The recently announced retirements of Republican State Reps. Art Hershey and Carole Rubley could mean dramatic changes to Chester County's political landscape in 2008.
With the seats of the two veteran state legislators opening up, officials from the county's Democratic and Republican Parties have predicted stepped-up election efforts. One hot spot apparently will be a rematch of 2006's recount-close race in a West Chester district.
The Republicans are seeking to retake control of the state House, which they lost to the Democrats in 2006 by a 102-101 margin. The Democrats see an opportunity to add to their edge with the two open seats.
Hershey, 70, whose 13th District includes Oxford and Parkesburg and other towns in southern and western Chester County, announced last month that he would not seek reelection. He has been in the state House since the early 1980s.
Rubley made her announcement this month. She has represented the 157th District for 15 years. The district includes Tredyffrin and Phoenixville in Chester County and several towns in Montgomery County.
Nobody has formally declared an intention to run for Hershey's seat, but the names of several potential candidates have surfaced. The deadline to file petitions to run is less than two months away, so formal announcements will likely come after the holidays.
Betsy Huber, a former aide to Hershey, and lawyer Tom Houghton, Hershey's most recent Democratic challenger, are mentioned most frequently as bidders for Hershey's seat.
Although Huber was not available for comment, Christine Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Chester County Republican Committee, said she expected her to seek the office.
Houghton, who garnered 47 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Hershey in 2006, said earlier this week he was weighing another run.
"I've been sleeping on it for the past several weeks," said Houghton, recently elected to another six-year term as a London Grove supervisor. "I feel I owe it to those people who supported me. I was shocked to see that Art Hershey is retiring."
Other names mentioned by Thomas as possible GOP candidates are Curtis Mason, a Penn supervisor, and John Lawrence, a Kemblesville resident who ran against Hershey in the 2006 primary.
Tredyffrin Supervisors Chairwoman Judy DiFilippo is the most prominent Republican mentioned as a candidate for Rubley's seat. She has served on the Chester County Planning Commission and is involved in the county's Landscapes 2 land-use program.
"I haven't made an official announcement yet," DiFilippo said, "but I am pursuing some support in that regard."
Although names of other possible candidates have come up, county GOP chairman Joe Brion indicated it was still early for official announcements.
On the Democratic side, the name of former Phoenixville Councilwoman Tish Jones has been mentioned.
While it may be early in the candidacy process, Republican Shannon Royer formally announced his candidacy last week for the 157th District seat in the West Chester area. The seat is held by Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith.
Royer ran against McIlvaine Smith in 2006 and lost by 28 votes, after a recount, in what had been a traditionally Republican district.