Chesco GOP dishes out endorsements

Posted: February 16, 2011

Despite long hours and multiple ballots in several close races, unity prevailed at Tuesday night's Chester County GOP nominating convention.

With one close call, the Republicans assembled a slate of candidates who all earned endorsement by garnering 60 percent of the votes of the 391 committee people.

The snag occurred in the judicial race, where only one of the four contenders vying for endorsement, Mark Tunnell, a West Chester lawyer, received enough votes. Former county prothonotary Allison Bell Royer withdrew from the contest, leaving Jeff Sommer, also a West Chester lawyer, and Assistant District Attorney Ann Marie Wheatcraft, nearly tied.

After the third ballot, both were short of the 235 votes needed for an endorsement. Wheatcraft had 199 and Sommer 190, which temporarily made them "recommended candidates" for the primary.

A half-hour later, Sommer addressed the crowd of several hundred and withdrew, explaining that he felt it was in the party's best interest to run two endorsed candidates. He said he would seek one of the two judicial vacancies expected in 2013.

"You will see me again," he said.

His short speech prompted a standing ovation from the crowd of several hundred.

Wheatcraft thanked her supporters as well as Sommer.

"Jeff is a class act and should be a judge," she said, promising to work hard to earn the party's continued support.

In the race to replace District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll, who is not seeking reelection, Deputy District Attorney Steve Kelly withdrew, setting up a contest between First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Carmody, a lifelong prosecutor, and Tom Hogan, a former assistant district attorney now in private practice. Hogan won on the second ballot.

Another close race pitted Carmen Battavio, an East Goshen Township supervisor, against Terri Clark, a member of the West Chester Area District School Board, for the register of wills post. Clark won on the third ballot.

Less dramatic showdowns occurred in the race for commissioner, where incumbent Terence Farrell and Recorder of Deeds Ryan Costello prevailed, and for recorder of deeds, where Rick Loughery, a tax collector in Schuylkill Township and assistant to Farrell, bested his two opponents.

Endorsements were also received by Sheriff Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh and Prothonotary Bryan Walters, neither of whom faced party opponents, and the two judges seeking retention: Phyllis Streitel and Anthony A. Sarcione.

Republicans, who have controlled Chester County government for more than 150 years, have lost their onetime 2-to-1 edge in voter registration, numbers that historically led to victory in November for their endorsed candidates.

At the end of January, county records showed 140,005 registered Republicans, 123,232 Democrats, and 55,192 other voters.

Joseph E. "Skip" Brion, the county's party chairman, said earlier this week that the Republican numbers have recently started to rebound.

"We're going to focus back on registration," he said.

He said he believed voters recognized that the county has been well-run under Republican leadership.

At the close of the nearly four-hour convention, Brion urged the party faithful to heed the advice of Ronald Reagan and speak no "ill of any fellow Republican."

"We gain nothing by tearing each other down," he said.

County Democrats are holding their nominating convention on Saturday.

Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-696-3815 or

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