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DelVal Counties Gear Up for 2022 Primary on May 17

Voters head back to the polls for the May 17 primary in what is shaping up to possibly be a historic election season in Pennsylvania.

Only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in the upcoming election as the Keystone State remains one of nine states with closed primaries.

Election officials in Delaware, Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties expect between 25 to 30 percent voter turnout.

Pennsylvania’s redistricting process caused some delays in mailing out ballots, election officials said. Local counties sent tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, but requests in some areas were down from previous elections.

The mail-in option, popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, is still available to voters in the primary, as the state Supreme Court mulls over whether to keep intact Act 77 following a lower-court decision overturning the controversial law.

This time, election officials are bracing for an influx of in-person voting as the public health crisis wanes.

“In 2020, you had the perfect storm of new voting equipment, new options for voters, and the pandemic. And people wanting to vote at a distance,” said James Allen, director of election operations for Delaware County. “It was pre-vaccine. It was at a time when nationwide we were experiencing horrific levels of deaths and hospitalizations. Now we’re past that.”

The gubernatorial race has been bruising for the GOP, with nine contenders in a crowded field vying for the party’s nomination ahead of a fall race that is expected to shatter state campaign spending records.

The field includes  Republicans state Sen. Jake Corman, former Congressman Lou Barletta, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, GOP consultant Charlie Gerow, former Congresswoman Melissa Hart, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, business owner and former Delaware County Councilman Dave White, and Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Attorney General Josh Shapiro does not face a primary challenger as the lone Democrat in the race.

With nearly $18 million in his campaign war chest Shapiro, in his second term as attorney general, outraised all of his GOP opponents combined. Shapiro is no stranger to politics. He is a former state representative and served as chair of the Montgomery County commissioners.

He will have a leg up in the general election as Democrats look to keep control of the executive branch, currently led by the term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf, in a state where the General Assembly has been controlled by Republicans for nearly seven years.

White has infused millions of his own cash into his campaign and is banking on blue-collar appeal to put him over the top.

“We’re expecting a big voter turnout,” said Tom McGarrigle, chairman of the Delaware County Republican Committee. “We have one of our own. He’s our focus of the election.”

With the U.S. Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, both parties are all in to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who opted not to seek reelection.

Much attention has been given to Dr. Mehmet Oz, better known by his TV personality Dr. Oz, and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, one of four Democrats running for the seat.

The Democratic field includes U.S. Rep. Connor Lamb and Alex Khalil, a Jenkintown Borough councilwoman known for activism in Montgomery County but considered a longshot in the race.

Meanwhile, frontrunner Fetterman has been hammered by opponents over an incident in 2013, when he was mayor of majority-Black Braddock Borough, where he detained a Black jogger at shotgun-point after hearing what he thought was gunfire in the area.

Opponent state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta accused the popular lieutenant governor of acting like “f–ing Batman” and called on him to apologize to the jogger, Christopher Miyares.

Democrats worry Fetterman’s refusal to own up to the mistake could depress the Black vote in urban areas and leave him vulnerable to attacks from Oz, who hopes to capitalize on an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

“Democrats understand that control of the federal Congress is paramount,” said Joe Foster, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. “These are races you can’t take lightly.”

A cardiothoracic surgeon who amassed great personal wealth, Oz has positioned himself as an outsider since announcing his candidacy.

He is widely considered the man to beat in a field of seven Republicans that includes attorney Sean Gale, a Montgomery County lawyer, whose brother, Joe, is also running for governor; commentator Kathy Barnette; Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, a Philadelphia lawyer; Hedge fund CEO David McCormick and Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration.

In the lieutenant governor race, state Rep. Austin Davis was handpicked by Shapiro as a running mate.

Delaware County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Colleen Guiney called Davis a “man of tremendous integrity and honor” among the slate of Dems running in the primary.

“I will stand by any one of our candidates,” she said. “There will always be questions about one little thing here or there. I see what the Republicans have done, I see what Toomey has done, and I  can’t imagine that any Democrat would vote in a way Toomey has voted.”

Chester County

Chester County expects between six to eight poll workers per precinct. As of April 26, 36,514 people requested mail-in ballots, compared with nearly 87,000 in the 2020 primary and a little more than 38,000 in last year’s primary, election officials said. The county had at least 155,797 registered Democrats compared with 150,933 registered Republicans.

Montgomery County

The county has roughly 1,800 poll workers for all of its 426 precincts, said Dori Sawyer director of Montgomery County Office of Voter Services. It is seeking more poll workers in Abington, Cheltenham, Green Lane, Lower Merion, Perkiomen, Plymouth, Skippack, Upper Moreland, and Upper Salford. Those interested in helping must be registered to vote in the county. They can reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 610-278-3280. The county processed about 70,000 mail-in ballots applications.

