Party-backed Democrats lead race for commission

Posted: May 16, 2007

In an apparent triumph of new voices over familiar faces, Bucks County Democrats Diane Marseglia and Steve Santarsiero led yesterday in their quest for their party's nomination for the county Board of Commissioners election in November.

With more than two-thirds of the vote counted, Marseglia and Santarsiero held strong leads over Commissioner Sandra Miller and former Commissioner Andrew Warren.

Marseglia, in particular, appeared to be pulling away. The 46-year-old Middletown Township supervisor held nearly a 2-1 advantage over Warren, who was running last.

"It looks encouraging, though we don't have all the numbers yet," Marseglia said just before 11 p.m. "But, you know, it never feels right until the book's all done."

Her running mate, Santarsiero, was comfortably ahead of the other candidates, but well behind Marseglia.

Santarsiero, 42, is also a township supervisor in Lower Makefield Township.

"We're optimistic," Santarsiero said, "but it is tempered by the fact that almost a third of the vote remains to be counted."

Watching the returns at his home, Warren acknowledged defeat late last night.

"It looks like I'm going to be at one end of the line, but it looks like the wrong end of it," he said. Marseglia and Santarsiero, he noted, "spent a lot of money, and there wasn't a large percentage of voters coming out. That's a tough combination for an unendorsed candidate to overcome."

Miller, the other unendorsed candidate, stopped short of conceding, but acknowledged the result looked grim.

"My advisers are saying I should hold pat, but what I'm seeing is not encouraging."

Like Warren, she said running against the party's endorsement was tough.

"Absolutely. They spent a lot of money, and this is the first time the party put this kind of money into this kind of primary," she said.

The two were running especially strong in central Bucks precincts. Significantly, they even were trouncing Miller in her home of Lower Makefield.

In the early going, at least, Miller and Warren made strong inroads only in some lower Bucks precincts, mostly in the Bristol area. They also ran well in Warminster, where Warren worked many years as a teacher at William Tennent High School.

For Miller, 62, the results would end 16 years as a county commissioner. Warren, 64, also served 16 years on the board as a Republican in the 1980s and 1990s.

Marseglia and Santarsiero were endorsed by the Bucks County Democratic Committee, which hopes they can end a 20-year GOP hold on the commission.

Bucks County commissioners control an annual budget of about $448 million, and oversee a workforce of about 2,800 employees.

Not since 1987 have Democrats won a majority on the three-member commissioners' board. Except for a four-year Democratic run in the mid-1980s, Republicans have been in control since 1976.

The Democrats will face Republican Commissioners Charles H. Martin and James F. Cawley, who had no intra-party opponents. Each party is allowed only two candidates for the three-member board, guaranteeing minority representation.

In endorsing Marsegila and Santarsiero in February, Democratic officials banked on two relative newcomers who were not as familiar to county voters as were Miller and Warren.

Marseglia is a social worker in the Pennsbury School District, and teaches criminal justice part time at the College of New Jersey. Santarsiero, a former environmental lawyer, teaches social studies at Bensalem High School.

The two have called for a tighter rein on development as a means of controlling taxes, and have pushed for more openness in county government.

Miller was widely criticized for not clashing enough with her Republican counterparts, but said she has accomplished much by choosing her battles and cooperating when possible.


Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or lking@phillynews.com.

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