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Four Republicans Vie to Take on Chester County’s Houlahan

Even though it is historically hard to unseat an incumbent, four Republicans—Guy Ciarrocchi, Steve Fanelli, Regina Mauro, and Ron Vogel– are vying to oust Delaware Valley Democrat U.S. Rep. Crissy Houlahan.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) is targeting Houlahan in a midterm election where the party in charge of the White House typically loses congressional seats. And as President Joe Biden’s poll numbers plunge  — he hit a new record low in the NBC News poll released on Sunday — he could pull down Democrats in other races.

“Chrissy Houlahan has consistently traded in the best interests of Pennsylvanians in order to walk lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, causing soaring inflation and skyrocketing gas prices. As Keystone State families and workers continue to pay the price for Democrats’ costly agenda, Houlahan will pay with her seat this November,” said Rachel Lee, RNC spokesperson.

In response, Houlahan has been hard at work burnishing her bipartisan credentials. She recently appeared on Fox News, alongside the area’s only Republican Congressman, Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, to promote action on behalf of Ukraine.

Houlahan declined to respond to requests for comment, but on her website she says she “swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not a political party. My purple, pragmatic community in Chester and Berks counties is not as worried about whether there is an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ at the end of my name – they want to see me working across the aisle to deliver on the issues that are top of mind for them: inflation, health care, immigration, education, and more.”

Voters are concerned about pocketbook issues like high inflation—up 8.3 percent in April– and record-high gasoline prices.

Registered Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans in Chester County 155,948 to 151,064, so the race could be close.

DVJournal asked all four candidates for their final pitch to GOP primary voters.

Guy Ciarrocchi

Former president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, Ciarrocchi emphasized his record.

“The issues are what we talk about at our kitchen table—soaring gas prices, inflation eating up our savings, violence in our cities and an open border–all this while the Democrats increase government’s power, quash our liberty, and make things worse,” said Ciarrocchi. “I didn’t plan to run for office; but, I’ve been preparing my whole life. A chamber president who lead the fight for small businesses and students against the mandates and lock-downs; working as a prosecutor standing with our police to fight violent crime; and, as an outspoken champion for school choice.

“The other candidates offer rhetoric and promises. I offer a record of leading and making a difference,” he added.

“I am uniquely qualified to defeat Congresswoman Houlahan—and, to be an effective member of Congress on day one, as I served as chief of staff to Congressman Jim Gerlach. I am hopeful that my neighbors will vote for me, so that I may use my lifetime of experience to fight for common-sense, conservative policies to stop the suffering and restore the promise of America,” said Ciarrocchi.

Steve Fanelli

West Chester entrepreneur Steve Fanelli’s campaign released a statement attacking his rivals:

“Steve Fanelli is the only fearless, common sense, conservative candidate who does not have the negatives and limitations of the other candidates that Chrissy Houlahan will quickly expose and easily use to her advantage to keep the 6th District seat blue.

“Steve has been involved in our community for decades, as a mentor, volunteer, and businessman. Steve gives us the only chance to beat Chrissy Houlahan in November.

“Chrissy Houlahan will quickly expose all of Guy Ciarrocchi’s flaws that would keep him from winning in November.  Incredibly, Guy announced his campaign to run for governor of Pennsylvania in 2021. After gaining little, if no, traction in the governor’s race, he abruptly quit the governor race and immediately entered the race for the 6th District on February 25, 2022, one week before the Chester County Republican Convention. This is the same Guy Ciarrocchi who was the CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce when it endorsed Houlahan for Congress over her Republican opponent. While Guy has been dabbling in Chester County politics and being photographed with Houlahan, Chester County has turned blue.

“Ron Vogel appears to be responsible for some very inappropriate social media posts. When the posts were brought to light by the Daily Local News, it got very ugly, very fast. The Chester County GOP censured him. It is posted on the RCCC Facebook page. He can’t beat Houlahan with that past.

