration, setting low or no bail on what are arguably lower-grade offenses. This, Stefanide-Miscichowski argues, allows criminals back on the streets to re-offend.
Beyond the policies of the office, Stefanide-Miscichowski points to one troubling episode at a recent Bar Association event, where she approached her opponent to shake his hand, and he began to yell at her in public, displaying a lack of self-control and respect that was troubling even to his associates. That incident was not widely publicized in even the local papers in Delaware County, leading one to question whether a Republican DA who attacked a Democrat female challenger would have received the same low level of media coverage.
With very few exceptions, Democrats in Delco have decided to engage in a slash-and-burn campaign. And while Jack Stollsteimer is not one of those who generally throw kerosene on the fire, it would be beneficial for the county to have fresh blood in that office, someone with lifelong ties to the region, with a deep well of experience, and who could provide some balance to the sort of politicians who believe that judges should be eliminated because they registered with the wrong party.
Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski is the best choice for DA in Delaware County, bringing us closer to the ideal of bipartisanship.