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WCASB Shoots Down Valley Forge Charter (Again); Now Lawmakers Seek Reforms

The West Chester Area School Board voted 7-0 Monday to reject a proposed charter school, Valley Forge Classical Academy, the second time the WCAB turned down its application.

The state legislature is now looking into changes to the charter school law that may make it easier for new charter schools to form in the face of opposition from officials and union groups who portray these school choice options as harmful to traditional public schools.

Guy Ciarrocchi, Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools board member and former Chesco Chamber of Business and Industry CEO, decried the decision.

“Sadly, the West Chester School Board did what too many school boards do in Pennsylvania. They rejected competition; they rejected giving parents a choice. Taxpayers who support giving children access to quality schools, empowering parents, and competition should be rooting for Valley Forge as they appeal this decision. If they win, everyone wins.”

The Commonwealth Foundation’s education policy analyst Rachel Langan said, “The state could make charter schools more accessible by easing requirements to set up a charter school, allowing the tax dollars to follow the student and making the charter appeal board more charter-friendly.”

And she pointed out what school choice advocates say is the absurdity of the current system for getting public charter schools approved. She compared it to Wegman’s grocery store chain needing approval from a competitor, Acme, to move in next door.

“Imagine if Wegmans also had to secure a location for their store without knowing if Acme would support it. That’s costly and risky—and essentially represents the current charter approval process. If denied, Wegmans loses money and must appeal. If the proposal is approved, Acme must pay Wegmans each time a customer shops at Wegmans instead of Acme.

“This doesn’t make sense for a grocery store, and it doesn’t make sense for schools, either,” Langan said. “Why would a school district choose this model? The model is flawed and needs to be changed.”

The Commonwealth Foundation is the state’s free-market think tank.

State Sen. Dave Argall (R-Carbon/Schuylkill), who chairs the education committee, said the House and Senate are trying to change the charter school law. A year ago, he brought together interested parties to discuss issues, from charter schools, cyber charters, public schools, the teachers’ union, and the association representing public school business officials.

“I joked at one point it was like bringing Cowboys fans and Eagles fans into the same room,” said Argall. “They have some things in common, but they have very strong differences.”

And with a Democratic-run House, a Democratic governor, and a Republican-led Senate, there have to be compromises. He said he believes small changes can be made at first.

“We need to do a better job of helping the school boards pay some of the costs of charters,” said Argall. “We should look at how schools are reimbursed for special needs (students).”

“You know it’s going to be painful,” he continued. “You know it’s going to be complicated. But I think there is a basic consensus that we should try.”

“A lot of us strongly support school choice,” he said.

School choice supporters held a rally at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Supporters of the Valley Forge Classical Academy plan to appeal to the state Charter School Board. They are collecting signatures from supporters so they can file that appeal.

The district issued a statement saying the application did not meet the district’s standards or the state’s standards.

“We know that our community, our students, thrive on high-quality educational experiences and programs,” said Karen Fleming, president of the WCASB. “While we recognize the Valley Forge Classical Academy’s enthusiasm for student enrichment, the revised application and district evaluation still demonstrate the proposed charter school’s inability to meet the caliber of education our community and our state expect.”

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Angry Residents Confront ChesCo Prison Board Over Cavalcante Escape

Looking glum as they sat at the dais, the Chester County Prison Board members got an earful from enraged residents on Wednesday, angry over convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from the county prison and the manhunt that stretched over two weeks until law enforcement caught him.

Although the board voted to immediately enclose two areas, including the one where Cavalcante escaped by crab-walking up a wall to the roof and a similar site in another section, and also to wall in all the exercise yards, many in the crowd of 100 or so people were not mollified.

Another prisoner used a similar method to escape in May.

“I’m livid,” said Sheila Lerner of Westtown Township. “You had one job to do, to ensure the safety and to manage the prison properly. Maybe this is not the job for you.”

A man who lives in West Marlborough Township, two miles from the prison, said, “For all those kids, for all those parents, we can never unsee what we saw.”

He also thanked law enforcement and Commissioner Chair Josh Maxwell, who said he was sorry and acknowledged mistakes were made.

“I watched this board ratify two proposals without budgets and without the objectivity or the experts,” the resident said. “We need to bring people in who have that objectivity. I’m going to ask you guys to form a committee that does an investigation that does reach out to experts. I saw the governor offer his entire staff of the Correctional Department. That’s probably the way to go.”

Acting Warden Howard Holland

Acting Warden Howard Holland, who was appointed just one day before Cavalcante’s escape, gave a long list of suggestions, including at least 50 more cameras and eight more people to man them 24 hours; ankle bracelets; color-coded uniforms based on the severity of prisoners’ charges; at least two officers monitoring the exercise yards; and alarm systems around the perimeter of the prison. He would also like to see the prison’s search dog program started again.

Holland said he has already taken steps to prevent the path of escape Cavalcante and the previous prisoner used.

Sally Mininger of Tredyffrin Township refused to give the current county government any credit for Cavalcante’s capture. “We all know it was Yoda, the scent dog, who was the hero,” she said. “The prisoner was able to steal a vehicle and travel some distance, so any one of our communities could have been affected.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, a former deputy attorney general who ran for Congress, spoke passionately about what he saw as the board’s failure. “Allow me to cut to the chase: You failed us. You failed us in your duties to protect us, to keep the bad guys away from the good guys.