“Regina Mauro lost the controller race in Chester County to a Democrat in the last election cycle and, based on FEC filings, has the lowest amount of fundraising capability of all the GOP candidates.  She can’t compete with Steve or Houlahan.

“If we expect to turn the 6th District red in November, vote Steve Fanelli. He is the only candidate who can beat Chrissy Houlahan and make the 6th District a great, safe place to live and work,” the statement concluded.

Businesswoman Regina Maura calls herself a “strict constitutional conservative with a backbone.”

Regina Mauro

“Pennsylvania candidates who succeed in November will determine the future of our state and our respective congressional districts. It is imperative for Republicans seeking to stop and prevent Biden and Wolf’s failed and ill-conceived policies to vote for the most competitive general election candidate on Tuesday’s primary,” Mauro said in her statement.

“As a Republican running for our 6th Congressional District seat, I don’t only possess the academic background, professional experience, and years’ worth of conservative activism to be a most effective representative, but I am the only candidate Democrats do not want Mrs. Houlahan to face in November. As a woman, a mom, an accomplished Hispanic professional, daughter of immigrants, my very existence as a proud and outspoken conservative is an inconvenient truth they do not want known. I am ready to face her, erode her support, flip the seat and go on to provoke the change our communities so desperately need,” Mauro said.

Vogel, a real estate agent, took aim at party leardership.

Ron Vogel

“Romney Republicans are rigging the primary,” Vogel said. “A couple of party bosses in Chester County have attempted to overthrow the will of the majority of the committee by removing ‘recommended’ from my name on the sample ballot. This action violates the bylaws of the party. Despite their efforts, our base and volunteers are more energized than ever, working hard seven days per week, and are ready to win this election on May 17.

“I am running because I love America. I am tired of seeing politicians make decisions that protect their career rather than the American people,” said Vogel. “I am the best candidate to beat Chrissy Houlahan because the voters want a real alternative to the status quo. I’m the one candidate who disrupts the status quo and won’t become a swamp creature. My vote will never be bought, I will always do what is right and I will always put America first,” Vogel said.

Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats, said they are “confident the congresswoman will be re-elected no matter who wins the Republican primary. Being an incumbent is always an advantage, but Congresswoman Houlahan’s record of service to the 6th District and bipartisanship speak for themselves.”



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Regina Mauro: Chester County Voters Should Send a Conservative Woman to Congress

Republican Regina Mauro is running in the May 17 primary against three men. But she says she believes she is the best person running and will go on to knock off Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan in November. Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) has been named one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country and is being targeted by the Republican National Committee.

Mauro prides herself on being politically aware. That motivated her, in part, to seek the Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District.

“I’ve always been very, very engaged and informed for years,” she said. “That’s how I was brought up.”

This isn’t Mauro’s first try for elective office. The Devon resident lost a bid for Chester County Controller last fall.

A lifelong Republican, Mauro sees a need to boost the number of conservative women in Congress. Her three opponents in the GOP primary race are men.

“I was concerned because I didn’t see any women candidates,” she said. “(The Republicans) definitely have an abundance of very qualified women.  So, seeing that and recognizing it was very important that we do have one in the race, I did my due diligence and I decided that I was ready for it.

“I’m also very concerned that the most underrepresented group in Congress is conservative women. Conservative women comprise just seven percent of Congress. All else being equal, you have to increase the representation of conservative women in Congress.

“I knew that I was equipped to be able to step in and not just be able to compete against the incumbent, but that I would be a very effective member of Congress.”

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Mauro is passionate about education issues.

“Education is huge for me,” she said. “I grew up in a household where education was king. It was paramount. I’m really concerned that there is an inequality of quality in instruction in the 6th District.”

Mauro says adequate funding for education is an issue in some school districts but “that is not a universal problem.” She compared the academic performance of two school districts — which she did not name — located within the 6th District within approximately 20 miles of each other.

