Pennsylvania Democrats see anti-Trump zeal in election wins
HARRISBURG — With Democrats stoking an anti-Trump furor, Pennsylvania’s election brought good news for the party ahead of a big election in 2018 that will feature contests for governor and U.S. Senate.
Democrats scored big victories in county and municipal races across Philadelphia’s suburbs, advancing a decadeslong shift in those one-time Republican bastions where President Donald Trump lost heavily last year. Just to the north, Democrats took control in Northampton County, won by Trump last year.
Delaware County’s Democratic Party chairman, David Landau, said the strength of his party’s victories up and down the ballot reminded him of the post-Watergate election in 1974.
“That’s the only kind of comparable tsunami that you can think of, where we’d just won everything,” Landau said.
The party won two seats on county council, the first such victory since 1980 when the county last guaranteed a seat to the minority party. It also flipped control of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania’s sixth-most populated municipality.
Volunteer army: The county party had absorbed a wave of volunteers starting just after last year’s election, when Pennsylvania backed a Republican for president for the first time since 1988 and helped Trump capture the White House.
It turned that new army into door-knockers and candidates, and stoked partisan anger by linking the county’s Republican machine to Trump on its flyers and yard signs, Landau said.
“In the Nov. 7 county elections, it’s payback time,” its flyers said.
Pennsylvania’s Republican Party chairman, Val DiGiorgio, said he knew it would be a tough night in Philadelphia’s suburbs, but he also did not anticipate what he called a “tidal wave” of Democratic voters.
Democrats, he said, were frustrated with national politics.
“It wasn’t because of the local candidates,” DiGiorgio said.
Northampton County Democrats distributed flyers reminding voters it was a chance to send a message to Washington. Opposition groups such as Indivisible that formed after Trump’s victory brought a heightened interest in volunteering and voting.
“There were candidates who came out of the woodwork saying, ‘I have to do something,’ and they ran for local offices,” said Matthew Munsey, Northampton County’s Democratic Party chairman.
GOP bright spots: There still were bright spots for Republicans. The GOP’s candidate, Sally Mundy, won an open seat on the state Supreme Court — albeit with support from traditional Democratic Party allies, including trial lawyers, the Service Employees International Union and Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union.
Four Democrats and three Republicans — all women — led in contests for seven open seats on Pennsylvania’s appellate courts, a place where women are increasingly well represented.
Next year’s election will be big for Pennsylvania, where Democrats hold an 800,000-voter registration advantage over Republicans, or a four-to-three edge.
It will be the first time in eight years that Pennsylvania will see contests for governor and U.S. Senate on the ballot. Also on the ballot will be 18 U.S. House seats and 228 of 253 legislative seats.
Tuesday’s heavy Democratic turnout is good news for Gov. Tom Wolf and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, both Democrats running for re-election, and it gives party officials hope that they can flip seats in the U.S. House and the state Legislature.
Franklin & Marshall College pollster and public affairs professor Terry Madonna said it is too early to draw conclusions about the course of next year’s general election, based on Tuesday’s election results.
But, he said, there was a clear connection to a growing voter dislike for Trump’s job performance, and it puts Republicans on the spot over how closely their candidates should identify with Trump.
“The Republicans have a major challenge in front of them,” Madonna said. “What do they do with President Trump?”