Amidst the cheers and the applause at the Inn at Swarthmore Tuesday night, Delaware County Councilman Brian Zidek laid it clear what the Democratic county level sweep would mean.
"Since the Civil War, 150 years, we all knew what the deal was - if you wanted to get something done, you better register as a Republican. When (they) turned 18, you told your kids, 'You better register as a Republican,'" Zidek said. "Well, that s--- stops today."
On Tuesday, Democrats gained a unanimous majority on Delaware County Council for the first time ever. They also gained four seats on the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. There had never been a Democrat elected to a full term on the bench previously. And other achievements were reached: the first African American was elected to county council and the first African-American female and first Muslim was voted onto the bench.
And through the surges of ovations, some lasting 40 seconds - sketches of how this will shape Delaware County going forward began to emerge.
As Delaware County Democratic leader Colleen Guiney pronounced at the podium, "This is a clean sweep!" the room roared in elation. Delores Shelton of Chester, standing in the front row, proclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! In my lifetime! In my lifetime!"
Rick Lowe, one of the winning Common Pleas Court candidates, placed the charge ahead of them.
"So it is fun, it is fun to have a 'W,' to have a victory, but victories are fleeting," he said. "They come and go. In three or four days, although we'll keep talking about it, others won't. So what does this really mean?
"The reason we wanted all four of us to get elected," Lowe said of the judicial candidates, "and that everybody in this room worked so hard to do and for which we are so grateful, the reason is it's because we're coming here with a purpose. We're not going to have the courthouse simply be where the few are favored. For 10 years, we are going to remember who put us here ... and we are going to do our best to move justice forward, move forward, move forward, move forward."
Jack Stollsteimer, elected District Attorney and one of the founders of Delaware County Coalition for Prison Reform, agreed.
"You have done so much to change the face of justice in this county tonight," he said. "Two years ago, (Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro) got elected to create a new kind of prosecutor in Pennsylvania, one who cares about everyone and believes that everyone is deserving of fair and equal justice. Tonight, we're going to do that in Delaware County because the people here in this room have caused a revolution ... Four years from now, Delaware County is going to look a lot different than it does today."
The Democratic victory was years in the making, although some motivating issues were rooted in the present day.
In 2015, as the Democratic county council candidates, including Christine Reuther, absorbed their losses, then-party leader David Landau said the numbers were poised for victory two years later, and said, "I've always looked at what we're trying to do in the county as a marathon, not a sprint."
That was the same year that state Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-161 of Nether Providence, won a special election for her seat.
In 2017, Zidek and county Councilman Kevin Madden joined Sheriff Jerry L. Sanders Jr., Controller Joanne Phillips and Register of Wills Mary Walk in garnering county-level victories for the Democratic Party.
In 2018, U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore was elected to office, as were state Sen. Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore, as well as state Reps. Dave Delloso, D-162 of Ridley Park; Mike Zabel D-163, of Upper Darby; and Jennifer O'Mara, D-165 of Springfield. State Rep. Brian Kirkland, D-159 of Chester was also elected to that seat, keeping it blue.
"Last year, you delivered a message that night," Scanlon said of her win, "and I've worked every day since then to try to live up to your call and make sure that your message is heard loud and clear in D.C. As I heard it, that message is that our government is supposed to work for all of us, for the people, not just for the rich or the spoiled or the entrenched special interests so you delivered that message again tonight ... Tonight, we delivered a result that seemed impossible just a decade ago."
Guiney added that the timing was right.
"Basically what happened was that the Democrats and the Republicans and the independents of Delaware County realized that it was time for a change," she said. "They built on a momentum of last cycle."
She said voters saw that Zidek, Madden, Sanders, Phillips and Walk are doing impeccable jobs and the Democrats had competent, caring and capable candidates who want to serve the people of Delaware County.
"The untruthful attacks against our candidates were something that they could see right through," Guiney said. "They were ineffective."
In addition, she said, "The Republican Party in Delaware County is very much aligned with (President) Donald Trump and it was very clear that that is something Delaware County doesn't want."
Several attempts to reach Delaware County Republican Chairman Thomas McGarrigle were unsuccessful Wednesday. Republicans held onto control in some municipal races, including the commissioner races in Springfield, Aston and Ridley townships and the supervisor race in Edgmont.
Going forward, Guiney said governing is best left to those who elected but said she anticipated that would include governing fairly and efficiently, helping to modernize the county's infrastructure in a way that's cost effective while governing all of the people in Delaware County not just some.
"It means that there will be an ethics pledge signed," she said. "We will no longer pay the corruption tax from no-bid contracts. It means that services will be apportioned equitably and people will be hired based on their competency, not on their party affiliation."
Zidek said he and his fellow Democratic council members were ready to be the example.
"We Democrats will show Delaware County, we'll show Pennsylvania, we'll show the country how to govern ethically, how we govern without regard to your party affiliation," he said. "We govern for every citizen in Delaware County and it is my honor to be part of the team about to bring that about."