As tomorrow’s primary election nears with its multitude of local contests, county political leaders are not anticipating any onslaught to the polls.
“I anticipate this to be a typical municipal primary turnout,” Delaware County Republican Chairman Andrew Reilly said, as he estimated about 16 to 18 percent of registered voters coming to cast their choice. “There’s obviously going to be areas that are higher … In a municipal year, turnout is driven by races on the ballot.”
His counterpart, county Democratic Chairman David Landau, had a similar estimate.
“I think there will be a slight uptick,” he said, adding that he didn’t think droves of voters would come out. “I don’t think you’ll see a 60 percent turnout in this primary. It could get to 20 percent.”
Landau added, “I do think it will affect the general election.”
He based that on the level of activity he has seen in Democrat ranks since last November’s election.
“Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving,” Landau said. “Donald Trump we know doesn’t get any traction in Delaware County.”
Reilly said the elections this year are quite a distance from the Trump administration. “It’s less about what’s occurring in Washington and more about their neighbors who are running for positions,” he said. “This election is about how to run Delaware County.”
To that end, Reilly said, “The Delaware County Republican Party has always been a party that puts Delaware County first.”
He said the party does that by having common-sense, community-minded candidates and have a track record of no tax increase for the past three years at the county level and higher job rates than other suburban counties.
“We’re doing the job,” Reilly said. “I’m sure that David Landau and the Democrats want to nationalize this election.”
Reilly said none of the six Democratic candidates running at a county level have government experience or experience balancing a budget.
The ballot this primary is full of local contests, as well as a question in Swarthmore that would allow for alcohol licenses in restaurants or eateries.
Most school districts have races in their school boards and three Magisterial Districts – Glenolden/Norwood, Upper Providence/Rose Valley and Newtown – have competition in their judges’ seats.
Democrats have a three-way mayoral race, as well as a council race, a borough council race in Media, a council race in Millbourne, a council race in Swarthmore and a race for mayor and council in Yeadon. There’s a 2nd Ward council contest in Darby Borough, as well as a mayoral competition between incumbent Helen Thomas and Paula Brown.
Republicans will see races in the 3rd Ward of Clifton Heights council; Edgmont supervisor; Middletown supervisor-at-large; the Upland tax collector and nine candidates in Trainer vying for four council seats.
For Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge, county District Attorney Jack Whelan has cross-filed as both Republican and Democrat, where he faces opposition from attorney Kelly Eckel. Eckel did not cross-file and is not on the Republican ballot.
Whelan, 57, a Ridley Republican, has been an attorney for more than three decades, the last six years as District Attorney.
Common Pleas Judge Gregory Mallon, who has served on the bench since 2008, has decided not to run again.
Whelan, who is term-limited as D.A., said he’s always had an aspiration to be a judge and said he would be able to transfer the skills of impartiality, independence and a sense of justice to service at the court level.
“When someone comes into my office, they’re never treated as a person affiliated with a party, they’re treated as a person with a problem,” he said.
Whelan said he did not circulate the petition to cross-file, that Democratic supporters did that on their own.
“I believe I have a lot of Democratic support in the community as well as Republican or Independent support,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of the support that I get from both sides.
“As a judge,” he added, “you don’t look at anybody as their party affiliation.”
Eckel, 48, an Upper Providence Democrat, is a partner with Duane Morris, where she’s been a litigator with a diverse background from commercial litigation to software licensing to consumer fraud for almost 20 years.
Having interned for Judge Harvey Bartle III, the former state insurance commissioner, and been a judicial clerk for Judge Stanley Brotman, U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, she said she learned the importance of being fair to all parties, regardless of background.
“I enjoy helping parties resolve their disputes in a fair and efficient manner,” she said.
She said she did not cross-file because she finds it to be “a deceptive, albeit lawful, practice.”
“In the ideal world, our judges would be determined based on merit selection,” she said. “But, in a state in which we still elect our state court judges … I think candidates should ‘pick a side’ and project honesty.”