“My comments aren’t personal. I’m disappointed to come here with so many citizens to point out the obvious. Our comments are not directed at law enforcement. I’m eternally grateful to the men and women who went into the woods in the heat to find him,” Ciarrocchi said.

But, Ciarrocchi continued, the behavior of political figures like Sheriff Maddox and District Attorney Deb Ryan, who both sit on the Prison Board, was problematic.

“If something like this happens again, do you promise not to hold political fundraisers while citizens are asked to be sheltering in place?” Ciarrocchi said. “I hope that the citizens of Chester County, that we’ve learned our lesson.”

Maddox and Ryan are both running for judgeships on the Court of Common Pleas.

A group of architects from TransSystems LLC presented “high-level” drawings of plans to enclose the exercise yards and permanently secure those problem areas, which the board approved. They gave a cost estimate of $2.5 to 3.5 million to enclose all eight exercise yards. The work might take six to nine months, depending on the availability of materials.

Several citizens suggested the solution was simply to reject high-risk prisoners like Cavalcante.

“Will you refuse to accept murderers and rapists until the prison is fully staffed and secured? And if you’re forced to take them, will you guard them 24/7?” Ciarrocchi asked. “Deny them outdoor exercise? What are you going to do about the staffing shortage emergency? What are the steps you’re taking? Are you reaching out to the FOP, retired military, or retired correctional officers? Have you talked to private security firms? Are you treating it like an emergency?”

“I hope that the citizens of Chester County, that we’ve learned our lesson,” Ciarrocchi added.

County Administrator  Robert Kagel said federal American Rescue Plan dollars could be used to fund the project. The Prison Board will meet again on Sept. 26 at the prison, and residents can watch via Zoom.

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BREAKING: Escaped Chester County Convict Caught

Note: This article will be updated.

Escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante is now not just dangerous but also armed.

Cavalcante, the convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County prison on August 31, went into an open garage Monday, took a rifle, and encountered the homeowner, State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a Tuesday morning press conference. The homeowner fired some shots from a few feet away. Cavalcante took off and was apparently uninjured, Bivens said.

“He’s extremely dangerous,” said Bivens. “He’s now armed with a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it.”

“We consider him desperate. We consider him dangerous. All this does is confirm for us he has a weapon,” said Bivens. “He’s killed two people previously. I would consider he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”

“It was a crime of opportunity,” Bivens said. “He went in there to hide. The garage door was open. He did not recognize the owner was in there. He was probably looking for a hiding place and ran through that garage. Saw the firearm, grabbed that, encountered the homeowner, and fled with the firearm.”

Cavalcante has been evading capture — and making headlines — for nearly two weeks. He crab-walked up between two prison walls, onto a roof, and pushed through razor wire to freedom. Another inmate used the same method to escape in May but was captured quickly because a tower guard saw him. Officials fired the guard who failed to see Cavalcante’s exit.

Over the weekend, the escaped murderer stole a van from a dairy and traveled some 20 miles until it ran out of gas. He has also approached people trying to get help, officials said.

As of Tuesday morning, searchers are focused on an eight to 10-mile area of Coventry and East Nantmeal townships. The police sent reverse 911 messages to people in the area and also notified schools. The Owen J. Roberts School District closed its schools. In Pottstown, students were being kept indoors on Tuesday.

“The current perimeter includes PA (Route) 23 to the north, PA (Route) 100 to the east, Fairview and Nantmeal roads to the south, and Iron Bridge and County Park Roads to the west,” said Bivens. About 500 officers from various agencies are searching for Cavalcante, dogs, and equipment.

Danelo Cavalcante is now clean-shaven.

Bivens asked nearby residents to secure their homes, vehicles, and outbuildings.

Answering questions from reporters, Bivens said he does not believe Cavalcante was injured when the homeowner shot at him, although the owner fired several shots.

“I think he’s just trying to survive and avoid being captured right now,” said Bivens.

“We’re not evacuating homes at this point,” said Bivens. “We’re asking residents to be vigilant and lock their doors.”

The area is hilly and wooded, he said. There are streams, tunnels, and ditches.

“He is in that perimeter, and we will actively hunt until we find him,” said Bivens.

The search area is three miles east to west, two miles north to south, and is about eight to 10 square miles.

“No perimeter is ever 100 percent impenetrable. We have stood up a very strong perimeter. We will do our very best to contain him in there and capture him,” said Bivens. “We will continue until we locate him.”

“We’ve been utilizing tactical teams. Just because we’ve found a footprint doesn’t necessarily mean we know what direction he traveled in. He had traveled south and then went back north,” he said.

Bivens said he has been in “regular communication” with Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office.

“The governor has been closely monitoring this situation. He has offered any necessary resources. ”

Guy Ciarrocchi, former Deputy Attorney General and a Chester County resident, said, “Day 13. For residents of Coventry, Nantmeal, the students, and families in Owen J. Roberts Schools, this isn’t just another news story; it’s real life. An armed double-murderer is on the loose and will do anything to survive. We continue to ask without answers: How did this happen, just months after it did before? Why wasn’t the public notified as soon as possible? Why did a short-staffed prison accept a murderer? Why weren’t more K-9s available? Why weren’t the state police and U.S. Marshals called in for almost a week? This is a tragedy. I pray it ends before anyone else is harmed, or worse.”