“When I looked at these two school districts, one spent slightly more on instruction and services than the other,” she said. “However, the one that’s spent slightly more performed at the bottom 20 percent academically in reading writing, and mathematics. The other performed in the upper 20 percent. So, that tells you there is a deficiency there.”

Mauro says she believes children should be able to attend the school that best meets their needs and bring their parents’ tax dollars with them.

“I do believe that tax dollars should follow the child,” she said, “and not be attached to the school they’re zoned for. That’s only step one; giving the parent the option of taking that money and transferring it to another school of their choice.

“In the meantime, we cannot abandon our local schools. At the end of the day, these local schools are part of the community. They’re a lot more accessible to the family and if given a choice, I think most parents, if the school was up to the standard they need for their child, would leave the kid there. So, while they have the option, we have to make sure that we bring those schools up to standard so those families can actually go back to that school.”

At a time when American politics is deeply divided, Mauro cites the need to get people of divergent political views to simply talk to each other.

“The first thing we have to do is lower the temperature,” she said. “We have to find things we have in common. We have more in common than not. But we have become so tribal. Everybody is so in their tribe, in their corner that we’re not talking to each other.

“We need to stop this. Most of us, Democrats and Republicans, are sort of in the middle. We need to stop grouping people by single ideas.”

Asked about her reaction to January 6 both before and after the events that occurred at the U.S. Capitol, she said,  “It was horrible that some lunatics, some were excited. Some were just following, whatever the participation. They absolutely felt it was okay to go (into the Capitol). Not all of them did obviously, you’ve seen plenty of videos where people are walking in like a tourist in line.

“But there are those who actually broke in. And that’s insanity to me,” she said. “What I regretted was the media portrayed everybody who attended that rally as being insurrectionists.”

Mauro was asked if she believed the result of the 2020 presidential election was legitimate.

“Do I think there was manipulation? Yes,” she said. “Do I think that was what caused the final result? Partly. Do I think this is new? No. There has been manipulation of elections forever.”

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Four DelVal Republicans in Fight for Shot at Houlahan in November

Four GOP candidates are vying for the nod from Republican voters for the chance to unseat Democrat U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan in this year’s midterm elections.

The field includes business owners, a chemical engineer and a real estate agent, all of whom have little or no political experience.

And while they may be relative unknowns, the politics of the pro-GOP environment may be on their side. In fact, the National Republican Congressional Committee has Houlahan on their list of potential pick-ups in November.

“Republicans are on offense all across the country,” NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer said. “Every House Democrat is facing an uphill battle having to defend their toxic socialist agenda that prioritizes trillion-dollar tax hikes on the middle class, opens our borders, closes our schools and defunds the police.”

Still, Houlahan remains a formidable foe. First elected to the seat in 2018, she’s an Air Force veteran and heavy-hitting fundraiser who sits in a congressional district that tends to slightly favor Democrats, notes political analyst Alan Novak.

Novak believes the race comes down to “money and messaging.”

And with more than $4.5 million in her campaign coffers and a more centrist image, she currently has a considerable edge over challengers Steven Fanelli, Regina Mauro, Ron Vogel and Bob Kennedy.

Fanelli has so far outstripped his fellow GOP challengers with more than $700,00 in his campaign account, according to federal election records.

Independent swing voters are likely to decide the outcome, so Novak says Houlahan’s success depends on her ability to tap into her “purple” roots – her father was a Republican, her mother a Democrat – in appealing to those undecided voters, some of whom are dissatisfied with Democratic President Joe Biden. His approval rating is just 41 percent, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center.

“This is a fascinating race,” said Novak, the former Chester County GOP chairman who previously supported Houlahan. “I believe this is going to be all about the independents. Independents are breaking hard against the president and Democrats. The challenge is separating herself as Chris Houlahan from the generic Democrat or the socialist-leading Democrat. She’s good enough that she can figure out a way out of that box.”

The sitting congresswoman’s opponents are already attacking her voting record as they cast her as a “Pelosi Democrat” in the bag for Biden.

