Our top 2019 election stories:

Results came pouring in for an off-year election that included races for Philadelphia mayor, members of City Council, and suburban government posts across the region. In New Jersey, all 80 state Assembly seats and one state Senate seat were up for grabs.

Here’s what you need to know.

It’s never too early...

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney won a second term.

Easily.

So now he gets four more years — or maybe half that, if he decides to run for governor in 2022.

Who’s trying to replace him? We’ve taken a look around and seven names stand out in the potential candidate pool.

Working Families Party makes history by winning Philly City Council seat

Kendra Brooks won a City Council At-Large seat Tuesday, making her the first third-party candidate to win a seat in the 100 years since the Council adopted a modern legislative structure.

“We broke the GOP … We beat the Democratic establishment,” Brooks said to a raucous crowd of supporters, as she declared victory in her unprecedented campaign to capture one of the two seats effectively reserved for non-Democrats. “They said a black single mom from North Philly wasn’t the right person, but we have shown them that we are bigger than them.”

The crowd at New Barbers Hall had spent the evening dancing and singing as they waited for Brooks and as results came in.

Nicolas O’Rourke, Brooks’ Working Families Party running mate, said his race was too close to call, and late Tuesday night he continued to narrowly trail incumbent GOP Councilman David Oh.

Brooks and O’Rourke had mounted the strongest third-party campaign in recent history, threatening to capture seats guaranteed to independents or minority-party candidates under the city’s Home Rule Charter.

The pair raised more money than any previous third-party Council candidate, aired TV and radio commercials and benefited from hefty campaign spending by the national Working Families Party. Brooks also received endorsements from presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, as well as city progressive figures including Councilwoman Helen Gym and State Rep. Chris Rabb.

Delaware County flips Democratic for the first time in its history

With 93 percent of votes counted, all three Democrats running for County Council in Delaware County were cruising. Monica Taylor, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Christine Reuther had nearly 20,000 vote leads over the three Republican candidates. Not only will the county’s ruling body be controlled by Democrats for the first time in its history, the GOP will be wiped out.

Shifting voter-registration numbers and an unprecedented three-seat vacancy on the county’s ruling board set the stage for the change, as did the election of two Democrats two years ago, Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek.

Zidek told the crowd that since the Civil War, in order to get anything done in the county, you had to be a Republican. “Well that s— stops today,” he said. Attorney General Josh Shapiro also congratulated the candidates on their win.

Democrats also appeared to unseat a Republican incumbent District Attorney, Katayoun Copeland. Democratic candidate Jack Stollsteimer who benefited from $100,000 that New York billionaire George Soros spent to promote his campaign, appeared to clinch the election.

At the Delaware County Republican Party’s gathering at Springfield Country Club, the tone was subdued. Rows of cake set out on a table went largely untouched, though Copeland was greeted with sustained applause as she entered the room.

The Delaware County Republican Party chair, Tom McGarrigle called the evening scary, particularly Copeland’s ousting. “That should concern every one of you that has a home a family or a business in Delaware County because, you know what? You shouldn’t feel safe anymore.”

Kenney claims victory: “I’m ready to continue the fight."

Mayor Kenney celebrated his reelection with about 50 people in a union hall in South Philadelphia about 10:30 p.m. He said he wants “Philadelphia to be a city of equity where everyone has the same chance to succeed no matter which neighborhood they grew up in.” It was a five short speech, about five minutes.

Introduced by Councilmember Cherelle Parker at the International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees, Kenney touted his accomplishments, like expanding pre-K and returning the district to local control. He said there’s more to do.

“I’m ready to continue the fight and to keep confronting the challenges that lie ahead," he said. "Be assured that I won’t stop fighting for every Philadelphia, so they can live in a safe and clean neighborhood with access to quality schools for their children and family sustaining jobs.”

Working Families Party wins one Council at-large seat. But watch the Northeast.

With about 40 percent of votes counted, Working Families Party candidates Kendra Brooks and Nicolas O’Rourke were leading in the race for the at-large seats that the city’s charter effectively reserves for a minority party.

Brooks, with 25,400 votes, easily led all Republicans and other independents running. And O’Rourke, with 19,000, had a slight lead over Republican at-large incumbent David Oh, who had 18,500. If that holds, the Working Families Party would be the official minority party in Philadelphia.

But...there are still a lot of votes left to be counted, including ballots in the city’s Northeast and Northwest precincts, which were predicted to come in more slowly than in other areas of the city. And the Northeast is the epicenter of Republican voters in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney wins reelection.