Bivens defended the search efforts.

“Our law enforcement people have done an amazing job, tracking and locating him. That proverbial needle in the haystack, and they’ve located that needle repeatedly. People have done an amazing job. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done and continue to do. There is nothing gone wrong. Our agencies are all working very well together, and I believe we will be successful in the long run.”

“We’re making every effort to find him as rapidly as we possibly can,” Bivens added.

“It is imperative that anyone with information about Cavalcante contact us immediately so we can act on it in a timely manner,” said Bivens. They can call 911 or the tipline: (717) 562-2987. There is now a $25,000 reward.

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Chester County Dems Slammed Over Lax Prison Security That Led to Escapes

Having overseen the Chester County Prison, where two prisoners –including convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante — have escaped since May, Democrats shouldn’t escape their responsibility for this security failure.

That was the message from Republicans holding a press conference Wednesday calling out Democratic county officials, such as the sheriff, district attorney, and the majority commissioners, for their failed oversight of the county prison in the wake of Cavalcante’s escape.

“The residents of Chester County deserve better,” said Eric Roe, the former state representative and a Republican running for county commissioner. “Let me be clear: I am not criticizing the brave men and women of law enforcement who are out there in the heat working tirelessly to find this dangerous and evil man. My frustration is with the people at the highest levels of county government tasked with preventing these escapes, acting quickly in the event of an escape, and keeping our residents properly informed. Several Chester County Prison Board members are on your ballot this November. If you are not happy with the status quo, then I urge you to vote accordingly.”

Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County Prison on Aug. 31 and has not been apprehended as of this writing. There have been multiple sightings, including on trail cameras in Longwood Gardens. A jury convicted Cavalcante of murder for brutally stabbing his girlfriend in front of her children, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. Cavalcante is also wanted for a 2017 murder in his native Brazil, officials said.

The primary role for any government is the safety and wellbeing of its residents,” said David Sommers, a Republican candidate for county commission. “Chester County Commissioners must keep our communities safe. The escape of an ‘extremely dangerous’ inmate from the Chester County Prison is of great concern. It is the duty and responsibility of the entire Chester County Prison Board, of which the three commissioners are members, to run and maintain the correctional facility. Many questions remain unanswered to date. Residents deserve a full explanation of the events surrounding the escape, response time, and subsequent notification to the public.”

The commissioners “must thoroughly search for a new, qualified, vetted, permanent Chester County Prison warden,” Sommers added.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, Cavalcante was still on the run, apparently having burglarized a home or homes to take food and items he needed to survive. Cameras showed him in Pocopson Township and areas near Longwood Gardens. Then Longwood Gardens officials saw Cavalcante walking on their trails.

“On the morning of September 5, 2023, security at Longwood Gardens notified law enforcement that they had received trail camera footage that was taken on their property, which showed an individual appearing to be Cavalcante,” a press release stated. “This area was just south of the original perimeter. Investigators confirmed it was Danelo Cavalcante, and he had a backpack, a duffle sling pack, and a hooded sweatshirt.

“Cavalcante was seen in the trail camera footage walking north at 8:21 p.m. and back south through the same location at 9:33 p.m. Based on that information, the manhunt has shifted from the original parameter to contain him, moving towards the southern end of the established perimeter,” the statement said.

Longwood Gardens closed. Area school superintendents were notified, leading to the closures of schools in Unionville Chadds-Ford and Kennett Area Consolidated school districts. Residents were notified by reverse 911.

Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford), whose district includes the affected area, told DVJournal, “I am in touch with both the State Police and the Governor’s Office of Legislative Affairs. My first priority is the safety of my community by capturing an escaped felon. I am told the FBI, U.S. Marshals, Pennsylvania State Police, the state police of Maryland and Delaware, as well as aviation and canine assets from those agencies, are now added to the hunt. That should bring some comfort to my worried district.”

“When this convict is recaptured, then we will have a conversation about the security of the Pocopson facility,” added Williams, a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General and Marine JAG officer.

Commonwealth Foundation Senior Fellow Guy Ciarrocchi, who served as a state deputy attorney general, is livid about the incompetence of county officials.

“We now have the worst of our fears: An escaped convicted murderer is out and running around southern Chester County,” said Ciarrocchi.

Asked why county officials did not fix problems at the prison after a different inmate escaped in May, Ciarrocchi said, “You’re asking one of those commonsense questions that goes above and beyond law enforcement and politics. It’s a commonsense question. If it happened once, why wasn’t it fixed? And that’s a question somebody better answer. And our sheriff ought to answer that. Our commissioners ought to answer it. Our district attorney ought to answer it. But our sheriff and our district attorney are busy running for county judge, hoping people will vote for them because of their party label.”

A county spokeswoman said the matter is under investigation.

Ciarrocchi said the county prison should not house such dangerous prisoners. It is where inmates are “typically car thieves, con artists, welfare fraud, not, not usually physically harmful, violent, violent people go there as a holding cell until they’re being sent to a more secure prison.”

Longwood Gardens cameras caught the fugitive on a trail.

Cavalcante should not have been there, but since he was, prison authorities should have taken more precautions with him.

“We have one job. Hold this man until he’s put into a maximum security prison. And they failed in that basic duty. This is, this is a horrific failure of leadership. And then it was compounded by not really getting the public engaged so that we could be vigilant to help capture him and protect loved ones in our businesses,” said Ciarrocchi.

