The national climate. The negativity. The divisiveness. The money.
These are some of the reasons and concerns held by voters that likely will pusth them to the polls Tuesday in campaigns painting candidates in less-than-favorable lights, being painted in broad brushes of the darker sides of the national parties.
Take heed, according to James Vike, professor of political science at Widener University, this vilification of the other trend is expected to last for some time.
And, while midterm elections aren’t as attractive to American voters as the presidential, this one may see a few more voters make it to the polls, he said.
“It doesn’t have the pull power like the presidential election,” the professor said, while quickly adding what it does feature: “One of the keys is the number of active mobilizers.”
In general, Vike said, the party of a newly elected president tends to lose seats in a midterm election.
This year, the ballot runs the gamut from the Pennsylvania governor's mansion, a U.S. Senate seat, Congressional races, plus the entire Pennsylvania House of Representatives and half the state Senate.
In the U.S, Senate race, Havertown resident and Libertarian Dale Kerns is running alongside incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, and Republican U.S. Rep Lou Barletta.
In the 5th U.S. Congressional District race, Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon faces Republican Pearl Kim of Haverford in newly redrawn districts as determined by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Both Kim and Scanlon will simultaneously appear on the ballot for the special election to fulfill the remainder of the term for the 7th U.S. Congressional District.
Almost every other state Senate and House seat in Delaware County is also up for election.
Yet, even with so many seats at stake, voter turnout is not anticipated to be high.
Vike compared it to the 2014 election.
“If we’re talking about voter turnout in 2014, both nationally and in Pennsylvania, we had about 36 percent,” he said. Comparatively, he said, about 64 percent of the voting eligible population voted in 2016 in Pennsylvania.
Yet, pointing to the mobilization efforts from getting-out-the-vote drives to canvassing and reaching people, he said, “At this point, we’ve got some party activism and motivation on both sides.”
Another component shared by those is motivation.
“We have an intensity of partisanship now,” Vike said. “You dislike the other party more than you like your own is the basic notion. The last thing you want is to see the other side win.”
That can be seen here in Delaware County, where both parties are duking it out for important state and federal seats.
Colleen Guiney, chairwoman of the Delaware County Democratic Party, said their slate of candidates are representative of the county’s values.
“Voters need to know that their voice does matter,” she said. “We have candidates who want to serve their communities just like the countywide candidates that have been elected. They’re doing a good job and they have integrity.”
Her counterpart, county Republican Party Chairman Andy Reilly, said Democrats are simply using national issues to appeal to their base.
A single name that does not appear on the ballot has dominated much of the election talk. That would be President Donald Trump.
Last year, two Democrats – Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek – were elected to County Council, the first Democrats to serve on that body in four decades. Democrats also swept all three county row offices on the ballot.
“I believe that we have an extremely motivated, dedicated group of challengers,” Guiney said. “These people are doing it for the right reason. They have their own agenda based on what they hear at the (residents’) doors and what their community needs.”
She said county Republicans want voters to forget that former U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7, of Chadds Ford resigned earlier this year after reports that he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim made by a former staff member.
Guiney said the GOP uses fear to stoke its base, claiming that Democrats want crime, failing schools and unbounded taxes.
However, Guiney said, her party exists to serve its communities not by town or zip code, but for all.
“It’s not a top-down party,” she said of the Democratic Party. “A true leader knows how to serve … I am thrilled that the candidates in our district are here to serve as well. The Democratic Party honors every voter. We work to serve all of our community.”
Recently, she claimed the Republican majorities were a problem.
“(I)f voters … saw that the Republican super-majorities in Congress and the state legislature are not getting the job done, they might realize that it is time for a change.”
She continued on that message of change.
“Overall,” Guiney said, “I think it’s time for change in Delaware County. I believe that the Delaware County Democratic Party has brought positive change and the Delaware County Democratic Party will continue to bring about positive change.”
Recently, Republican Pearl Kim’s law license had been administratively suspended by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which was resolved and reinstated by Friday.
Of that, Guiney said, “If Ms. Kim is not able to keep her personal paperwork in order, I can understand why voters would be concerned that she wants to be in Congress, where just a few words in a bill can affect millions of lives for generations.”
Delaware County Republican Chairman Andrew Reilly said it was merely an oversight, as Kim had resigned her position from the state Attorney General’s Office to run for office. Normally, the A.G.’s office reinstates their attorneys’ licenses.
“It was an oversight,” he said. “She’s been reinstated. She had left the office to campaign … I’m not surprised that the Democrats don’t want due process.”
He also spoke about the election season.
“Throughout this whole campaign, the local Democrats have been trying to use national issues to motivate their base,” he said. “The Democrats are focused on scare tactics and … Washington personalities.”
The GOP candidates, he said, are common sense, practical Delaware County Republicans who put the interests of their community first.
“They’re Republicans,” he said, “because they’ve grown up in Delaware County and they’ve worked to make their communities better and running for office is just an extension of that.”
In addition, he said the Democratic Party has swung even farther left than that of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and former President Barack Obama, who maintained containment of the country’s borders.
He gave the example of the Democratic candidates’ support for sanctuary cities, and he pointed to the case of Juan Ramon Vasquez.
The Honduras national was deported in 2009, returned to the United States and was arrested in Philadelphia. Federal authorities asked to detain him and Vasquez was released as Philadelphia is a sanctuary city.
“He went on to rape a Delaware County girl,” Reilly said.
The GOP leader said the Democrats aren’t characteristic of the county.
“How are they representing all of Delaware County?” Reilly asked of the Democratic candidates, calling the effort “patently laughable.”
“This country is a right-center country and the Republican Party is right-center,” Reilly said. “They are pushing a liberal national agenda and they’re even supporting someone who is running openly as a socialist.”
Reilly pointed to PA Alliance Action, which his party has called upon state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate.
“Why this campaign is so different, it really is about the untraceable campaign cash being funded into Delaware County,” he said.
Pennsylvania State GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio claimed that PA Alliance Action, a 501c(4) organization is improperly funneling monies for campaigns
In addition, the organization, he said, is funding the Pennsylvania Fund for Change, which he claims is distributing mailers with incorrect information about Republican candidates.
Of PA Alliance Action, whom he said funneled about $1 million into Delaware County campaigns, Reilly said, “What makes it so concerning is that they get contributions that they don’t have to reveal the source of. It’s unconscionable.”
In any case, the unsavory sides of campaigns, particularly the mud-slinging, will remain for a bit, the Widener University political science professor said.
“This current trend of high levels of competitiveness in national races is fairly unique,” Vike said. “I don’t think this will last forever.”
However, he said he anticipates it will continue for some time as the popularity of a president used to swing more widely and there’s not as much middle ground going back and forth.
He said he expects that the 2020 presidential election will reap a similar endpoint using the same bitter tactics, with most voters eventually looking unfavorably upon both major candidates.
“I can’t imagine it not being a lesser of two evils choice,” Vike said. “The basic theme of 2020 is going to be making sure the other person is not viewed popularly.”
The professor does not put much stock in the savior-individual notion. He said that the heavy focus on negativity can propel voters to the polls, but warned that comes with a price. It also presents a real challenge when it comes to governing.
Which is why, he said, many elected officials are stepping down or resigning, saying this isn’t why they entered public service.
On Tuesday, though, the congressional races will highlight the commonwealth’s unique position in the politics of the United States.
“There’s not that many states that have swing potential,” he said. “The change of the congressional districts in Pennsylvania is going to have quite a significant impact on Pennsylvania’s representation.
“Our area is definitely a swing area for Democratic pick-ups,” Vike said, adding, “The new (congressional district) map has definitely helped their prospects even further.”