The county has 298,266 registered Democrats and 204,195 registered Republicans. Those not registered with a party have until May 2 to change affiliations so they can vote in the primary.

Bucks County

The county has staffed about 1,600 poll workers but is looking for additional help in Bristol Township, Falls Township, Middletown Township, and Warminster Township. More than 52,000 voters requested mail-in ballots, compared with more than 67,000 last November. The county is split 202,056 Democrats to 194,002 Republicans, with nearly another 80,000 unaffiliated voters who cannot vote in the primary.

Delaware County

Delaware County processed more than 31,000 mail-in ballots for the upcoming primary. It will have 40 secure drop boxes kept under surveillance throughout the day. The county had 202,337 registered Democrats compared with 150,539 Republicans. Republican state Rep. candidate Robert Jordan, running in the 165th Legislative District, was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court, but election officials said his name may still appear on some of the early mail-in ballots. Any votes for him will not be counted.

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DelVal Republicans Have Mixed Views on Trump’s Oz Endorsement

Former President Donald Trump gave his endorsement to Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race on Saturday. Oz is one of several candidates running in the Republican primary. The campaigns and supporting political action committees are flooding the state with television, radio and internet ads.

Meanwhile, an EagleView survey came out of the field Saturday afternoon, just hours before Trump endorsed Oz.

That survey of 502 likely Republican primary voters showed Dave McCormick in the lead, with 18.1 percent, followed by Oz at 11 percent. Carla Sands came in at third with 9.2 percent, with Kathy Barnette was fourth at 8.8 percent.

Jeff Bartos finished with 5.8 percent and Sean Gale and George Bochetto were both below 1.5 percent, rounding out the seven-person field. But the poll showed that more than 45 percent of Republicans remain undecided in the race.

“Our GOP poll can serve as a benchmark in the Senate primary, coming as it did just prior to Trump’s endorsement of Dr. Oz,” said Christopher Nicholas, veteran Republican political consultant and president of Eagle Consulting Group. “Despite Oz’s big endorsement, this Senate race still seems like it’s only in the 4th or 5th inning, though it could cause GOP voters to give Oz another look.”

However, many Delaware Valley Republicans had expressed discontent with Trump before the 2020 election and voted for President Joe Biden. Do they agree with Trump’s endorsement now?

The opinions of area Republicans who spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal were mixed, although those who were already leaning toward Oz’s main opponent, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, were not swayed to support the celebrity doctor.

“I still see McCormick winning,” said Radnor resident Austin Hepburn. “Trump can’t make Oz electable. The endorsement is almost at cross purposes. The people who like Oz are not necessarily Trump’s base. The people who are loyal to Trump understand he has his faults, particularly when it comes to making judgments about people.”

Fred Dascenzo of Newtown agreed with Hepburn.

“I think it’s a mistake,” said Dascenzo. “I don’t believe Dr. Oz is a real conservative. I think, actually, Dave McCormick is a better fit and would have better synergy.”

“The Donald errs when he bases advice on Nielsen ratings instead of constitutional conservatism,” said Philadelphia oncologist Dr. Robert Sklaroff. “The flip-flop on whether Oz would relinquish Turkish citizenship reflects a desperate effort to achieve historical revisionism. Recalling Trump’s premature endorsement of Sean Parnell, it’s hoped the third time will be the charm.”

But Republicans in Oz’s camp see this as a feather in his cap and another reason to back him.

“I went to see Dr. Oz and I liked him. I support Trump and I believe if he believes in Dr. Oz there’s a reason,” said D. J. McGinley, a Skippack resident. Oz is “pro-life, pro-gun and Second Amendment, against the vaccine mandate. I do believe Dr. Oz believes in the American people in the health of everyone. He has been talking about this even before he thought he had to get involved in politics. It’s time for a change. We need to talk about getting healthy and fit as being Americans. And stop the endorsement enforcing people to get vaccinated. Trump deserves his rightful position. I support him. I know there’s controversy with Dr. Oz. However, he’s a heart doctor and if it takes a doctor to stop the madness, I will endorse him. He’s putting his own job on the line.”

Maryann Brown of Warminster agreed.

“I agree with Trump,” she said. “Dr. Oz is smart and tough and he will not let us down! The TV ads for Oz make him the one for the job! My friends and I all voted for Trump and we will vote for Oz. Dr. Oz has a house in Bucks County and he is local.”

