Withstanding strong challenges from the Democrats, Republicans claimed all three available council seats in Delaware County and were leading in key races that would allow them to retain control of county governments.
They apparently had won two commissioners' posts in Chester County, and were leading in races that would assure them majorities on the Bucks and Montgomery commissions.
Meanwhile, an $87 million open-space referendum in Bucks County was winning by a 3-to-1 ratio.
Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor and fellow Republican Jim Matthews - with 80 percent of the vote in - were leading in the county commissioners race, with former Democratic congressman Joe Hoeffel coming in third.
Republicans Carol Aichele and Terence Farrell were leading in the commissioners's races in Chester County, with 57 percent of the precincts reporting.
In the Bucks commissioners' races, with 86 percent of the districts reporting, Republican Jim Cawley was leading, followed by Democrat Diane Marseglia and Republican Charles H. Martin, who were divided by a narrow margin.
Overall, turnout was light.
"As far as I can tell the turnout has been incredibly light and that does not bode well for Democrats in Delaware County," was an early analysis by Frank Daly, 58, the former Media mayor who was defeated in his run for a Common Pleas judgeship.
The situation was similar in Bucks, particularly in some Democratic strongholds, said former Republican congressman Mike Fitzpatrick. "A suppressed Democratic turnout is not good for the Democratic county commissioners," he said.
The Democrats, perennial minorities in the suburbs, entered the campaign season with high ambitions. The party had made big gains in suburban registrations, and was looking to capitalize on public dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq war.
The Republicans, however, banking on what surveys showed to be a general satisfaction with the quality of services, apparently prevailed impressively.
A Democratic victory in any of the suburban counties would be considered historic. Democrats have not had majority power in Montgomery County in 138 years, and have been shut out in Chester County for 148.
The light turnout, however, did not bode well for the challengers.
The Democratic party has made big gains in suburban registrations, and was looking to capitalize on public dissatisfaction with the Bush administration's conduct in the Iraq war, while the Republicans banked on what surveys showed to be a general satisfaction with the quality of services.
Democrats had big ambitions in Delaware County. David Landau, 54, had been given a good chance of winning one of the three council seats up for grabs. No Democrat has had a seat since 1980, when a charter change ended guaranteed minority-party representation.
That tradition will continue.
Inquirer staff writers Larry King, Mari Schaefer, Diane Mastrull and Jeff Gammage contributed to this article.
Contact staff writer Anthony Wood at 610-313-8210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact staff writer Anthony Wood at 610-313-8210 or .