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Chester County Press

Boundary shift clears the way for Spencer’s candidacy in 158th District

03/22/2022 12:47AM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week rejected a challenge to the new state legislative districts, thus clearing the way for a shift in the geography of the 158th Legislative District. As a result, Leon Spencer, who lives in Kennett Square, is eligible to seek the Republican nomination for the seat in the 158th District. The seat is currently held by Democrat State Rep. Christina Sappey. 

The legislative and congressional districts are re-evaluated every 10 years following a census to accommodate changes in population. The former designation, established in 2014, placed Kennett Square and Kennett Township in the 160th District, which is currently heavily populated by residents in Delaware County and is served by Republican State Rep. Craig Williams.

The most recent change, guided by a committee of five (two Democrats, two Republicans and a neutral chairman) proposed and issued new districts which squared off what appeared to be some formerly gerrymandered areas of Chester County. 

Gerrymandering is a practice that skews districts – sometimes oddly – to favor one party or constituency over another for the sake of gaining political power.

Under the last redistricting in 2014, the 160th District took over Kennett Square and Kennett Township, removing it from the 158th District, which it had long been a part of.

Spencer is a longtime public servant and well known in southern Chester County. He is a former mayor, school board member, and borough council member in Kennett Square. Republicans wanted to have him seek the 158th District seat, but it was a slow process for the new boundary lines for legislative districts to be redrawn and approved. 

The lengthy process affected the election calendar. 

The rules of the districting require that the candidate must live in the district he or she wants to serve, and the 300 signers of the petition to enter the race must also be residents of the candidate’s party and the district.

To make matters more difficult, the hold-up in the decision meant that the final determination of the 158th District was delayed, leaving only 10 days for the candidates to gather their signatures for the coming primary in May.

On Monday, Spencer acknowledged the pressure of dealing with only 10 days ending on March 28 to get the required number of signatures. “But we have a group of volunteers working on it,” he said optimistically.

Spencer added that he entered the race knowing that he lived in the 160th, but it was about to change. He said he spoke with Williams and told him if the boundary change did not occur, he would drop out rather than challenge Williams, an incumbent Republican, for the seat.

Staff in the office of incumbent 158th Democrat State Rep. Christina Sappey, of West Bradford, said she intends to rerun for re-election.

She was not available to comment on the changing boundaries of her district before this edition went to press.

The 158th District, up until last week, consisted of Avondale, East Bradford, East Marlborough, London Britain, New Garden, Newlin, West Bradford, part of West Goshen and West Marlborough. The new 158th District now consists of East Fallowfield, East Marlborough, Kennett, New Garden, Newlin, Pocopson, West Bradford, West Marlborough, Avondale and Kennett Square.