Elliott Tessler, a Philadelphia resident, said Trump’s endorsement will help Oz, although he is among the large contingent of undecided voters at the moment.

“The people he’s endorsed have had success,” said Tessler. “Oz was very supportive of Trump. Pennsylvania is ready for change. I’m looking forward to Republican success at the end of the year.”

Wayne resident Leslie Morgan was surprised by Trump’s move.

But, she said Pennsylvania Republicans are “lucky we have such a deep bench” and several “great candidates.” She likes both Oz and McCormick, as well as Montgomery county developer Jeff Bartos, and former ambassador Carla Sands.

“We have a great chance to win the Senate race,” said Morgan. “Dr. Oz is a very telegenic guy. He puts you at ease. I love the idea of a nonpolitician and a doctor who is a solutions-driven candidate.”

She believes bread and butter issues will carry the day with voters.

“People should ask themselves, are they better off today than under the prior administration,” said Morgan. “When we look at our household incomes, we’re paying more for gas and food. Which side of the table do you want to be on? Those that want to create energy independence and increases or those that want more regulation and reliance of foreign oil? Low-interest rates and oil are the mother’s milk of the economy. And Pennsylvania is losing jobs and young workers. We’re the third oldest (in demographics) state.”

“We need leadership and real solutions,” Morgan said.

 

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Recent Poll Shows Many PA Voters Still Undecided

With the May 17 primary about six weeks off, many Pennsylvania voters are still undecided, according to a recent WHTM/Emerson College Polling/The Hill poll.

In the Republican Senate race, 51 percent of voters are undecided.

“It is not at all unusual for voters to be undecided six weeks before a primary,” said Robin Kolodny, chair of the political science department at Temple University. “My guess is that all the candidates who plan to advertise on television will do so by the end of April. Then, if you poll around May 10 or so, you should see people leaning toward one candidate or another and many fewer undecideds.

“Primaries are generally low-voter turnout events, so all the candidates will have to work very hard on voter mobilization,” Kolodny said. “This is tougher for Republicans because they have several candidates in both primaries. Still, engaged Republicans will have no problem figuring out who they like for which office.”

Hedge fund CEO David McCormick and celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz each stand at 14 percent. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is ahead with 33 percent and Congressman Conor Lamb landed at 10 percent. However. 37 percent of Democratic voters remained undecided.

The Emerson poll also found state Sen. Doug Mastriano leads at 16 percent for governor among Republican primary voters and former Congressman Lou Barletta is second with just over 12 percent.

“Former President Donald Trump’s potential endorsement holds significant weight in the Republican primary: 61 percent of Republican primary voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate if he endorses them, while 13 percent say it makes them less likely to vote for that candidate, and 26 percent report that it makes no difference,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling said.

Last weekend, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain tied with Mastriano for first place for governor in the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference straw poll, both with 88 votes. They were followed by Delaware County businessman Dave White, 56 votes;  GOP consultant  Charlie Gerow, 41; Barletta, 36; surgeon Nche Zama, 26; Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, 20; former Congresswoman Melissa Hart,5; and state Senate Pro Tempore Jake Corman, 4.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is the only mainstream Democrat running for governor.

As for the Senate candidates, the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference straw poll had Fox News commentator Kathy Barnette as the winner with 127 votes. Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos, was second at 64; followed by former ambassador Carla Sands, 52; McCormick, 50; and Oz, 43.

For lieutenant governor, the PLC chose Clarice Schillinger 61, with Teddy Daniels second at 60 votes, followed by Jeff Coleman with 55 votes.

 

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A DelVal Election Day Marked by Light Turnout With Slow Results

Turnout was light for Tuesday’s general election in the DelVal area, with school board races on the front burner in many areas, as parents who became newly aware of their children’s curriculum thanks to in-home learning during the pandemic came out to vote.

The Back to School PA funded some 300 candidates statewide with more than $500,000 largely from Bucks County hedge fund partner Paul Martino. Its driving force is the idea that kids need in-class learning and the fear the school boards would once again cave to the teacher’s unions and close the schools. While Back to School PAC funded a substantial number of school board candidates, the state teacher’s union gave more to support school board candidates and has for years, said Clarice Schillinger, executive director of Back to School PA.

“Regardless of our wins, our children have gained thousands of community members standing up for their education, and to us, that is a huge win. Back to School PA set out to bipartisanly bring advocates and candidates together who believe in-person education is essential and we can proudly say we accomplished just that,” said Schillinger.

