SWARTHMORE — The Democrats swept every county race Tuesday night. The party will have a 5-0 majority on county council, including its first African-American member, their first Democrat Common Pleas judges and the first female African-American and Muslim judge in the county's history.
There were smiles, shouts and cries of joy at the Inn at Swarthmore as the election results rolled in.
Christine Reuther, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Dr. Monica Taylor easily won seats on county council, with Taylor becoming the first African American to do so. Nusrat Rashid, Stephanie Klein, Kelly Eckel and Rick Lowe took seats on the Delaware County Common Pleas bench. Rashid was the first female African-American judge in Delaware County and the first Muslim Common Pleas judge in the state of Pennsylvania.
Jack Stollsteimer also won the race for Delaware County District Attorney from District Attorney Katayoun Copeland.
“History, Delco," Rashid said to wild cheers. "History in this room tonight. We, we all of us together have made history. That’s the power of the people. There is no justice without the people.”
That was a theme repeated through the night.
"The people here in this room have caused a revolution," Stollsteimer said.
“They said it couldn’t be done, Delco," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said to more yells and screams. "But you proved them wrong. You all have labored in the vineyards for so many years. You all have worked hard for this day and now you have a majority on the Delaware County Council.”
From the unofficial tally, Taylor received 86,725 votes; Schaefer received 85,362; Reuther received 84,655. Their Republican opponents were Mike Morgan, who gained 70,290 votes, Kelly Colvin who garnered 70,196 and Jim Raith, who won 69,155.
"We are not going to come in there and change your life," Schaefer said to the courthouse employees. "We want to work with you. We want to make our government better.”
The campaign rushed out of the gate the day after the primary and ramped up after Labor Day with a trio of debates and an onslaught of mailers and TV ads. Accusations were also lobbed in both directions, with the themes of "corruption" and "tax and spend" being pounded into voters' psyche among other claims.
Three seats were open as three Republicans - Delaware County Council Chairman John McBlain, Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone and Councilman Michael Culp - did not run. McBlain and Morrone were restricted from term limits and Culp did not seek re-election.
On the Democrat side, Reuther was familiar with a county council campaign, having run unsuccessfully in 2015 while instrumental in the 2017 Democraict Councilmen Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek victory. A business and tax attorney, she also served as Nether Providence commissioner and is solicitor for Rutledge Borough. Schaefer is founder of the Radnor Conservancy and was the switch vote in Radnor that caused the commissioner board to come under Democratic control. She also was the first female president of the township's board of commissioners. Taylor is a professor and program director of Kinesiology at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and was a professional basketball player in Ireland. She has also been an Upper Darby School Board member since 2017.
The race officially began the day after the primary when the GOP candidates issued their plan for "Transparency and Progress for Delaware County" that Democrats chided as a laughable attempt to emulate them. What followed was a plethora of other releases and plans from the Republicans call for a "No Sale" pledge for the Fair Acres Geriatric Center; to a 20-bed, in-patient Crisis Care Facility to a plan to use the George W. Hill Correctional Facility to house stray dogs for adoption. None of the Democrat candidates proposed selling Fair Acres.
By the end of August, the race heated up.
Delaware County Republican Chairman Thomas McGarrigle accused Democrats of hiring a Philippine-based company identifying as a doctor's office to ask misleading questions with false information about the GOP county council candidates. He also accused the Democrats of staging a "hate hoax" by holding a press conference around a purported fake racist email guised as a county employee but sent by an online news outlet editor. The Democrat county council candidates did not attend that.
Democrats also stepped up to the campaign plate and swung.
They held a large press conference outside the DELCORA headquarters in September opposing the $276 million sale of the utility to Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater in July, cited it as a no-bid example of benefits for party insiders with limited public input into the process.
Democrats also wrote an open letter calling on their opponents to have an issue-based, civil campaign free from personal attacks.
Mud-slinging, however, was not avoided as pedophiles and corruption taxes were brought into the equation.
In their ads, Democrats referred to the "GOP Machine Corruption Tax" by stating Republican campaign donors get "sweetheart deals" as the rest of the county got stuck paying for it with high taxes - taxes, they said, were higher than any other county in suburban Philadelphia.
Republicans, in their advertising, called their counterparts the "Tax Hike Squad," noting the Democratic candidates' past public record of raising taxes and also alleged they "sought and celebrated the endorsement of a child predator" when they sought the backing from the Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform. One board member of Delco CPR was convicted of sexual abuse of a child in Montgomery County in 1992 and pleaded guilty to indecent assault of a young teen in Haverford in 1993.
Schaefer was criticized for her support of former Radnor Township Commissioner President Phil Ahr for not calling on him to step down from his president role sooner after admitting to police he possessed child pornography. She did so after Ahr was formally charged.
Reuther noted the GOP's fear-mongering attempt to paint the Democrats as "protectors of pedophiles" while her party noted the county FOP'scomfort in supporting them.
This endorsement, by the Fraternal Order of Police, Delaware County Lodge #27 as they chose Reuther, Schaefer and Taylor as their choice for council, was another historical first as the county FOP had not endorsed a Democrat for county council prior to this campaign.