Ciarrocchi said, “This was a convicted murderer who is also standing on murder charges in Brazil. He should be the one person that everybody is paying attention to, and he is the one that they should have been building security around…To let him go, uh, is a gross failure in duty. And to let him go this many days and not engage the public is far worse. So that’s what appears to have happened.”

The district attorney’s office said hundreds of law enforcement officers are working around the clock to find Cavalcante. Helicopters, drones, and K-9 units are aiding the search.

Residents should keep their doors and windows locked and be aware of their surroundings.

Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of Danelo Cavalcante is asked to call 9-1-1 immediately. Officials said there is a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to his capture.

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Ahead of 2024 GOP Launches ‘Bank Your Vote’

The Republican Party is going “full forward on a mail-in ballot strategy,” said Pennsylvania GOP Chair Lawrence Tabas.

The DVJournal asked Tabas how he would convince Republican voters to vote by mail since, for several years, they tended to vote on Election Day unless they needed an absentee ballot.

“We have developed a task force,” said Tabas. “We’re working very strongly now on educating our voters as to the benefits of voting by mail. We’ll be working with the RNC on this, and I am very confident that you will see a much larger vote by Republicans supporting our candidates this year and next year.”

In 2021 the Republicans increased mail-in ballots at a higher rate than Democrats, he said.

In a June 7 press call, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the Bank Your Vote Campaign is a nationwide effort.

“We all know, we’re all very aware, we no longer have an Election Day, we have an election season,” said McDaniel. “Many, many states have weeks and weeks of early voting.  Bank Your Vote will make sure Republicans take advantage of that.”

In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballots are mailed out to voters 30 days before an election.

McDaniel said she wants to raise awareness among GOP voters well before 2024 that they can “lock in their votes as early as possible.”

“We’ve got to double down,” said McDaniel. “We’ve got to educate our voters. I think of it this way. We have some voters that like to vote on Election Day. We have to explain to them we can’t allow Democrats to get a head start.”

“Why are you going to wait until the fourth quarter to score a touchdown when you have four quarters to put points on the board? That’s what this whole initiate is about, and we’re going to lead the charge in getting Republicans to chase ballots and build an advantage before Election Day.”

After 2020 voters were “skittish,” she said.  “They needed to know their vote would be protected. That’s why we recruited 80,000 poll watchers and poll workers.”

They also filed 100 election integrity lawsuits in the 2022 cycle.  She wants voters to know that “if they vote early, their vote will be protected.”

She said they will have workers on the ground, going door-to-door, as well as digital teams. They will target younger voters on social media.

“We will protect the House, flip the Senate and make Joe Biden a one-term president,” said McDaniel.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and tasked with electing and re-electing senators, said, “If we learned one thing in the last election cycle, 2022, it’s we need to turn Election Day into Election Month.”

“The Democrats outraised us financially in past cycles,” he said. “What they’ve also done is dominated in early and mail-in voting.”

Sen. Bill Haggerty (R-Tenn.) said. At the same time, Republicans have a “great map,” with three Democrats running in red states, an unpopular president, and an open border “that’s fueling a drug overdose epidemic.”

“We’ve got an energy policy that is absolutely absurd, making America less competitive rather than more so,” he said. “We’ve got an economy that’s dealing with inflation at record levels.” And numerous foreign policy challenges around the world. But they can’t take these advantages for granted.

“We have got to bank our votes early.   We have a great opportunity to vote… A friend said, ‘You don’t want to put off buying that Christmas present until Christmas Day.’”

And Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said they are “focused on keeping House majority and growing it.”

They plan to recruit “strong candidates” and run “strong campaigns,” giving those candidates the “resources they need to win.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, the former chair of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce who ran for governor last year, wrote an op-ed in 2021 telling fellow Republicans to embrace mail-in ballots.

“Unilateral disarmament has never been an effective winning strategy,” said Ciarrocchi on Friday. “Conservatives are duty-bound to learn how to successfully execute a mail-in vote effort; otherwise, we risk losing races—no matter how effective our Election-Day strategy is.”

Jake Zane, spokesman for the Delaware County Republican Party, said Chairman Frank Agovino’s first step as a new chair was to form a committee on mail-in ballots.

“And that committee issued a report,” said Zane. “We’re moving forward with a plan to boost Republican turnout with a mail-in ballot effort through the hard work of our committee and robust digital efforts.”

Houlahan, Ciarrocchi Spar in 6th District Debate

U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan faced off against challenger Guy Ciarrocchi at a forum sponsored by the Greater Reading Unity Coalition Sunday evening.

There were some clear differences, as Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester), who was first elected in 2018, defended her record, and Republican Ciarrocchi laid the blame for the 8 percent inflation hitting Pennsylvania residents at the feet of the Biden administration and the Democratic Congress.

“The economy is in shambles. Inflation is out of control,” Ciarrocchi said. “We all know that every time we buy gasoline, every time we pay a utility bill, every time we go to the grocery store, every time we have to talk to our parents or grandparents who are senior citizens, every time we talk to a single mom. Every time every one of us gets out and about every day of the week. It’s out of control.

“Energy prices are too high. The stock market’s sinking, so if you saved money, you have less money than before you saved. Mortgage rates are going up and denying people the ability to buy their first home. The economy is in crisis, much of it because of bad decisions.”