In Chester County, the in-person voting appeared to show the Republican candidates winning the various county row offices late Tuesday evening. However, Chester County GOP Chairman Dr. Gordon Eck pointed out some 28,000 mail-in ballots had not been counted, and another 5,000 might come in on Wednesday so that could change the results of those races.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Eck said.

One race that was hotly fought was the Bucks County district attorney position. With 34 percent of the vote in at midnight, incumbent Republican Matthew Weintraub was ahead 58 percent to challenger Antonette Stancu’s 41 percent.

Weintraub posted this message to his campaign Facebook page: “Since the day I first stepped foot in the DA’s office as an intern during my Temple law school days, I knew I had found my true calling. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your DA during the last 5 years. I look forward to continuing as your District Attorney and on this Election Day, I ask for your vote.”

Later Tuesday evening he said, “Everyone has been so supportive. I’m excited to continue to serve the people of Bucks County as district attorney.”

At midnight, with 57 percent of the vote tallied in Delaware County, the races for sheriff and county council were too close to call.

Incumbent Sheriff Jerry Sanders, a Democrat, had 48,95 percent of the vote and challenger Republican Larry Weigand had 50.05 percent. The county council races showed Republican Joseph Lombardi ahead with 25.41 percent, closely followed by the two Democrats, Richard Womack and Kevin Madden and Republican Frank Agovino.

“We still have 40 percent of precincts, and thousands of mail ballots to be reported as I write to you,” Delaware County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Guiney said in an email. “I am cautiously optimistic that as votes are counted, we will have a good outcome for the people of Delaware County. I encourage all voters to remain patient as our dedicated Election Board employees continue their process to ensure a free and fair election for our county.”

Meanwhile, Montgomery County Democratic Chair Joe Foster was pleased that his voters turned out Tuesday.

“Generally, the day was good and it appears that Democrats had about mid-30s percent turnout,” said Foster. “We are hoping that it turns out to be 40 percent or thereabouts but we will have to wait to see. It was low voter turnout but seemed to pick up beginning (in the) afternoon. So we will see.”

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DelVal Voters Cite School Board Races, Taxes and Civic Duty as Reasons to Vote Today

As rain threatened Tuesday morning, voter turnout in many places around the Delaware Valley was light.

Up for grabs are seats on school boards, various municipal and county offices, and judges, including an opening on the state Supreme Court where the candidates, Republican Kevin Brobson and Democrat Maria McLaughlin, have made some waves with negative television ads.

In Montgomery County, Cheltenham resident, Lynn Brown, said high taxes brought her to the polls.

“I’m voting Republican this time because of the high school district taxes and hopefully something will be done about it,” said Brown, who usually supports Democrats. At 9:15 a.m., she was only the 23rd voter. The polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Roy Hollinger, a GOP committeeman in Cheltenham, said turnout was sparse because “there are no overriding issues. You look on the TV and all the ads are about New Jersey. There was nothing to stir us up.”

Over in Abington, several voters said they always vote in every election.

Paul Morse, who is running for the school board, agreed that turnout was light. He previously served on the board from 1989 to 2000 but decided to run again because he does not like the direction the current board is taking the district.

Morse, who is one of the candidates who received the backing from the Back to School PAC, which poured more than $500,000 into school board races across the state on the issue of keeping kids in school, said masks and vaccine mandates are big issues with parents. He also opposes Critical Race Theory, a controversial Marxist-inspired doctrine taught in the schools and is also concerned about new apartments being built that he believes will bring many more children to Abington, causing fiscal issues.

Campaign signs at the Abington Library.

“Art and music could be sacrificed,” he said. “The school board is not listening to the community or parents.”

Also, the Abington School District is now ranked lower both statewide and nationally under the current leadership, he said.

In Jenkintown, school board candidate Lisa Smith, a Democrat who cross-filed, was greeting voters. A social worker and the mother of four kids, the first-time candidate said she’s running “as a strong advocate” to support children and families. Dave Alexander, a Democrat who is running for constable, was handing out campaign literature.

“I believe in free and fair elections,” said Alexander.

At Sugartown Elementary School in Chester County’s Willistown Township resident Karl Hawkins said that he was concerned about the school board races.

Karl Hawkins

“It’s critical that there is a high turnout today, the most important office that’s on the ballot today is the school board,” said Hawkins. “Education has been a core issue around the country and in this area recently and I want to make sure that our voices are heard on this front. The off-year elections are always tough and we won’t know till about 10 pm tonight how our efforts turned out.”