With a sizable lead and about three quarters of the city’s precincts reporting, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney looks to have coasted into his second term. Kenney, who is reportedly considering a run for governor, was leading his Republican challenger Billy Ciancaglini, 80 percent to 16 percent. He’s in good historic company. In seven decades, no Democratic mayor who sought a second term has failed.

Kenney refused to debate or really even acknowledge Ciancaglini’s candidacy. Hours before the polls closed tonight, Ciancaglini posted on his campaign Facebook page: “I’m driving around as much as possible and things are looking as good as they can look right now.”

Kenney had yet to address the crowd at the South Philadelphia union hall where his victory party is to be held.

An insurgent wins in Scranton

Paige Cognetti’s “Paige against the machine,” campaign for mayor appears to have been victorious in Scranton. With 80 percent of the vote in Lackawanna County counted, Cognetti had a 35-percent lead, and her next-closest challenger conceded.

Cognetti won a seven-candidate race to beat the Democratic Party-backed candidate and several other Independents in a special election to replace the previous mayor, who resigned and pleaded guilty in July to felony bribery and conspiracy.

Cognetti, an adviser to the state auditor general who served in the Treasury Department in the Obama administration, had refused to seek the Democratic nomination because she said she didn’t trust the party.

Read about her campaign and those of other insurgent progressives in Pennsylvania who are challenging establishment Democrats.

Why Philadelphia election results are taking so long

You may have noticed the election results are taking a while to come in.

When the Philadelphia City Commissioners chose new voting machines, they also selected electronic poll books in the form of iPads that would allow poll workers to sign voters in. With those poll books, the city was supposed to have a new, faster system for reporting election results.

Instead, the paper poll books were used again Tuesday, and the results reporting system was quite manual:

When polls close, workers secure the machines and a police officer picks up the paper ballots and a USB drive with unofficial tallies. The officer then drives the USB drive to one of nine regional processing centers in the city. (A 10th location is closed this election.)

At those sites, elections staffers read the USB drives to pull the results, then send them via secure, internal network to elections headquarters at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden.

Every so often, a worker at headquarters will go to a computer connected only to that network — and not the Internet — and insert a new, packaged CD. Results are burned to the CD, then walked over to a separate computer that is connected to the Internet.

From that public-facing computer, staffers post the results to philadelphiavotes.com.

Still waiting on returns

Shortly before 8:45 p.m, even early numbers hadn’t yet come in. Early projections by Sixty-Six Wards, a blog that tracks turnout, suggests turnout in Philadelphia was slightly higher than in 2015.

Long lines and high turnout in Mt. Airy

Mt. Airy generally leads the city in voter turnout, and today’s election appeared to be no exception. As voters arrived for the post-work surge, long lines began to form at the Grace Epiphany Episcopal Church.

“Definitely long lines, very long," said State Rep. Chris Rabb, the Democratic leader of the 9th Ward. "Which is both good and bad, right? Because people are coming out, but the lines are not moving as quickly as anybody [wants].” Some voters were waiting for an hour or more to vote, Rabb said.

There are more than 2,000 voters registered in the three precincts that vote at the church — 9th Ward, Divisions 1, 2, and 3 — and some of them were caught off guard by the long list of judicial retention votes, Rabb said.

“They’re probably shocked by the barrage of judge retentions. They think they’re done and they get a slew of names they’ve never seen before,” he said. After selecting candidates on the first page of the new voting machine’s touchscreens, voters are presented with a second page that lists judicial retentions and three ballot questions.

“It’s the complexity of the ballots, not the machines themselves,” Rabb said, adding that the machines appeared to be received well by the voters.

High turnout in the presidential elections next year will likely be offset, he said, by a new law allowing any voter to vote by mail without providing an absentee justification.

'Give ‘em a shot.’ Voters on why they’re backing the Working Families Party

One of the key races we’re following tonight is who will win the two at-large City Council seats that Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter effectively designates for minority parties.

Given the sheer number of Democratic voters in the city — there are about seven registered Democrats for every one Republican — it’s likely the five Democratic at-large candidates will be elected.

That leaves two at-large seats, which for the last 70 years have been filled by Republicans. This year, two Working Families Party candidates, community organizer Kendra Brooks and pastor Nicolas O’Rourke, are hoping to change that.

Here’s what voters told our reporters at the polls today about the Working Families Party candidates.

“I got Kendra Brooks,” said William Jones, 62, of Mt. Airy, a registered Democrat who said he doesn’t vote a straight-party ticket. “I do jump around. I look for new faces and I follow new ideas. ... Give her a chance for her first term and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going with another new face."

