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Upper Darby Mayoral Candidate Bows Out of Debate

A League of Women Voters forum for Upper Darby mayoral candidates Ed Brown and Brian Burke scheduled for Tuesday was canceled after Brown backed out.

Brown, the Democrat now serving as president of the Upper Darby School Board, posted a message on his Facebook account saying he would not participate.

Oddly, while saying he had pledged “to run a purely positive campaign,” he called Burke a liar in his post.

“After much deliberation, I’ve decided not to participate in a debate with my opponent,” Brown wrote. “My opponent has launched his campaign with lies and conspiracies about my record, accomplishments, and vision for Upper Darby.

Edward Brown

“A debate is supposed to be a discussion and sharing of plans and ideas, but I will not legitimize my opponent or inadvertently dignify nastiness and pettiness by wasting time responding to it. Instead, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is sharing my positive message for our community directly with voters,” Brown said.

Burke said he has been campaigning hard, knocking on doors to talk to voters.

Burke said the two main issues on voters’ minds are crime and problems with the education system.

Burke, now serving as council president and councilman at large, is a lifelong Upper Darby resident and has worked in the township since 1997. Burke followed in his father’s footsteps into politics and is focused on enacting positive change as a councilman.

Burke is a State Local 420 Steamfitter and previously served on the St. Dorothy’s Athletic Association board. He serves as the vice president of the Aronimink Swim Club. Burke lives in Upper Darby with his wife and three kids.

Burke made news when he changed his registration from Democrat to Republican due to problems and mismanagement of the township’s funds by Democratic officials.

The current mayor, Democrat Barbarann Keffer, is not running again after a DUI arrest. Another scandal that hit the Upper Darby government is the arrest of the former parking director, Sekela Coles, for allegedly stealing money from parking kiosks.

Brian Burke

The council had fired former township manager Vincent Rongione amid questions about how ARPA funds had been handled. The sweetheart deal Rongione secured was the last straw for Burke.

Brown was elected to the Upper Darby School Board in 2017. He has lived in the township for 24 years, holds an MBA from Drexel University, a master’s in network security from Capitol Technology University, and a project management certificate. He works for Lockheed Martin as a cybersecurity engineering manager. He is married with three children.

Brown has been active in the schools and the nonprofit Men of Action Brothers of Faith and served as its president.

Councilwoman Meaghan Wagner, executive director of the Delaware County Republican Party, said, “What Ed Brown calls deliberation, I call panic. After both campaigns agreed to debate, I was scheduled to attend the meeting to finalize the debate rules. What is clear about this whole debacle is that Ed Brown does not know how to defend his record at the school district at a public forum, nor can he legitimately excuse the mismanagement and corruption in the township administration. The fact is that school taxes continue to rise, academic performance continues to deteriorate, the district recently proposed doubling its debt obligations, and the superintendent himself issued a public cry for help to control the violence in our schools.

“If Brian Burke is wrong about Brown’s record, then you would think Brown would want to challenge him in public. In reality, he cannot refute the facts, so he has chosen to go into hiding. Let me be clear: Brian Burke will debate Ed Brown any time and any place, and, frankly, that is what the residents of a township spiraling out of control deserve,” said Wagner.

Upper Darby Council President Changes Party to Run for Mayor

Upper Darby Council President Brian Burke is running for mayor—as a Republican.

The former Democrat said that he is disappointed with the direction of the township administration, township finances, and the overall management of Upper Darby.

Burke told DVJournal that he is mainly concerned with the sweetheart deal former township manager Vince Rongione received when he left, believing it to be illegal. And Burke is also dismayed by the parking ticket scandal, where some 18,000 tickets remain unpaid, among other issues.

“This administration has mismanaged the operations and finances of Upper Darby government, including putting many people in leadership positions who do not possess the necessary qualifications and experience to lead the state’s 6th largest municipality,” said Burke. “The mismanagement has led Upper Darby to a critical crossroads. On one road, we continue down the path that this failed administration has led us, which will likely bring Upper Darby to financial ruin and continued dysfunction.

Council President Brian Burke

“Down the other road, we (can) create a thriving Upper Darby, where neighborhood businesses thrive, our schools bring out the best in our kids, and we feel safe no matter the time of day. That is the road I choose, and I am asking the citizens of Upper Darby to join me and support me down that road,” he said.

Burke added, “I decided to switch my registration from Democrat to Republican after watching in disbelief how the leaders of the Upper Darby Democratic Party have repeatedly endorsed the mismanagement and dysfunction of Mayor Keffer and her administration,” said Burke. “They have put blind allegiance to a political party’s interests, such as patronage and doling out lucrative township contracts at great expense to the taxpayer, ahead of our best interests.

“As president of council, I have a proven record of working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle who want to work for the common good of our township and residents, not for the interests of political party leaders. If elected Mayor, I pledge to put in place a bipartisan administration, a coalition government, that is staffed by highly qualified individuals who have one goal, to get our hometown back on the right track. Because it is going to take all of us to Save Upper Darby,” he said.

Keffer, the current mayor who has been away at rehab after being arrested for driving under the influence, announced via Zoom Wednesday that she is not running again. Democrat School Board President Edward Brown is running and is expected to be endorsed by the Upper Darby Democrats. However, neither Brown nor the township Democrat chair could be reached for comment.

Council Vice President Laura Wentz has also thrown her hat into the ring in the mayoral race, and remains a Democrat.

Wentz said she’s running “to bring a union activist’s determination to fight for everyone in Upper Darby Township. Now more than ever, we need elected officials who will stand up for all the people. We need a mayor who will work to revitalize our local economy, bring living wage jobs to our community, and improve our natural environment.

Laura Wentz

“Being truly transparent would require that the administration be communicative, open, and respectful to residents, business owners, and our council,” Wentz said.  “Whether it is about new ordinances, economic matters, or projects, my administration will be transparent.   I will insist that my administration demonstrate an attitude of fairness and equality for all in the township, no matter if they live here, work here, or have business here.  You can count on me remaining true to these principles to which I have been passionately committed for many years.”

Burke has served on Upper Darby Council since 2019, when he was elected as a Democrat to an at-large seat and has served as president of the township council since January 2022.

“I love Upper Darby. Our town is filled with many great people and unique neighborhoods, but over the past three years, I have grown increasingly concerned about the direction of our township government,” said Burke.

The Upper Darby Democrats blackballed Burke, Wentz, and Councilman Matt Silva after they voted with Republicans for Burke to be council president, Burke said.  The party officials promised never to endorse them.

Wentz said, “Improving the quality of life in Upper Darby is not a task for one person. It will take a village to improve the quality of life in this township.  It will take all of our hands to help,  all of our voices and all of our ideas to help create the best for our township.  This is not about accepting one person’s vision, but this is about realizing our shared vision. I pledge to work hard to accomplish these priorities and more if elected mayor of Upper Darby.”

Burke said he would be delighted to run against Wentz if the primary voters nominate her. The two remain friends, as well as colleagues.

“Upper Darby wins if it’s Laura or me,” said Burke.

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