Bob Kennedy

“Houlahan has voted with President Biden literally 100 percent of the time,” said Kennedy, a 29-year-old chemical engineer who lives in Thornbury Township. “Our country is headed in a bad direction. If we do nothing, I think our constitutional order will break down in the coming decades.”

Here’s a look at the Republican candidates:

Fanelli, a Villanova graduate, is a married outdoor fencing business owner and father of three who lives in West Chester.

He appears as the de facto frontrunner by virtue of the amount of money he’s amassed so far.

When he announced his candidacy, Fanelli claimed he would be a leader “who stands up and fights for workers and families – not an extreme, partisan agenda.”

He touted his acumen as a successful entrepreneur, growing his business, first started in 1987, from three employees into more than 40.

Calling Democrats “uncompromising” in their pursuits, Fanelli cited opposition to liberal policies such as the “Green New Deal,” defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court.

Steve Fanelli

But his ability to reach voters is in question as he declined multiple interview requests from the Delaware Valley Journal, questioning how a reporter obtained his email by saying, “I don’t know you.”

Fellow businesswoman Mauro, 59, touts her proud roots as a first-generation American born to immigrants with a motto of “Cuban blood, American heart.”

The wife, mother of two and cancer survivor has a bit more political experience than the rest of the GOP field as she ran unsuccessfully for Chester County controller.

She has a master’s degree from Georgia State University and speaks five languages with “varying degrees of fluency.”

Regina Mauro

Despite her Cuban roots, she favors tougher immigration policies that “vet” those coming across the U.S. borders, calling illegal immigration a “slap in the face” to people like her parents who invested time and money to become citizens.

She says she has seen an intrusion of socialist and authoritarian practices in America, centered around so-called “cancel culture” and coronavirus vaccine mandates that, she says, are reminiscent of communist regimes in Cuba.

Mauro wants to see a return to “civil discourse” where people can explain their views without fear of being ostracized.

“I think that what concerns me is the accelerated pace of policies that are intrinsically socialistic. The Democrats are creating a new normal,” she said. “If you impact one generation, the following generations are the easy ones to take. … There is a mechanism to do mass indoctrination with the internet. You end up silencing those who go against your agenda. You put it on hyperdrive.”

Kennedy, a chemical engineer with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, said he promised himself he would run for office six years ago. Little did he know that calling would lead him to quit his job to campaign full-time in this bid for Congress, on his first try for public office.

He says he views his youth as a potential coup for voters as he understands issues faced by millennials, having paid off about $30,000 in student loans once he finished college.

Just like other generations fed the “American Dream,” young people are also worried about having enough money to afford to buy homes and support their families, he said, in light of “reckless” government spending that has increased inflation.

“We, as a party, need to have to uniquely persuasive campaign to reach the swing voters,” he said. “I am called to do God’s will and serve my country.”

As an engineer, Kennedy said his job requires him to “follow the science.” He is pro-vaccine but against government mandates, believing people should be free to choose what is best for them.

“We need more conservative scientists, and we need to have those voices when they talk about ‘the science,'” he said. “The Democrats have used language appealing to ‘the science’ that’s really just saying, ‘obey authority.'”

Vogel, 36, put a successful real-estate agency career on hold to dip his toe into politics.

Ron Vogel

Since announcing his candidacy, his days have been a whirlwind of meetings, stumping, responding to emails and only about five hours of sleep a day.

“I said to myself I can step up and I can help,” he told Delaware Valley Journal. “It’s humbling to have strangers put their trust in you.”

His real-estate career taught him the importance of building strong relationships and negotiating deals — in his case between buyers and sellers.

That skill transfers to politics, and he says he feels Houlahan has lost trust with voters as Democrats push “further and further to the left.”

“America has become so divided,” he said. “I remember, as a kid and as a teenager, Republicans and Democrats had their different viewpoints, but they were kind of closer to the middle. Now, neighbors can’t get along. I want to try to bridge that gap. We all love America. We have more in common than our differences.”


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