Pushing the message that a vote for them was a vote against President Trump, Delaware County Democrats out-polled Republicans in a County Council election for the first time in history, winning both seats up for grabs in an ultra-tight race.
Democrats had planted signs throughout the county that read, “Vote Nov 7th Against Trump” and “Vote Nov 7th: Bring Sanity Back.”
With all but a few precincts reporting, Republicans conceded that incumbent David White and John Perfetti, a retired district judge, had been defeated by Democrats Brian Zidek, a medical reinsurance executive, and tech entrepreneur Kevin Madden. Republicans still control County Council with three of the five seats.
White and Perfetti ran as “commonsense local Republicans” who would keep taxes down.
County Democrats had been confident that their anti-Trump message and a registration advantage over Republicans for the fourth year in a row would help them win a County Council seat for the first time since the county moved to an election system that doesn’t promote representation from a minority political party.
One of the country’s most powerful GOP machines ruled the county for more than a century. No Democrat had ever outpolled a Republican in the county for County Council. Democrats also swept the row offices.
“The Democrats made the race about Washington and were able to drive voters to the polls because of that,” said Andrew Reilly, chairman of the county GOP. “We have to move forward and jointly govern, and welcome [Democrats] into county leadership for the good of Delaware County.”
David Landau, chairman of the county Democrats, said a more organized campaign and more volunteers getting voters to the polls helped his party win.
Voters “wanted to vote to make a statement that Democrats are going to vote in the Trump era. We’re not going to go to sleep,” Landau said.
Joseph Kennedy, a 31-year-old contractor and Media Borough resident, is a registered Republican, but he voted last year for Hillary Clinton, who won overwhelmingly in the county. Kennedy chose the Democrats for the County Council on Tuesday. “We need to get some fresh blood in there,” he said.
As in Philadelphia’s other collar counties, Democrats have been gaining on Republicans in the number of registered voters. Only in Chester County do Republicans still have the advantage. In Delaware County, Democrats lead Republicans by 16,525 voters.
The county Democrats’ anti-Trump message resonated with Eva Thury, a 67-year-old registered Democrat who voted in Swarthmore.
“I really hate Trump and all that he has done and all that he stands for,” said Thury, an English professor at Drexel University. “This is my way of sending a message.”
Frances Jackson, a 79-year-old teacher’s aide and registered Republican in Media, voted for the Republican candidates for County Council.
“I believe in their values and morals,” she said. She likes how Republicans have run the county.
Poll workers in Media, the county seat, said that the line of voters waiting when they opened the borough’s community center was longer than for last November’s election and that turnout was steady all day — more in line with a presidential race than an off-year election.
“People have become more aware of how important voting locally is,” said Dave Palmer, a judge of elections.