Roland Clayton, 34, of West Philadelphia, voted for both Brooks and O’Rourke because of a particularly convincing canvasser outside his polling place at Garden Court Plaza apartments. He usually votes straight Democratic.

Working Families Party candidates for at-large City Council seats, Nicolas OÕRourke (left) and Kendra Brooks (center) hold a WFP rally outside the Northeast Regional Library at Cottman and Bustleton Avenues October 23, 2019.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Working Families Party candidates for at-large City Council seats, Nicolas OÕRourke (left) and Kendra Brooks (center) hold a WFP rally outside the Northeast Regional Library at Cottman and Bustleton Avenues October 23, 2019.

“I just said, ‘Why not give ‘em a shot?” Plus, Clayton said the canvasser told him the Democrats were guaranteed to win — which isn’t technically true but highly likely.

Claire Adler, 26, of Northern Liberties, also voted for Brooks and O’Rourke. Adler had also canvassed for them herself. “I think the party has to be open to progressives with these types of values,” she said. “In some ways our local leaders are, but in some ways they’re not.”

Others didn’t share the “why not” attitude.

Jac Carson, 26, of Manayunk, is a registered Democrat but voted for Republicans Dan Tinney and David Oh. He said he thought it was “probably important to have some Republicans on there.”

Other voters simply said they weren’t familiar with Brooks and O’Rourke or that they followed suggestions on sample ballots handed to them by party leaders in their ward.

O’Rourke and Brooks’ campaigns have irritated local Democratic leaders, who worry the insurgents could threaten Democrats’ chances of reelection to the at-large seats.

Councilman Derek Green, a Democrat running for reelection as an at-large member, expressed some nervousness at the traditional Election Day luncheon for politicos at Relish in West Oak Lane.

“I’ve been targeted by non-Democrats,” Green said earlier today. “When they say, ‘you should vote for these two people so which two should you not vote for? My name is included in that. I don’t take anything for granted. Did you think Donald Trump would be president?”

Rep. Andy Kim hosts rally for New Jersey Democrats. Expect a long night in South Jersey

U.S. Rep Andy Kim (D., N.J.) hosted a canvassing rally for Democratic Assembly candidates Gina LaPlaca and Mark Natale this afternoon at a private residence in Marlton.

More than a dozen grassroots supporters gathered to kick off their last canvassing shift of the campaign in the 8th Legislative District. LaPlaca and Natale cautioned that the results might take a while to roll in for this toss-up race.

“We’re in for a long night,” LaPlaca said. The district used to be solidly Republican but has become more of a toss-up in the Trump era. Former U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur lost to Kim in last year’s congressional race by about 3,900 votes.

LaPlaca and Natale met as volunteers on Kim’s congressional campaign in 2018, and now hope to join the ranks of elected office themselves. “We’re going to take our community back,” said Natale. “Tonight, or tomorrow.”

Trump looms large in New Jersey’s First Legislative District

Today’s elections are local, but President Donald Trump is a big factor in New Jersey’s First District, which leans conservative and covers Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties.

Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak caused a stir last week when he wouldn’t rule out a vote for Trump in 2020. Experts say he’s playing to the moderates in his district. Republican opponent Mike Testa, who co-chairs Trump’s reelection campaign in New Jersey, isn’t buying it.

"I think Bob would do and say anything to stay in office, it shows his desperation,” Testa said after casting his vote at Vineland High School this morning.

Andrzejczak wouldn’t rule out a potential vote for Trump in a phone call today, but said: “It’s not that I won’t rule out voting for Trump, it doesn’t have anything to do with the campaign today,” he said. "[Testa’s] trying to throw everything he can at me, he knows he’s going into an election he’s losing.”

First District residents are split on whether House members should look into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as grounds for impeachment. Forty-six percent supported an inquiry and 47% were opposed, according to a Stockton University poll last month.

Some reasons why people do not vote

One of the unfortunate aspects of an off-year election is that it’s considered a success if a quarter of the city’s 1 million registered voters turn out.

People have many reasons for not voting — or even registering. Reporter Anna Orso tried to get some answers.

Some of the reasons she heard included:

  • I have to work all day.
  • I’ve never seen a local politician in my neighborhood.
  • I’m not registered because I have a felony record and thought I wasn’t allowed.
  • I’m not registered because I don’t want to get jury duty.

Election Day lunchtime traditions live on

If it’s an Election Day, politicians, like bees to the hive, swarm to their favorite restaurants for schmoozing, glad handing and, of course, lunch.