“Washington has been spending money way too fast,” he said. “We spent almost double the federal budget passing out money…You don’t need a degree from Wharton to understand that spending $6 trillion extra dollars is going to cause inflation. You don’t need to be an expert in the economy to realize if the president and the Democratic Congress decide to slow down our output of oil and gas, it’s going to cause prices to spike. So, what do you do? Stop spending if you’re in a hole; stop digging. This crowd starts looking for a bigger shovel.”

Ciarrocchi said high energy prices are increasing the costs of everything that is transported, including food and medicine.

Houlahan said, “Inflation is real, and it is painful, and it is a consequence of a lot. It’s a catastrophic virus we had to deal with for the first time in 100 years. It’s the catastrophic war in Ukraine that we’ve all dealt with. It’s a lot of decisions we all have made, the very best decisions that we could make when thousands and thousands of people were dying every single day over the last two years. We made choices.

“I am working really hard in Congress as a person who has a background in supply chain management, a person who’s a former businessperson that we made all the best choices that we possibly could,” she said. She said she has developed a package on how to deal with inflation. “We passed the Inflation Reduction Act that will reduce drug prices and that will put more money in pockets. So, inflation isn’t just about increasing prices but how far your dollar goes.

“It allows for more renewables as well…The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is also part of that plan to make sure we have more jobs that are better paying and allow us to get to work safely and more cheaply…There is more to do.”

“With all due respect, I think the Democratic Congress spent most of the last year pretending that inflation wasn’t real,” Ciarrocchi responded. “And then, when we got close to the election, they decided to take the Green New Deal title off it and call it the Inflation Reduction Act.

“According to CBS, CNN and Wharton, it’s not going to lower inflation. It’s more likely to make it go up and get worse. Our energy prices are going up. Our food costs are going up…The Inflation Reduction Act was taking $730 trillion and adding to the billions already spent…It gave us 87,000 more IRS agents,” Ciarrocchi added.

Houlahan said the IRS agents are needed for customer service, including money to modernize that agency’s aging computer software.

Asked about the environment and agriculture, Houlahan said, “Climate change is real, and people cause it.” She said it was an economic and national security issue.

“We saw in the last few years, 100-year floods twice in our area that caused, in the case of Chester County, a federal state of emergency…At a federal level, what we can do is worry about evolving toward renewable energy.” She said the Inflation Reduction Act would add more renewable energy.

Ciarrocchi said, “It is important that we protect our environment…One way is we protect family farms…Well run, good farms protect our environment, protect our quality of life…right now, the government all too often at the national level tries to get involved.” He said he’d prefer the federal government partner with state and local government. “No matter how smart and well-meaning the folks at the EPA are, somebody on the 13th floor at the EPA doesn’t know Berks County as well as the folks here, to trust and empower them to what’s necessary… It’s a balance. We should have a good, clean environment and a strong, vibrant economy.”

The candidates disagreed on abortion, with Ciarrocchi saying he is pro-life and that the Dobbs decision allows each state to decide its own laws. Houlahan said she is strongly pro-choice and has voted twice for federal legislation to ensure women’s right to choose on a national level, so there isn’t a “wild, wild west” on abortion.

Ciarrocchi called on her to stop misrepresenting his position in campaign mailings.

And on the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the committee investigating it, the pair also had a difference of opinion. Ciarrocchi said the country needs to move on.

“It’s time for this committee to bring this to a close,” he said. “We have an economy that’s falling apart. We have problems of safety in our own communities. We have issues within our own nation. We need to work on our own energy supply. We need to get Republicans and Democrats to stop fighting with each other and focus on the things that impact our lives. The committee has been in existence for a year and a half. Either things need to be brought to the attention of the Justice Department, and people need to be charged, or we need to bring this to a close. We need to move beyond this chapter…We need to move forward.”

Houlahan said, “We cannot simply put the past behind us. There’s too much at stake. Clearly, our democracy is at stake. This was a free and fair election…This is a case where Congress can do both. We can obviously consider the everyday issues, kitchen table issues, but I would argue our democracy is a kitchen table issue as well. It’s the thing that allows us to exist as a free and fair election…This was an insurrection, and it’s really important that we identify it, recognize it, that we investigate it, and we make sure that it never, ever happens again under any circumstances or under any person’s watch.”

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Oz, Ciarrocchi Hit Chester County Campaign Trail

The Delaware Valley may be trending Democratic, but that did not stop the nation’s top Republican from coming to Chester County to rally the GOP troops.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel revved up a crowd of Republican activists Saturday morning at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern. They gathered to knock on doors for U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and Guy Ciarrocchi, the GOP challenger to incumbent Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. Her message: Vote Republican in Pennsylvania and fire Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer from their leadership posts in Washington.

NRC Chair Ronna McDaniel talks to Chester County Republicans at the Desmond Hotel on October 15, 2022.

Oz, who appears to be closing the polling gap with his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, continued his campaign focus on the crime issue.

“I was in Philadelphia at a prayer vigil in Olney for a murder that happened, last year, 561 murders, the worst of any major city. Shocking,” Oz said. While he was there, someone told him it was easier to find fentanyl than baby formula.

“I was stunned,” he said. “She was right. How could the land of opportunity, the land of plenty, leave people with fentanyl and no baby formula?”

