The partisan divide continues to widen in Delaware County, voter registration numbers show. Democratic and Republican leaders point to an unpopular president and desire for inclusion as motivators.

Where once the Republican Party held a solid majority in Delaware County, the Democrats overcame the GOP margin several years ago and their numbers continue to expand.

Based on figures released last week from the Delaware County Voter Registration Office, 186,348 voters have registered as Democrats in Delaware County and 157,862 have registered as Republican. Another 29,414 have no affiliation and Libertarians account for 1,421 with Greens at 392.

Comparatively, there were 184,328 Democratic voters last August and 182,680 in April 2018 with 161,296 Republicans last August and 162,182 four months prior to that.

Delaware County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Guiney said more people have taken ownership of their civic responsibilities.

"Years ago, many citizens felt that somebody else would take care of government and that got us into difficult situations," she said. "I'm very proud to see the number of people that are getting involved in government. It's going to make our communities stronger as we welcome so many voices to the public discourse."

Delaware County Republican Chairman Tom McGarrigle said both changing county demographics and presidential popularity have had an influence on voter registration as well as election outcome the past couple rounds. However, he added that in the same time period, Republicans have gotten the most voters out that they've ever seen.

"The last election was the highest we ever had," he said. "We were able to get high number of Republicans out to vote."

In November's general election, the top GOP vote getter was Pearl Kim in her bid for the 5th U.S. Congressional seat. She received 94,817 votes in that race. Her opponent, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5, of Swarthmore, received 154,477.

McGarrigle lost his own state Senate seat that year to former Swarthmore Mayor Tim Kearney, and GOP state Reps. Jamie Santora and Alex Charlton were defeated as well. Rep. Nick Miccarelli, who did not run for re-election, was replaced by a Democrat, too.  

McGarrigle also spoke about the registration numbers that have resulted in 5,000 less Republican voters than last year's primary.

"There is a group of people that have a dislike for the president," McGarrigle said. "Unfortunately, that has affected us in the last two elections. We're hoping that changes."

In addition, he talked about the changing demographics.

"In the eastern part of the county, people are moving out of Philadelphia," he said, adding that the majority of them are Democrats and they tend to retain their party registration even after they move.

Guiney said her party's influx of voters is a correlation to its ability to respond to people's needs.

"People are coming to the Democratic Party because this is the party that's serving the interests of most people," she said. "This is the party that's working on protecting health care, strengthening education, protecting our environment ... The Democratic Party is responsive to the needs of constituents."

She noted that Democratic elected officials, such as Scanlon, are holding town halls and are eager to hear from voters, while also holding others accountable and protecting the Constitution.

Guiney also said that voters have seen Democrats at the county level.

"The voters of Delaware County are also ... seeing the excellent, diligent precise work of the newly elected county council and row officers," she said. 

County Councilmen Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek took their seats in January 2018, becoming the first Democrats in almost four decades to win council races.

Guiney also highlighted fellow Democrats, county Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders Jr.'s advocacy on behalf of his employees for raises; county Controller Joanne Phillips' efforts at transparency by making documentation available and county Register of Wills Mary Walk's modernization of her office through making various services available online.

They were the first Democrats ever elected to those offices. 

"I really do believe that last cycle, the Republicans were trying to divide us," she said, adding that, in her view, Democrats on the national level are protecting us. "And on the local level, they're doing the same thing."

Since becoming county GOP chair this year, McGarrigle talked about more outreach to younger voters, in particular Young Republican Clubs.

"We're very engaged in trying to get young voters," he said. "The Young Republicans is the largest group we've ever had."

In an attempt to make inroads at the university level, McGarrigle said he's been meeting with Republican organizations on college campuses to get them interested.

"This year alone, we have about a dozen young Republicans that are running for office," he said. "I'm hoping in the next two years to triple that."

Some this cycle include Media Borough Council candidates Michael Straw, Jessica Paine and Ryan Grace; Marple Newtown School Board member Leonard B. Altieri III who's running for Newtown Township supervisor; and Springfield Township Commissioner candidate Suzanne Hoffman.

They join the rest of the GOP slate in seeking office May 21.

"I think we have great candidates," McGarrigle said. "We have qualified candidates."

He noted the GOP county council candidates including Drexel Hill resident Kelly Colvin, who is an associated director at Temple University's public policy center; Thornbury Supervisors Chairman and Ridley Township native Jim Raith; and Newtown Square resident and Delaware County Chamber of Commerce board member Mike Morgan.

McGarrigle also highlighted county District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, who served 19 years as an assistant district attorney and six years as a member of the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern Pennsylvania District before assuming her current role.

"We have a story to tell," McGarrigle said. "We have to just do a better job getting our message out to the voters."

Likewise, Guiney said the Democratic candidates, including council candidates Monica Taylor of Upper Darby, attorney Christine Reuther of Nether Providence and environmental activist Elaine Paul Schaefer of Radnor as well as district attorney candidate Jack Stollsteimer, join others on their ballot in seeking the voters' approval.

"Our candidates are out knocking on doors and listening to constituents," she said. "We understand that our voters want to know how their candidates feel on the issues."

She said her party's candidates also use public forums and informational websites to reach the electorate and keep them engaged in the process.

"We work hard to connect with voters," Guiney said. "We never take votes for granted — and we never will."

McGarrigle had a similar sentiment as he said Republicans also are working to get their message out. For the first time, two people have been hired at Republican headquarters to work exclusively on social media.

"We're looking forward in May to getting all four of our judicial candidates on the ballots," he said of George Dawson, Wendy Roberts, Steve Gerber and Elizabeth Naughton Beck. Endorsed Democrat judicial candidates include Stephanie Klein, Rick Lowe, Kelly Eckel and Nusrat Rashid. 

"Then after that," McGarrigle said, "we'll steam ahead with our team with the District Attorney, the judges and council."

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