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Democrats win across the Philadelphia region as Republicans are fading even on friendly turf

The shift in the once-legendary GOP stronghold of Delaware County appeared late Tuesday to be part of a Republican wipeout across the region and in other elections around the country.

County Council candidate Monica Taylor (center) celebrates with fellow candidates Elaine Schaefer (left) and Christine Reuther (second from left) during the Delaware County Democratic Committee election watch party at the Inn at Swarthmore.
County Council candidate Monica Taylor (center) celebrates with fellow candidates Elaine Schaefer (left) and Christine Reuther (second from left) during the Delaware County Democratic Committee election watch party at the Inn at Swarthmore.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Democrats won political control of the once-legendary GOP stronghold of Delaware County, part of a Republican wipeout across the Philadelphia region and in other elections around the country.

It was the first time since at least the Civil War that Democrats won control of the Delaware County Council. They not only won a majority, but also swept Republicans off the governing body entirely. Democrats won a majority on the Chester County Board of Commissioners for the first time in history, in the only suburban Philadelphia county where Republicans still outnumber Democrats. In Bucks County, Democrats captured the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983.

And in Philadelphia, Republicans lost at least one of the at-large City Council seats that the city’s charter effectively reserves for minority parties to the insurgent Working Families Party — forfeiting a seat the GOP has held for decades in a city with ever fewer Republican voters.

Elsewhere in the country, the incumbent Republican governor of Kentucky lost to his Democratic challenger, and Democrats flipped both houses in the Virginia state legislature. Taken together, the results highlighted the challenges ahead for President Donald Trump and his party in 2020, with Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes up for grabs again.

In Delaware County, Democratic candidates Monica Taylor, Elaine Schaefer, and Christine Reuther won their races to join fellow Democrats Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek on the five-member board. Madden and Zidek made history in the 2017 election as the first Democrats to gain seats on the county council. Gaining a majority in county government means control over budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, the ability to set policy, the right to hire, and the overseeing of elections.

‘A new day in Delco’

“This isn’t the speech I wanted to write but, you know what, it is what it is in life," Delaware County GOP chairman Tom McGarrigle told Republicans gathered at the Springfield Country Club, as the reality of their historic defeat sank in. “We’re not going to be sore losers tonight.”

None of the Republican candidates spoke the country club watch party. After McGarrigle finished speaking, the candidates left the room.

Schaefer said the Democrats’ victory ushers in “a new day in Delco.”

» READ MORE: Democrats make history by winning control of Delaware County

“We cannot wait to get in there," she said. "The five of us will get in there and change the government, and make it a government that benefits working families.”

Stacy Maillie, a registered Republican in Springfield Township, was among the voters hoping for a change in Delaware County politics. She considers herself a moderate and thinks the Republican party has shifted away from her, saying the party “has become more extreme.” She voted for the Democratic council candidates.

“Living in Delaware County, if you wanted to have a say in local politics in the past, you sort of had to register as a Republican,” she said.

Maillie said she thought the county would benefit from a shift to a more liberal government.

Democrats win majority in Bucks County for the first time since 1983

Democrats gained control of Bucks County’s three-member Board of Commissioners for the first time in 36 years. Incumbent Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia won reelection handily. Robert Harvie, chair of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors, edged out Republican Commissioner Robert Loughery by fewer than 700 votes.

Republican State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo came in second, winning the spot on the board reserved for the minority party.

Republican Commissioner Charles Martin did not seek reelection. He had won his seat by just 728 votes in 2015.

The county has roughly 11,400 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Jack Stollsteimer wins Delaware County District Attorney race

Also in Delaware County, Democrat Jack Stollsteimer defeated Republican District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland.

Liberal New York billionaire George Soros had pledged $100,000 to back the campaign of Stollsteimer, a board member of the Delaware County Bar Association and a founding member of the Delco Coalition for Prison Reform. Stollsteimer campaigned on de-privatizing the county prison, reforming the cash bail system, and lowering charges for minor marijuana possession.

Stollsteimer, who interned at the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office while in law school and spent about a year as an assistant district attorney, spent 4½ years as a federal prosecutor.

Copeland has more experience as a prosecutor, serving six years as an assistant U.S. attorney and 19 years in the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office. Her campaign platform included school safety; gun safety; protections for children, seniors, and the environment; treatment instead of jail for nonviolent drug offenders, and prosecution of drug dealers.

County judges had appointed Copeland to the position as the county’s prosecutor after her predecessor, Jack Whelan, was elected a county judge in 2017.

Democrats make history in Chester County

Democratic candidates Josh Maxwell, the mayor of Downingtown, and Marian Moskowitz, a businesswoman, won the majority on the Chester County Board of Commissioners, in the only county in the region with a Republican voter registration edge over the Democrats. Democrats have never held the majority.

Republican Commissioner Michelle Kichline edged out her running mate, Commissioner Terence Farrell, for the minority spot on the three-member board.

Maxwell, who has unsuccessfully run for the state legislature, is serving in his third term as mayor. He was elected at age 26 as Downingtown’s youngest mayor in 2010. Moskowitz helped turn a building in a former industrial site in Phoenixville into an office building, theater and event space called Franklin Commons.

Former county prosecutor Deb Ryan, a Democrat, defeated First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone, a Republican, to become Chester County’s next district attorney. District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan announced he was dropping out of the race in July after running unopposed in the Republican primary. Noone wanted to continue the office’s work, while Ryan said it was time for a change.

Democrat Fredda Maddox won the race for sheriff, replacing Republican Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, who did not run for reelection after serving for two decades as the county’s first female sheriff. Maddox, a lawyer and former Pennsylvania state trooper, will be the county’s first black female sheriff.

Maddox defeated Republican Jim Fitzgerald, a retired FBI agent and Marine Corps veteran.

Democrats maintain status quo in Montgomery County

With registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by more than 73,000 in Montgomery County, Democratic Commissioners Valerie Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence Jr. won reelection to the three-member commission, as expected.

The competitive race was for the third seat reserved for the minority party. In that race, incumbent Republican Commissioner Joe Gale, who is often at odds with the local GOP and calls himself an “independent conservative," won out over moderate Republican Fred Conner, chair of the Whitpain Township Board of Supervisors.

Staff writer Justine McDaniel contributed to this article.