Kichline appointed to replace Costello as County Commissioner

Democrats cry foul, claim judges playing politics, again

Updated: 8 a.m. 12/10 with comments from Democratic committee

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Michelle Kichline

WEST CHESTER — Michelle Kichline, a former Tredyffrin township supervisor and the Vice-Chair of the Chester County Republican Committee was appointed Tuesday as the replacement for Ryan Costello on the Chester County Board of Commissioners — a pick that has county Democrats calling foul, even as fellow Republicans praised the choice.

Presiding Court of Common Pleas Judge James P. MacElree announced his pick of Kichline over five other applicants for the position to replace Costello, who was elected to the U.S. Congress last month. Kichline lost a reelection bid in 2013 for supervisor, but had been widely thought to be among the likely picks to replace Costello. Kichline will resign her party post, sources said.

MacElree picked Kichline over John M. Primus of East Fallowfield, Leon Ross Spencer, Jr. of Kennett Square, a former Mayor and current Borough council member, Maureen Snook of East Bradford and Hudson L. Voltz of East Brandywine, and current County Treasurer Ann Duke of West Chester.

Although there is no formal confirmation at this time, it is expected that Kichline will run in 2015 to keep her seat on the Board of Commissioners. GOP sources suggested for weeks that Kichline would be the pick — and one of the two GOP candidates for commissioner in 2015.

GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio offered congratulations to Kichline, in announcing the selection to Republican Committee members Tuesday.

“As many of you know, Michelle has a distinguished record of public service, having served as Chairman of the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors, a commissioner for the Delaware River Port Authority, and various other civic and governmental roles,” DiGiorgio said in the statement. “She has also served with distinction as our Party Vice Chairman, which she has vacated in order to serve as our county commissioner.

“We wish Michelle well in her new role and know that she will work with Terence Farrell to continue the Republican Party’s legacy of making Chester County a great place in which to live, work, raise a family, and retire,” DiGiorgio said.

Meanwhile, angry Democrats say that her pick flies in the face of previous appointments – specifically when Andy Dinniman resigned as a commissioner when elected to the state Senate, the court picked a “caretaker” Democrat, Pat O’Donnell, to hold the seat, specifically citing the need to appoint someone who would not run for the seat. But when former Commissioner Carol Aichele resigned to become Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, the courts appointed Costello, arguably giving him a leg up in the 2011 elections.

Multiple sources within the county Democratic party — who asked to remain anonymous as they are not allowed to speak for the party or grant interviews — say that once again, instead of doing their duty to the residents of the county, the judges put politics — and the Republican Party — first.

“The appointment of Michelle Kichline to the Chester County Board of Commissioners signals a clear double standard that exists among the judges of the Court of Common Pleas,” said Brian McGinnis, Chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee. “In 2006, Senator Andy Dinniman’s vacated seat was filled by Pat O’Donnell. Instead of seeking a recommendation from the county Democratic Committee, the judges’ stated reasoning at the time was a desire to appoint a replacement who would not be a candidate for the office in 2007, so the primary process could play out without an incumbent in the race. But in 2010, the Court anointed the choice of the county Republicans in Ryan Costello, who ran for reelection and won.

“Today, the Court filled Costello’s vacancy with Kichline, who has already indicated her intention to run for election to a full term. In fact, the Court chose her unanimously, with no reasoning given to back up the appointment. This clearly points to a backroom deal brokered between the Court and county Republicans, who of course originally financed the judges’ campaigns to get them on the bench. Jurists should not be in the business of creating political careers. Incumbency, and its electoral advantages, should be earned by candidates at the ballot box, not in closed-door meetings in the courthouse.

“I call on Michelle Kichline to serve out the remainder of Costello’s term and then step aside, to allow the voters of Chester County to choose a candidate in an open electoral process.”

Others, though, praised the decision. Guy Ciarrocchi, President and CEO of The Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, expressed satisfaction on the pick.

“Our county judges have made an excellent choice in selecting Michelle Kichline as our new county commissioner,” Ciarrocchi said. “Michelle has a perfect resume: local government service, regional economic development and private sector experience.

“As Chairman of the Tredyffrin township supervisors, Michelle was very focused on economic development and the renovation of the Paoli train station. She will be an excellent partner as we work together to create economic opportunities in our county.”

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