Kirkland leads in Chester mayor race

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (left), leading in the Democratic nomination for Chester mayor, at the Chester Apartments with nephew Brian Kirkland. (JONATHAN WILSON / For The Inquirer)

State Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland ousted Chester Mayor John Linder on Tuesday night in one of the region's most heated primary battles.

With nearly all of the precincts reporting, Kirkland had outpolled his Democratic rival by better than 2-1, ensuring that the Delaware County city will have a new leader next year. Kirkland will face former Mayor Wendell Butler, a Republican, in November's election.

Linder's relationship with the five-member City Council had grown contentious in recent months, leading the Democratic Party to instead back Kirkland, a 12-term state representative. Linder then put together his own slate to challenge two incumbent council members and the city controller without the party's endorsement.

"The numbers are what they are, but they certainly do not reflect the work of our team," Linder said. "A number of great things have begun for Chester since I became mayor, and those things can continue to happen whether I'm in or not in."

In Montgomery County, upstart Republican Joseph Gale appeared to have knocked off one of the two party-backed candidates for county commissioner, Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov.

Gale, 25, has never held public office, but ran a strong grassroots campaign and tried to appeal to voters who feel the party has become too centrist. "I worked so hard since February that I knew no matter what, I was going to get a lot of votes," he said Tuesday night. "To think I was third ballot position, with the whole party against me. It's still hard to sink in."

He will run with West Norriton Commissioner Steve Tolbert against incumbent Democratic Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Valerie A. Arkoosh. Democrats hold an 8.3 percentage point lead in registration, so Tolbert and Gale could be battling each other for a lone seat.

In Montgomery County, some had feared that outgoing District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman would win both parties' nominations for County Court. But despite a crowded cross-filed ballot - six candidates for three seats - both parties appeared to have nominated their endorsed candidates. For Republicans, that's Ferman, Gregory Cirillo, and Stephen Heckman; for Democrats, Natasha Taylor-Smith, Todd Eisenberg, and Daniel Clifford.

Paulina Frisco, 88, a Republican from Norristown, voted for Ferman. "That Risa, I love her," she said.

In Delaware County's judgeship race, Republican Anthony Scanlon won on both tickets. Sen. Dominic Pileggi, running for judge after losing his leadership post in Harrisburg, also easily a Republican nomination for judge.

In Chester County, four vied for a single seat on the county court. Julia Malloy-Good, a lawyer who ran in 2013, appeared to win the Democratic endorsement. Allison Bell Royer, a former prothonotary, appeared to win the Republican nomination.

Low turnout was a universal concern, but particularly in judicial elections, where most candidates cross-file.

At Roberts Elementary School in Upper Merion Township - one of the region's larger precincts - poll workers outnumbered voters 15-2.

Tom Kingsley, who was there helping son Ian campaign for a District Court seat in Upper Merion, began making personal calls to boost the Democratic vote. "I'm getting in my car right now," one recipient assured him.

 


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Inquirer staff writers Justine McDaniel, Laura McCrystal, and Anthony R. Wood contributed to this article.