In Upper Darby, Democratic council member unseats longtime Republican mayor
The council race wasn’t the only upset in Delaware County on Tuesday. Mayor Tom Micozzie lost his seat by 919 votes.
The county council race wasn’t the only upset in Delaware County on Tuesday. In Upper Darby, Democrat Barbarann Keffer, a township council member in her second term, unseated longtime Republican Mayor Tom Micozzie, who had served since 2009.
The race was one of many local and countywide victories for Democrats throughout the region Tuesday, as the Democratic Party made history by gaining seats on the governing boards in Delaware, Chester, and Bucks Counties as the region increasingly turns blue.
Keffer edged out Micozzie by about 900 votes.
Micozzie has served in a leadership role in the most populous municipality in the region outside of Philadelphia since 1988, when he was elected as a council member. Micozzie, a former fire chief and a lifelong resident of the town of 83,000 residents, ran unopposed in 2015. He is a fixture in the community.
Up against a resume like that, Keffer said her win was a “big surprise to me.”
“I think people were ready for a change in leadership,” she said. "We’ve been run under the heavy fist of the Republican machine here in Upper Darby, and in Delaware County as well.”
Keffer is an administrator for Rutledge Borough, Delaware County, a community of about 800 residents, and has a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. She was elected to the township council in 2014.
In a campaign video this summer, Micozzie accused Democrats of denying him a win by stalling the redevelopment of the dilapidated Drexeline Shopping Center into a mixed-use town center. Members of the township’s Democratic committee filed a lawsuit more than a year ago challenging a 2018 zoning board decision that allowed the project to move forward.
Micozzie and the Republicans said the suit was politically motivated. Keffer and the Democrats said neighbors wanted a say in the development process and denied that politics played a role.
At the polls Tuesday, Nancy Caruso, 71, said she voted all-Republican, as she’s done for decades. That included support for Micozzie’s reelection bid.
“I’m used to Republicans. What they say is what they do,” Caruso said, adding that she’s been satisfied with Micozzie’s leadership.
“I generally don’t mind change, but I want change for the better, not for the worse,” she added.
Saul Machles took the same approach, albeit for the Democrats. Machles, a public school teacher in Philadelphia, said he had nothing against Micozzie, but felt that Keffer was the stronger candidate.
“It’s good to see change,” he said. “And I think, in general, our values are better aligned.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Barbarann Keffer as a first-term council member.