He told the group it was important to knock on doors and “get people excited” about what Republican candidates represent.

“You’re talking about changing the lives of lots of people around you,” said Oz. “There are many that love this country passionately, and see it as the land of opportunity, the land of plenty, but it no longer seems to represent that,” Oz said. “My dad was an immigrant who grew up with a dirt floor. He didn’t have a [political] party. When I was 8 years old, I asked him what party are we going to be. And he looked around and he said, ‘You know what? We’re going to be Republicans…Because Republicans have better ideas.’”

“Here’s my commitment to you: We have plans that work for the economy.”


A crowd of GOP supporters gathers at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA


Ciarrocchi called out President Joe Biden’s energy policy, an important topic in Pennsylvania.

“It’s amazing watching the president as gas prices go up and people are in trouble,” he said. “As he flies around to the other side of the world looking for energy. It’s like a game. It’s right under our feet.”

“So, we have the solution. We will make America energy independent,” he said.

Ciarrocchi also used the opportunity to tout the GOP’s message of hope. “We’re here today because we still believe in the

Dr. Oz shakes hands with congressional candidate Guy CiarrocchiAmerican dream, despite everything the Democratic Party has done, to crush our economy, to push parents out of schools, to make us feel less safe at home and less safe around the world.

“All of us that are running are here today for one reason, we still believe in the American dream,” he said. “We offer hope. We offer solutions. We can fix the mess they created.

“We will unleash our small businesses to revive our economy. We will support our police officers. We will fight crime. We will make sure every person feels safe to go out and live and work. We will restore the rule of law. We know that parents are the bedrock of the family and the bedrock of the community. Under our watch, when Sen. Oz and I go to Washington the Attorney General of the United States will never, ever threaten parents with using the FBI again.”

Former state Rep. Duane Milne came to support Oz and Ciarrocchi. Oz is the “best-qualified candidate,” said Milne. And Ciarrocchi brings “a tremendous world of experience” and “will make an excellent congressman.”

Republican Committeeman Dave Sommers, of West Goshen, said, “People are excited to support conservative candidates.”

Elizabeth Hyde, who traveled from Montgomery County to attend, said Oz is “a successful, smart man who has his heart in the right direction. I think he’s sincere and his values align with mine. We need more doctors in the Senate since the healthcare system and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are such a big part of the economy.”

The event was followed by a training session for Young Republicans and other volunteers who were going to hand out campaign literature.

Guy Ciarrocchi talks to resident Sandy Lee

Ciarrocchi headed out to Tredyffrin Township to knock on doors and talk to potential voters. Most of the residents he spoke with were friendly, he said.

Like Oz, he talked about the crime issue and its impact on local communities, including a carjacking at a Target in Devon, an armed robbery at Whole Foods in Tredyffrin, and a stabbing at Bertucci’s on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne. He said the CVS drug store in East Goshen was also held up.

“We should not be blasé to carjackings or a robbery or a stabbing,” he told Delaware Valley Journal.

And grab-and-go shoplifters are targeting stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart, Ciarrocchi said. Clerks are being trained when to try to stop them and when not to.

Crime is “not an academic discussion,” he said. But, he added, “This can be stopped.”


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Three Former Chester County GOP Chairs Endorse Democratic Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

Three former Chester County Republican Committee chairmen have endorsed U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Berks/Chester) for reelection.

Alan Novak, a political consultant, attorney Joseph “Skip” Brion, and William Lamb, a former state Supreme Court justice, told the Delaware Valley Journal they support Houlahan.

“She’s done an excellent, excellent job,” Lamb said. “I met with her after she was first elected and said to her, ‘You know you’ve got to understand the district that you’re in. And if you vote in lockstep with the Democrats you’re going to have a short tenure. You need to be as bipartisan as you can.’ She recognizes this is a purple district.”

“She has a great resume, everything from United States Air Force to teaching to running a business. She’s really done everything that I think she should have done and she deserves to be re-elected,” said Lamb.

Guy Ciarrocchi

Brion said, “My wife, Glenda, and I met Congresswoman Houlahan, on her invitation, a few years ago at a roundtable discussion.  We found her to be open, honest, engaging, and interested in hearing our ideas and concerns. It was clear that she wanted to serve the people of our county. As time went on, we got to know her better and there was no question that she always had the county’s best interests in mind.”

Brion, a member of the SEPTA board, said he has been trying to get the Coatesville train station opened to help Coatesville residents and Houlahan backs him on that.

“In addition, the congresswoman is an engineer and businessperson herself, with a background in supply chains, who now advocates for our local small businesses from her seat on the Small Business Committee. Specifically, there are many local entrepreneurs whose businesses survived the pandemic because of the support the congresswoman helped to deliver. She continues to work as a bi-partisan congresswoman, and not just go along party lines.”

And Novak, who supported Houlahan in the last election, too, praised the congresswoman for her civility. Novak, who is also a former state GOP chair, said he approves of how Houlahan does her job and that she is accessible and has held nearly 70 town hall meetings.

“She works very hard behind the scenes to take a bill that has some issues and make it better,” he said. For example, she had language removed from a bill that would have hurt local banks by requiring they report $10,000 into or out of bank accounts to the IRS, he said.

