Editorial: Fifty-six days away
By Richard Gaw
The question is very simple to ask, but too difficult to predict: Will the tumultuous tenor of our national politics, manifested in anti-Trump backlash, unleash the big blue waves and tsunamis that are predicted to bring landslide elections of Democrats in every political category?
As we prepare for the November elections close to home, we gauge what impact grassroots movements like TurnPABlue – tied at the hip to growing anti-Trump sentiment – will have on our local candidates, and on the future face of local and regional government. There is also wide speculation that the Democrats will also be helped by the Pa. Supreme Court's January decision that called for the boundaries of the state's 18 congressional districts to be redrawn, in what many lawmakers and experts predict will rattle up the future of state politics.
The big, blue wave has already swept through Chester County. On Nov. 8, 2017, voters elected Democrats Patricia Maisano as treasurer, Yolanda Van de Krol as clerk of courts, Dr. Christina Vanedepol as coroner and Margaret Reif as controller, who became the first Democrats to occupy seats on the County row since 1799. It was an election that sent shockwaves throughout the old guard of county politics, but whether or not this year's elections will be determined by platforms or retaliation is still unknown.
For now, incumbents and challengers for two important House seats are staking their political futures on performance and issues, alone.
In the battle to become the Pa. House Representative for the 13th District, few in this region would deny that Republican incumbent John Lawrence has been a highly-decent and well-respected steward, both in the community he serves and in Harrisburg. In the last year alone, has served on the House agricultural and rural affairs, finance, liquor control, transportation and rules committees. He's being challenged by Democrat Sue Walker, an educator, volunteer, non-profit leader and activist whose campaign rides on balancing budgets, growing business districts, improving infrastructure, preserving open space, and pressuring Harrisburg to reform and restructure the public school funding formula.
In the 158th District, Democrat Christina Sappey, currently the Chief of Staff to State Rep. Carolyn Comitta in the 156th District, is challenging Republican incumbent Eric Roe. Since his election in 2017, Roe has been a town hall road warrior throughout the district, speaking on subjects as diverse as infrastructure, pension reform for state employees and opioid abuse. In short, he's been everywhere, both locally and in Harrisburg, where he co-authored HB 722 – with Democrat Steve Samuelson – to eliminate gerrymandering throughout the state.
Sappey's key initiatives include supporting small and mid-sized businesses, creating ways of stimulating job growth, providing training and education for future generations, balancing state budgets on time and streamlining government to make it more efficient.
It is nearly without debate that the most severe blow to Republican fortunes in our region came when Rep. Ryan Costello declared earlier this year that he would not seek reelection this November, citing the current political environment in Washington, the conduct of President Trump, and the Left for contributing “a lot of hate.”
Costello's decision literally blew the doors open for the emergence of Democrat Chrissy Houlahan, the leading candidate to take Costello's seat in the sixth congressional district, who has achieved rock star status as part of a 400-strong coalition of women who have declared themselves candidates in the 2018 election, fueled in equal parts by the #MeToo Movement and the election of Trump in 2016. In a county that has not sent a Democrat to Washington since the 19th century, Houlahan is poised to change that political tide, with a campaign chest approaching $3 million. In comparison, Republican challenger Greg McCauley has raised just short of $200,000 for his campaign.
November 6 is still 56 days away, a small eternity in the back-and-forth tussle of electoral campaigns, and while the campaign being engineered by Houlahan seems to be riding the crest of a wave whose strength is still not yet known, two local races for State House seats remain toss-ups. Whether they are decided on principle, policy and platforms – or if they will ride the wave of public sentiment – is anyone's guess at the point.
Either way, it is likely time to get your surfboards out, because a wave the color of the ocean may very soon be crashing through the borders – and history – of our politics, for a long time to come.