The two main gathering spots for the city’s Dems are the Famous Fourth Street Deli in Queen Village and Relish restaurant in West Oak Lane.

Another tradition at the deli involves members of the politically powerful electricians union waving large pictures of the heads of favored politicians.

But while his face was featured at Famous, Mayor Jim Kenney, who is seeking a second term, took his meal at Relish.

Also spotted at Relish: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who is not on the ballot.

How are the new voting machines working out in Philly?

Voters in Philadelphia are adjusting to new voting system that requires them to cast ballots on a screen and then feed a paper readout of the completed ballot back into the machine, like putting a dollar into a vending machine.

Patrick Christmas, policy director of the Committee of 70 watchdog group, said in an email he was “hearing anecdotally that lines are short but moving more slowly because folks are taking longer to use the new system.”

Christopher Mejia-Smith, a Democratic committeeperson in West Philadelphia’s 60th Ward tweeted that he clocked some voters taking six minutes to cast their ballots while quickest needed a minute and 20 seconds.

Need a quick primer on how to use the machines? The city has produced a how-to video (2 minutes, 17 seconds) with an amusing list of sample candidates.

Robo-call shenanigans reported in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Department of State says some counties are reporting that robo-calls are directing voters to the wrong polling places. It is not clear how widespread the problem is.

The department said voters can find their polling places at its website using their home addresses.

Weather

The weather is cooperating for an Election Day. Temperatures in the Philadelphia area are now in the mid-50s and will rise to a projected high of 62 under partly sunny skies in the afternoon. The mercury will then fall to the upper 40s by the time the polls close.

What Pennsylvania voters can expect

There are no statewide political posts up for election, but all Pennsylvania residents are being asked to vote on a ballot measure to add a section addressing crime victims’ rights to the Pennsylvania constitution. But the vote on the proposed amendment known as Marsy’s Law is caught in a legal Twilight Zone, as the state Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower-court ruling that votes for the amendment won’t be counted until the issue makes it way through the courts and a final ruling is reached on its constitutionality.

Voters also are casting ballots in municipal races and for a variety of judgeships, including a statewide election for two judges for Superior Court.

In Philadelphia, Democrat Jim Kenney is seeking a second term in a race against Republican Billy Ciancaglini, and all 17 City Council seats, including five at-large positions, are up for grabs. The at-large race, with voters casting ballots to choose the occupants for three majority party seats and two minority party seats, is the one being most watched by political insiders for potential upsets.

In the row office elections, the candidates for City Commissioners, sheriff, and registrar of wills are running unopposed.

Voters in Philadelphia will weigh in on two ballot questions. One is a bond issue seeking to borrow $185 million to invest in transit, museum, parks and recreational centers, municipal buildings, and economic development. The other is a charter change to increase the amount for sealed bids from $34,000 to $75,000, and to $100,000 for local businesses.

New voting machines in Philly

Philadelphia voters will be casting their ballots on new machines. The city has produced a video to assist voters in dealing with the new machines, with an amusing list of sample candidates.

What’s on the ballot in New Jersey

Besides choosing a new state Assembly, New Jersey voters will be casting a wide range of votes in municipal and school board elections.

There also is a special election in the state’s First Legislative District in South Jersey to fill the state senate seat that became vacant when Jeff Van Drew was elected to Congress last year.

Problems at the polls?

You can report problems at the polls in Philadelphia by contacting the District Attorney’s Election Fraud Task Force at 215-686-9641, 215-686-9643, or 215-686-9644.

Happy Election Day: Stay with Inquirer.com for all-day coverage of the races and results

It’s Election Day, and we’ll have live updates right here as voters head to the polls throughout the day and results come tonight. During the day, we’ll be tracking turnout, Philly’s new voting machines, and what the candidates are up to, and after the polls close at 8 p.m., we’ll have updates as races across the region get called.

Here’s the team bringing you the latest on Election Day: Joseph A. Gambardello is hosting the live blog during the day, while Julia Terruso will guide you through the results this evening. Chris Brennan is covering the Philly mayoral race, while Sean Walsh and Laura McCrystal have the latest on City Council. In the suburbs, Michaelle Bond, Vinny Vella, and Justine McDaniel will bring you updates from Pennsylvania counties, while Pranshu Verma is keeping tabs on New Jersey. Andrew Seidman will have coverage of the judicial races. Jonathan Lai is covering voting and polling-place issues, and Anna Orso, Ellie Rushing, Allison Steele, and Nick Vadala will be out talking to voters across the region.