He was not concerned that ProPublica listed Houlahan as voting 100 percent with Speaker Nancy Pelosi both this term and the previous term.

“I get that she votes with her leadership when she has to,” he said. But he said she votes with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), too.

“When Congress switches, and we know it will, she will be the one to try to get common sense legislation done,” said Novak.

Previously, Novak was critical of Republicans who backed Democrats, and knocked  former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer for endorsing Ed Rendell for governor saying, “There’s a reason in America that we don’t have a Benedict Arnold holiday.”

Dr. Raffi Terzian, the current Chester County Republican chairman, strongly backs Guy Ciarrocchi, Houlahan’s opponent. Ciarrocchi, the former CEO of the Chester Chamber, had also served assistant federal prosecutor.

“The new Republican Party of Chester County is forward-thinking and we are united in our support of Guy Ciarrocchi,” said Terzian. “Guy has an outstanding record of service and leadership. He is focused on the issues that are important to all Chester County residents such as escalating crime, a faltering economy, and the marginalization of parents and families. He will advocate for common-sense solutions to these problems and for policies that empower individuals, families, and businesses.

“On the other hand, Chrissy Houlahan and the radical left use highly charged rhetoric to divide us and have embraced failed policies that hurt our community. There is no doubt that Chester County residents will be best served by electing Guy Ciarrocchi to represent us in Congress,” Terzian said.

“Today, I am spending the day with small businesses in the Reading area and in Kennett Square, too, as I’ve been endorsed by NFIB—the leading organization fighting for small businesses and their employees,” Ciarrocchi said. “What a contrast as Congresswoman Houlahan highlights endorsements from political insiders, government-contract lawyers, and lobbyists.

“She’s highlighting men who used their party positions to profit from lobbying and taxpayer-funded contracts. It makes one wonder: What additional insider-deals so that these former-party-profiteers would shill for Congresswoman Houlahan, who recently called Republicans ‘diseased’ and needing to be ‘cleansed,’” he said.

For her part, Houlahan, who was first elected in 2018, said, “When I first ran, I promised to represent and serve everybody in our purple community. I am honored to have Justice Lamb, Alan, and Skip — three distinguished Republican leaders who I have enjoyed getting to know — in my corner,” said Houlahan. “While we may not agree on every issue, they know that as a veteran, businesswoman, teacher, and mom, I work tirelessly with both parties to deliver sensible solutions that make things better. With their help, we will continue to build the inclusive coalition needed to not only win this race, but also to lower costs, support small businesses, and continue to be present and deliver for everybody in our community.”

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DelVal Pols Debate Impact of Latest Inflation Hike

When news broke that the Consumer Price Index hit a higher than expected year-over-year 8.3 percent rate, the stock market tanked. That was not good news for an incumbent president and his party just weeks before the midterm election.

Even worse, the cost of groceries “rose 13.5 percent over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 1979,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The indexes for shelter, medical care, household furnishings and operations, new vehicles, motor vehicle insurance, and education were among those that increased over the month.”

President Joe Biden amplified the Democrats’ angst by hosting a White House Rose Garden celebration of the $739 billion so-called Inflation Reduction Act the same day the report hit. The celebration featured claims of fiscal success and a song by 1970s singer James Taylor.

Meanwhile, the Penn Wharton Budget Model found the legislation’s impact on inflation would be “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

So, how are Delaware Valley elected officials and their midterm opponents reacting to the latest inflation news?

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) noted the Biden administration’s positive talk about inflation being under control missed the mark.

“The ‘consensus’ was wrong. Today’s inflation report shows what American families knew to be true: prices are still rising,” Toomey tweeted. “Americans are paying significantly more for essentials than they were one year ago: 13.5 percent more for groceries, 6.2 percent more in rent, 23.8 percent more for energy.”

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz said, “Pennsylvanians are getting slammed by higher and higher prices everywhere they turn as the inflation rate continues to tick up. There will be no relief in sight as long as we continue electing tax and spend Democrats like Joe Biden and John Fetterman. My opponent, John Fetterman, would only make this worse by funding radical ideas like the Green New Deal while raising taxes on the middle class.”

Fetterman did not respond to a request for comment about the new inflation report.

His fellow Democrat, Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), attended the White House legislative victory party, tweeting from the scene: “The #InflationReductionAct is a major victory for America’s families and for our planet–advancing the people’s interest over the special interest. Great to mark its historic passage at the White House with my friend @RepDean!”

Scanlon’s GOP opponent David Galluch did not see it that way.

“I grew up with a single mom who sacrificed to make ends meet. The current leadership in D.C. is refusing to provide real solutions at the expense of families like the one I grew up in,” Galluch said.

“While working families continue to be squeezed by inflation, President Biden and Congresswoman Scanlon take a victory lap for passing the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ a bill that did not lower inflation or provide ‘immediate relief,'” he added.

Another DelVal Democrat facing a GOP challenger in Congress, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, has publicly complained about the Biden administration’s poor handling of inflation. She responded to the bad news by taking to Facebook and reminding voters she has her own plan.

“A little while back, I asked Dr. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics, to join me for a telephone town hall to talk about the root causes of inflation and what we can expect in the coming months,” Houlahan wrote. “We discussed the global shockwave of the pandemic and its lasting impact on our global supply chains. As one of the few members in Congress with a background in supply chain management, I used that experience to create my Inflation Action Plan.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, the former CEO of the Chester County Chamber who is challenging Houlahan, was unimpressed. “Inflation is the number one issue to everyone. Well, it’s the number one issue to every not named Biden or Houlahan.

