GOP holds off Dems in Delco; Coatesville ousts school board member

Majority inspector Carol Kelleher and election judge John McCreesh await voters on a slow day at a polling place inside the Bon Air Fire Company in Havertown.
Majority inspector Carol Kelleher and election judge John McCreesh await voters on a slow day at a polling place inside the Bon Air Fire Company in Havertown. (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 07, 2013

Republican incumbents staved off challenges in key races in Delaware and Bucks Counties on Tuesday, while Chester County voters ousted school board members in two districts wracked by controversy.

In Coatesville, where outrage flared this summer with the discovery of racist text messages from its former superintendent, board member Tonya Thames Taylor lost her seat to newcomer Deborah L. Thompson. Some district residents had blamed the school board for failing to properly handle the scandal and letting Superintendent Richard Como resign instead of firing him.

"Those that chose to come out spoke volumes," Thompson said Tuesday night. "The people just really want a change."

And in West Chester, where teachers have been without a contract since summer 2012 amid increasingly tense public debate, Republican incumbents Ed Coyle, Sean Carpenter, and Maria Pimley, as well as newcomer Pam LaTorre lost to Democrats Joyce Chester, Robin Kaliner, Chris McCune, and Ricky Swalm.

In Delaware County, Democrats had hoped to finally claim county offices that have been solidly Republican for decades, after winning an edge in registered voters.

But Bill Clinton and Patricia Worrell fell short against incumbents Councilman David J. White and Council Vice Chairman Mario J. Civera, and Republicans handily won races for sheriff, controller, register of wills, and Common Pleas judge.

"People have even telling us for the last 20 years that our county should have been a Democratic county," said Andy Reilly, head of the county's GOP committee. "The only difference is that this year they have more registered voters."

In Bucks County's most competitive race, Sheriff Edward "Duke" Donnelly edged out his Democratic challenger, Dennis McCauley, who accused Donnelly of mismanaging the office.

"He won because he does a good job," said Pat Poprik, chair of Bucks County's Republican Party. "The law enforcement community supports him. And people trust the law enforcement community."

In Montgomery County, Democrats Gail Weilheimer and Steven Tolliver won close races for open seats on Common Pleas Court.

Elsewhere, a large number of uncontested candidates and lack of major contests in municipal and county elections meant polling sites remained quiet and empty, many with more volunteers than voters.

Polling stations around the region reported no problems, and many workers did not ask for identification.

In Doylestown, Bucks County, even the district attorney was running unopposed. Linda Borkowski, judge of elections, proclaimed the early voting "sooo slow."

Voter Joyce Jacober, 63, said local elections can "make your voice be heard." But even Jacober said she hadn't kept up with as many local races as she usually does, and that she was more familiar with the New Jersey governor's contest than many in Bucks County.

In Radnor, turnout for the early morning crowd was light, similar to a primary, said Lambros Economides, judge of elections. "We'll be lucky to see 40 percent," Economides said. The voter turnout is usually in the 90 percent range for national elections, she said.

Voters said the township races - school board and treasurer - were the big issues.

Tim Games, 51, a lawyer and Republican, said he voted his ticket to ensure more oversight on spending and transparency, citing a recent decision by the school district to go to full day kindergarten. "It was sprung on the township without a lot of discussion," he said.

At Bensalem Township High School, where three Bucks County voting districts are located, none of the three had seen more than 7 percent of registered voters show up to the quiet cafeteria by 10:30 a.m.

"Some of the offices are uncontested, I think that influences whether people come out," said district majority inspector David Fiedler.

Workers at all three districts were asking voters to show photo ID, but despite the contentious nature of the pending rule, workers at each district said fewer than five people Tuesday chose not to present an ID, and all were cordial about it.

If nothing else, Fiedler said, general elections are busier than primaries. Bucks County's May primary saw only about 11 percent of voters complete a ballot, according to county board of elections figures.

"During the primary," Fiedler said, "you could watch paint dry."

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Staff writers Julie Zauzmer, Jessica Parks, Michaelle Bond, Mari A. Schaefer, Chris Palmer, Ben Finley, and Tricia Nadolny contributed to this article.

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