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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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Ron Vogel Continues Run For Congress After Pausing Campaign Over Smear

Ron Ron Vogel is back.

The Republican candidate for Congress who hopes to take on incumbent Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) in November took a brief hiatus after what he called a “hit piece” on him ran in the Daily Local News recently. The article slammed him for a video he shared on social media years ago. Vogel said he had a “family huddle” and his wife. She told him that he needed to keep fighting.

Supporters also rallied around him after an article appeared in the same publication saying he was quitting the race.

“Sure enough, it had the total opposite effect,” said Vogel. “I got flooded with hundreds, hundreds, of phone calls, emails, text messages where people were like, ‘You have to fight on. You’ve got to do this. We need you, etc.’ It was very, very humbling.”

“’We saw the article. We know it’s nonsense,’” he said people told him. “Notice they didn’t show the post,” he noted about that article. “If they showed it, they wouldn’t have had a story. Very, very sad. It’s been on YouTube for literally 10 years.”

“I have to fight on,” Vogel continued. “Our country needs people fighting for it.”

Vogel, who is taking a break from his real estate career to run for office, said he would be taking a pay cut if he is elected.

“I’m doing this to give my kids a better future, to give this country a better future,” said Vogel, who is the father of three children.

He also told the Delaware Valley Journal he believes he is the one who will be able to help smooth over differences that have separated his friends and neighbors.

“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.”

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

Along with Vogel, three other candidates are running in the Republican primary: Guy Ciarrocchi, CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry; businesswoman Regina Mauro; and business owner Steve Fanelli. Bob Kennedy is no longer in the race.

“I’m the only one who was recommended by both Chester and Berks County (Republican committees),” said Vogel. “I think I’m the frontrunner, and when you’re the frontrunner this is what happens.”

Meanwhile, Houlahan has been targeted by the GOP as one of the most vulnerable Democrat incumbents this year.

“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.”


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Chester County Political Committees Endorse Candidates as Primary Nears

Chester County Democrats and Republicans have endorsed candidates in the May 17 primary.

Last week, the Republicans gave their nod to congressional candidates Ron Vogel and Guy Ciarrocchi.  Vogel had a significant lead over Ciarrocchi in the ultimate round of votes—190 to 137. But because Vogel received 58 percent rather than 60 percent, the party recommended both men.

Ron Vogel

“It’s an honor to have earned the most votes in Chester County,” says Vogel, a real estate agent. “I intend to win the endorsement from the Berks County GOP, and I look forward to winning this primary and taking on Chrissy Houlahan in the fall. I think the members of the Republican Committee saw that I am genuine in my desire to make this great country even better. I’m admittedly new to politics, but that seems to have been an asset – not a liability. The Republican Party is forward-thinking, and its members trusted me to build coalitions with the next generation of voters, grow the party, and expose Congresswoman Houlahan’s feckless liberalism. That’s why I came out on top as the highest vote earner with 58 percent of the vote.”

The Republican Committee of Berks County, which also covers a significant portion of the 6th Congressional District, will make its endorsements later in April.

“For two years, I have been leading an effort to reopen the economy, to help small businesses and their employees, to put parents in charge and get kids back in school and to restore our liberty,” said Ciarrocchi, who is on leave from his position as president and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business. “(Last week) I launched a campaign for Congress to make sure that Washington hears that message—and stops making things worse. It’s humbling that the Chester County GOP officially ‘recommended’ me to our voters. It’s based on the fact that they know my record as a leader, a fighter, and someone who makes a difference.  I’ll do my best to earn their trust in me.”

Guy Ciarrocchi

Meanwhile, the Democrats unanimously endorsed incumbent Houlahan. In her remarks, Houlahan mentioned some of her recent legislative successes that included passage of family leave for federal employees, simplifying forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans for qualifying small businesses, supporting the bipartisan infrastructure bill that will result in $18 billion in projects for Pennsylvania, and expanding support for veterans.

Her re-election pitch included “ensuring rights to affordable healthcare, an economy that works for all, and energy policies to combat climate change.” She noted her race is ‘targeted’ and the new district map will make the race harder to win. She closed by thanking the Chester County Democrats for their past support.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

The Chester Democrats also endorsed Attorney General Josh Shapiro for governor and state Rep. Austin Davis for lieutenant governor.

However, the Democrats’ vote was too close for party members to endorse in the race for the U.S. Senate seat. None of the three nominated candidates- Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb– reached the 65 percent threshold for endorsement.

On the Republican side, the state committee did not endorse anyone for governor and Senate.

However, Chester County members of the state committee met on Saturday and endorsed former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain for governor, according to Felice Fain, vice chair of the Chester GOP.

“I’m a native son of Chester County. I’ve lived there my whole life. I met my wife, Stephanie, when we were in elementary school in our hometown of West Chester, where we raised our four children and still live today,” said McSwain. “I coached little league and soccer teams in Chester County. I know the families of Chester County and they know me.

“Chester County is ready for change, and ready for a conservative leader who will fight to protect them from government overreach, intrusive regulations, and burdensome tax increases. I am proud to see my home county coming together to demand better for themselves, their neighbors, and their children, and am honored to receive the endorsement of the Chester County delegation of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. Together, we will work towards victory in November and a freer, safer, more prosperous Commonwealth for years to come,” he said.

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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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