Republicans hold all nine Chester County state house seats, Romney wins narrow victory
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
While Democrats had much to celebrate on a national and state-wide basis, it was local Republicans than largely maintained the upper hand in state legislative elections — a markedly different outcome than seen during the 2008 elections.
Although President Barack Obama lost Chester County narrowly, losing by about 1,000 votes out of a quarter of a million votes — his 2008 win in the county was the first by a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — Democrats Bob Casey Jr. and Kathleen Kane, running for U.S. Senate and state Attorney General, respectively did win the overall state and county-wide tallies, based on unofficial numbers provided by Chester County Voter Services.
But elsewhere in Chester County, Democrats struggled, losing all nine state house races and winning just one state Senate battle — Andy Dinniman (D-19) was returned to Harrisburg by a comfortable margin — a big change from 2008 when the Democrats picked up three state house seats and nearly won a fourth. With redistricting on the horizon — assuming the most recent plan stands up to court appeals — Democrats could be looking at one new safe district around the Coatesville area, but the remaining districts should be even more GOP-friendly than the districts contested Tuesday, political observers say.
Democrats lost a number of heartbreakingly close races around the county — including one race in the in the 13th District, in the south-western portion of the county that few — including state Democratic party officials and the House Democratic Campaign Committee — saw as competitive.
In the state Senate races, Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the Majority Leader in the Senate, cruised to an easy win over Patricia Worrell. Although Pileggi had struggle to some extent in previous races in Chester County, the senior amassed a more than 20-point margin over Worrell in the county, Tuesday.
“I greatly appreciate the efforts of the many committee people, volunteers, and supporters who helped to make my re-election campaign a success by going door-to-door, placing signs in their yards, and assisting with out voter outreach efforts,” said Pileggi. “We had a passionate group of supporters who donated a significant amount of time and energy to this campaign and I appreciate all they have done to support my re-election.”
“As Senate Majority Leader, I have worked to increase fiscal responsibility and transparency in state government, two issues that I will continue to champion during my next term,” said Pileggi in a prepared statement. “There is still much that needs to be done and I will continue my efforts to develop pragmatic and common sense solutions to the economic and fiscal challenges facing Pennsylvania.”
Dinniman, too, had a fairly large margin of victory. He defeated East Fallowfield township supervisor Chris Amentas by a 58-41 margin.
But Democrats couldn’t get over the hump in state house races.
The closest race in the county was in the 157th District, where former State Rep. Paul Drucker (D) took on current Republican State Rep. Warren Kampf. As of Wednesday morning, Kampf appears to have won the Phoenixville-area seat by roughly 350 votes.
In another closely watched race — and another funded heavily by both state parties — State Rep. Dan Truitt held off Democratic challenger Bret Binder by just under 900 votes in the 156th District. The West Chester area seat — previously held by Democrat Barbara McIllvaine Smith — was thought to be a possible pick up for the Democrats.
Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell fell short in his bid to win the state house seat formerly held by State Rep. Curt Schroder, losing former Schroder aide Becky Corbin by a 53-46 margin. Assuming the new proposed state house districts hold up, Maxwell could one be one of a number of high-profile Democratic candidates for the new Coatesville/Downingtown area seat in 2014.
“We had a tough race but we ended up doing better then any Democrat has done in over a decade,” said in a statement released Wednesday. “I could not be more proud of our team. With only 36% registered Democrats in this district we got 47% of the vote, we even did better than President Obama in places like Downingtown, Caln, Uwchlan and East Caln.”
In a race that got less attention that the three above, out in the south-western 13th District, retired school teacher Eric Schott fell just short of of knocking off Republican State Rep. John Lawrence, losing by a 53-46 margin. The state GOP moved assets into the race when its internal polling showed an uncomfortably close race. The state Democratic Party and the House Democratic Campaign Committee failed to match the move, leaving Schott under-funded in a race for a seat previously held by Democrat Tom Houghton.
State Rep. Tim Hennessey held off Democrat Mike Hays by just over 4,000 votes, winning by a 56-43 margin in the 26th District contest.
Democrat Susan Rzucidlo lost again to State Rep. Chris Ross in the 158th, losing by a little less than 6,000 votes, and a 58-41 margin.
“We brought some significant issues to light in our county and we ran a great race,” she said in a statement to her supporters, Wednesday. “We out-performed the expectations and while the outcome was not what we all worked for and hoped for we should be very proud of the work we did together.”
State Rep. Steve Barrar (R-160) ran upposed in his race in southeast Chester and Delaware counties. If the revised districts hold up, his new district will add Pennsbury and Kennett townships as well as Kennett Square Borough for the 2014 elections.