Dee Miller, another Willistown resident said, “Local elections are very important because there’s nothing more important than where you live,” said Dee Miller. I’ll be paying close attention to the supervisor races because they set up the policies for the township, and in Willistown we have a very nice old-fashioned way of life. I think today will be a good turnout because a lot of people are focused on local issues right now, at the end of the day politics at the local level have a bigger impact on your life than the national level.”

Meanwhile in Bucks County, Roland Holroyd, 68, a Trump-supporting Republican who has lived in Bensalem for 45 years, said he was “absolutely horrified about what’s occurring on the national level.”

“I think we have to make great changes and ensure our kids are getting the proper education and not a lot of indoctrination,” said Holroyd, who voted Republican down the ticket. “We have to concentrate on making our children succeed in subject matter — mathematics, reading, mastery of the language, history being taught in a factual and fair way without any kind of external influence as to the judgment on the actions of people. It has to be in the context of the time in which it occurred. … There’s a lot of talk about Critical Race Theory. … I think it’s not the job of schools to fashion our society in one way or another.”

His wife was a teacher and he has a grandson who attends a private school because of the family’s concerns about the curriculum at public schools in Bensalem.

Holroyd voted for incumbent District Attorney Matthew Weintraub because Bucks County needs “strong law enforcement.”

“I look around the country, and I see what’s happening with district attorneys almost invalidating laws,” he said, referring to a new measure passed by the Philadelphia City Council banning police officers from pulling over drivers for minor traffic violations. “We just can’t have a lawless county. We’re seeing the unequal application of the law when it comes to the summer riots of Black Lives Matter. And then we have people who are being held as political prisoners because of the Jan. 6 protests in Washington.”

Holroyd is tired of identity politics mattering more than public servants’ resumes.

“We at a point where people are chosen not for their competence to do a job,” Holroyd said. “We have a cabinet that’s either based on sexual preference, or race or their appearance instead of the fact that they had any serious qualifications to do those positions. The direction we’re going in is not what we expected.”

A campaign sign in Bensalem

Bensalem resident Luana Gordon, 85, came out for the mayoral race between Democrat Val Ridge and Republican and longtime Mayor Joe DiGirolamo. She voted for “Joe D,” as he’s affectionately known.

“I like the consistency,” said Gordon, who grew up in Philadelphia and settled down in the township, where she’s lived for the last two decades. “I like the way things run here. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet. … I think today the youth have kind of lost their moral compass. It’s upsetting to me. In my day, nobody locked their doors. You could walk the streets at any hour and nobody got mugged or robbed. We helped each other. I don’t see that today.”

She said she felt Weintraub would keep Bucks County safe for her and her 7-year-old great-grandson, who accompanied her to the polls.

“We always try to make things for the next generation. It got to a point where instead of being grateful for what we’re given, they expected it. It’s an entitlement issue,” she said. “Things will be turning around. The jails are full. Drugs are a big part of it. There’s a lot of unknowns… I just try to hang on to what I’ve got here and steer things in the right direction. I think anybody, Democrat or Republican, who runs for office is trying to do the best as they see it. We just look at the same thing and see it differently. My generation sees it one way, and somebody’s generation sees it another way.”

David Larson, 82, who has lived in Bensalem for 40 years, said he picked “the best person” regardless of party affiliation. He was old school and wouldn’t reveal the candidates he voted for, but acknowledged he didn’t like the last president. And that still influences how he votes today.

“Some people do a good job,” he said. “For me personally, Donald Trump was a big problem for this country. I don’t like the way he talks. I don’t like the way he incites riots. I think he’s a racist. In fact, I know he’s a racist.”

He said he was impressed by a couple of Republicans on the ticket who are effective leaders, but hinted that he went Democrat Antonetta Stancu for district attorney.

“Too many people in jail for things that really don’t matter,” Larson said.

And in Delaware County, Radnor resident Sara Pilling voted at Rosemont Plaza. She was voter number 80 at 10 a.m. but was uncertain how busy that was, noting that many people vote by mail these days.

“Why did I vote this election? First, and most important, it is my civic duty to vote,” said Pilling. “And, I am very concerned about this movement of conservative Republicans to take over school boards. It was vital to deny – in Radnor the Reimagine Radnor – them a win. I voted for three Dems and one Republican (David Falcone).”

Matt Marshall, another Radnor resident said, “I voted today for change on the Radnor Township School Board. The incumbent members of the RTSD School Board, and by extension the administration, are too partisan. They have not listened to the concerns of the Radnor taxpayers. We need a locally focused School Board as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. Now is time for a change, so I voted for all the Reimagine Radnor candidates who will be more focused on the students, parents and alumni of the Radnor School District.”

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