Bachtle wins in Bucks in top suburban race

It's primary election day in Pennsylvania Tuesday, May 21, 2013 as evidenced by campaign signs sprouting in front of the polling place at York Avenue Elementary School in Lansdale. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
It's primary election day in Pennsylvania Tuesday, May 21, 2013 as evidenced by campaign signs sprouting in front of the polling place at York Avenue Elementary School in Lansdale. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Posted: May 23, 2013

 Despite a notably low turnout, local government candidates battled it out Tuesday in primaries across the four Pennsylvania suburban counties, with two Republican incumbents in Bucks County facing primary challenges for row offices.

The prothonotary's race was the heated contest in Bucks. With more than nine-tenths of voting districts reporting, incumbent Pat Bachtle, elected in 1994 as the county's first female prothonotary - the clerk of civil courts - was narrowly leading Northampton Township lawyer Michelle Christian.

Christian ran a high-profile campaign and boasted of endorsements from the county Republican Committee, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, a former Bucks commissioner, and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.).

In the race for Bucks sheriff, incumbent Edward "Duke" Donnelly had defeated challenger Tom Lingenfelter, a political activist from Doylestown, by 3-1 with most of the votes counted.

That race received an unexpected jolt in the months before the primary when Lingenfelter disputed Donnelly's use of the nickname "Duke" on the ballot. A judge ruled that the nickname was allowed.

Democratic and Republican candidates for nomination to other row offices, including recorder of deeds and controller, as well as four district judgeships did not face primary opponents.

In Delaware County, local political committees were watching races for County Court, where four candidates cross-filed in Republican and Democratic primaries.

"Really, the goal of cross-filing was to keep [Republicans] out of the Democratic primary," said county Democratic Chairman David Landau. "If you don't cross-file and they do, they have nothing to worry about" in their own primary."

With nearly three-fourths of precincts reporting, both GOP and Democratic candidates were winning handily in their respective primaries.

The county also held primaries for two open seats on the County Council, with Democrats and Republicans running unopposed for party nominations. Democrats are looking to shake up a GOP-controlled council in the fall.

In Chester County, Republicans Patrick Carmody and Jeffrey R. Sommer and Democrats Anthony Verwey and Julia Malloy-Good were winning nominations for two County Court judgeships. In the largest of three boroughs holding mayoral primaries, Phoenixville, former council member Letitia Jones was losing to Michael Speck in the Democratic mayoral primary. In 2007, Speck ousted Jones from her seat on Phoenixville's council.

With about two-thirds of voting districts reporting in Montgomery County, Sharon Giamporcaro and Maureen Coggins were winning Republican nominations for two County Court judgeships. On the Democratic side, Steve C. Tolliver and Gail Weilheimer led.

Officials remarked at the low turnout. On Twitter, Doylestown Borough Council President Det Ansinn called it "the worst participation level that I can recall" - and posted a photo of a nearly-deserted polling place.


Contact Aubrey Whelan at 610-313-8112, at awhelan@philly.com or on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.

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