“Biden and Houlahan created this mess with wasteful spending and forcing us to import energy from our enemies.  I campaign every day to offer hope, to change this—and will work even harder in Congress to use common sense to fix their mess that is crushing our family budgets.”

Houlahan posted this message on Facebook: “Yesterday’s inflation report is a reminder that inflation doesn’t go away overnight, and it also confirms what we have been feeling at home—price relief is not where it needs to be, and that’s making things harder for Pennsylvanians.

The report showed that even though gas and energy prices continue to come down, those cost savings were offset by other sectors including medical care.

Christian Nascimento, the Republican running against Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) said, “If we needed any reminding about the challenges our economy is facing, August’s 8.3 percent CPI increase has confirmed one thing: the Democrats’ policies are not working.

“Whether it is increased taxes, increased spending, increased hiring at the IRS, or the redistribution of student debt, Joe Biden’s policies are harming the economy, and Madeleine Dean and congressional Democrats that vote 100 percent of the time with the president are enabling this damage,” Nascimento said.

A frequent criticism of the inflation legislation is that it is actually a green energy and health care spending plan, not a strategy to cool an overheated economy. Dean appeared to confirm that view.

“Grateful to be with my brother and my son as we celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House,” she posed on Facebook. “This legislation will make our largest-ever investment in climate action; lower prescription costs, including capping Medicare insulin at $35; ensure the biggest corporations pay their fair share; and reduce our nation’s deficit.

“For our families. For our planet. For our future.”

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Will Concerns About Biden’s Age Cost DelVal Dems in November?

Polls show Americans of both parties are concerned about President Joe Biden’s ability, at age 79, to handle the responsibilities of the presidency. But will those concerns translate into less support for Democratic candidates in the Delaware Valley this November?

Concerns among voters about the president’s age and health are not new. In a national POLITICO/Morning Consult poll last November, when Biden’s approval ratings were higher than they are now, only 40 percent of voters believed he was in good health, with 46 percent calling him “mentally unfit.”

“President Biden is not awake currently; that’s obvious to anyone with eyes,” said Albert Eisenberg, principal at the political strategy firm BlueStateRed. “And when I talk to Democrats, they say, ‘This guy’s not the guy.’ Obviously, Republicans and independents think that.”

Republicans will likely use that attack against Democrats is make sure voters believe the issue isn’t just Biden and his age and deficits, but rather to paint the whole Democratic party as being responsible for the situation.

“You see swing district and swing-state Democrats outperforming Biden,” Eisenberg said about the current political landscape. “(Biden’s) going to bring these candidates down, but Republicans need to close that gap.”

Jeff Jubelirer, vice president at Bellevue Communications, says he believes those who have doubts about the president’s condition likely already disapprove of the president, meaning they are already motivated to vote for Republicans.

However, Jubelirer added that anything can make a difference in tight races.

“If it’s going to be a 1 to 2 percent race… this issue could be a 1 percent difference,” he said.

In the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz is projecting the question of the ability to govern onto his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. It comes in the wake of a stroke that felled Fetterman and has kept him off the campaign trail since just before the May 17 primary.

During a recent DVJournal podcast, National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said questions about Fetterman’s health are fair game. “I think voters have a right to know if you’re healthy or not. When people run, they should be very clear about [their] health.”

Oz is running a “basement Fetterman” campaign on social media, questioning if Fetterman has the stamina needed to represent Pennsylvania. Eisenberg said the strategy is a strong one.

“That is a really effective way to connect him to Biden,” he said. “Just putting their face next to Biden isn’t going to work.” By also creating questions about Fetterman’s ability to govern, Oz is making the strategy stronger than just questioning Biden, who, of course, isn’t his opponent.

“I think the strategy is, ‘Will he be there for you, Pennsylvania if he’s not well?’” Jubelirer said. But he added it’s important for Republican candidates to be cautious. “You don’t want to pile on his well-being.”

Eisenberg agreed. He said Oz and other Republicans can’t be perceived as “ganging up” on things Biden and other Democratic candidates cannot control.

At the same time, the silence from Delaware Valley Democrats in defending Biden and his capabilities is hard to miss. DVJournal reached out to the region’s entire Democratic congressional delegation asking if his recent COVID-19 diagnosis created any concerns about his ability to govern. All declined to respond.

In a new CNN poll, 75 percent of Democrats said they wanted someone other than Biden to be their party’s nominee in 2024. The numbers were similar in a recent NYTimes/Siena College poll. Asked why they wanted their party to make a change, about one-third of Democrats cited Biden’s age and mental acuity. It has been a repeated topic of news coverage from liberal news outlets like the Times and CNN, and many Democrats have publicly acknowledged their concerns about Biden’s age.

Meanwhile, a group of 54 House Republicans, led by former White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), sent a letter to the White House calling on Biden to take a cognitive abilities test.

The White House dismissed the letter as a stunt.

While the president’s age and sometimes embarrassing gaffes aren’t good for Democrats, Jubelirer said voters’ decisions would most likely come down to one simple sentiment.

“Most voters are like, ‘I’m pissed off. Who’s in charge?’” he said. “You’re going to get blamed.

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