November 5, 2019
Commissioners race won by Chesco Democrats
WEST GOSHEN — Two first-time countywide candidates for Chester County commissioner on Tuesday accomplished what none of their party predecessors ever could — gaining control of the three-member board for the next four years and with it the reins of government in the county courthouse.
Unofficial election returns showed the two Democrats asserting firm control over the contest, with more than 8,500 votes separating the leading candidate from the last.
Heading the pack was Tredyffrin Marian Moskowitz, followed closely by Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell, both making their first attempts at county office, although each had run for state seats before.
They never trailed their Republican opponents, incumbent commissioners Terence Farrell and Michelle Kichline, as the results came in, and made history as the first Democratic team to win the coveted seats.
With 100 percent of the county’s 228 precincts counted, Moskowitz had 370,842 votes, followed by Maxwell’s 68,914. Kichline was in third place with 63,779, while Farrell brought up the rear with 62,287 votes.
Moskowitz and Maxwell held leads of 26 percent and 25 percent of the total, versus Kichline’s and Farrell’s 23 percent. The top three candidates win seats on the board — the two majority commissioners and one minority commissioner.
Voter turnout was also higher than expected, with about 33 percent of the county’s 352,000 registered voters making their way to the polls in the off-year election, slightly above the results of the 2017 Municipal Election.
Given the success that candidates from the county’s Democratic Party have had in recent national, state and local elections — including a “blue wave” of county Row Office seat victories in 2017 — many observers had been bracing for the possibility that the county commissioners could see two of its three seats taken by Democrats this year — a first in modern history.
But despite those victories, Chester County remained the sole suburban county in southeastern Pennsylvania where the Republican Party still maintains a voter-registration edge, although narrowly 148,422 to 141,446. The county remains prosperous, its taxes low, and government relatively crisis-free, giving Republicans a “quality of life” message to deliver.
But Moskowitz and Maxwell were able to convince voters that it was time to change the county leadership, following a trend established in the past but not capitalized on at the top level of county government until now.
Two years ago, the Democratic candidates for county Row Office swept into power with election night victories of 7 percentage points on average. In 2018, the party’s candidates for U.S. Senate and state Governor won by margins of 20 percent and 24 percent, while the first time candidate in the new 6th Congressional District beat her GOP challenger by 18 points. The Democratic candidates who won seats in the state House of Representatives scored their victories by an average of 13 percentage points.
As of October, the county’s Democrats and Republicans were nearly equal in strength, although the GOP still held a lead, with 148,422 voters to the Democrats’ 144,446. There are 62,467 independent or third-party voters, making them a significant swing factor in county-wide races.
This year, the Democrats were offering a chance to change the composition of the commissioners with Maxwell, the mayor of Downingtown, and Moskowitz, a local businesswoman. The Republicans countered with its two incumbent commissioners, Farrell and Kichline.
“We have run a very organized campaign with incredible candidates,” said Moskowitz in an interview last month about her party’s prospects. “We have never had a campaign run with such a diverse set of bright and energetic people in it for all the right reasons. This could be a monumental election.”
“I have watched the cycle unfold,” as the two parties has come closer together in their respective voter bases, said Kichline in a later interview. “But out in the community campaigning, I’ve found most people have been receptive to our message and our track record.”
The candidates were:
Farrell, 72, of West Chester, who has served as county commissioner since 2009 and is seeking his fourth term in the office. He previously served as county Recorder of Deeds.
Kichline, 52, of Tredyffrin was appointed to the board in 2014 to fill the seat vacated by Ryan Costello went he became congressman, and was elected to a full term on the board in 2015. She previously served as supervisor in Tredyffrin.
Maxwell, 36, has served as mayor of Downingtown, the county’s third-largest borough, since first being elected in 2010. He has run for the state House of Representatives previously, but is making his first run for county office.
Moskowitz, 63, of Tredyffrin is also making her first run for elective office in the county after having run for state representative in 2014. She is credited with creating the commercial and educational development known as Franklin Common in Phoenixville.
The Republican candidates point to their “quality of life” efforts to make the county a safe and healthy place to live, including local planning and economic development efforts as the clearest reasons for their re-election, with Farrell noting the challenges the county faces in the years ahead as the population continues to swell.
Farrell said the ironic nature of the county’s changing political scene is that its population growth has been fueled by the “quality of life” benefits accrued to Republican leadership, even as that boom has meant the erosion of the GOP’s voter registration edge. “They still vote the same as they did in their previous communities,” he said, meaning Democratic.
Both Maxwell and Moskowitz pointed to their commitment to making the process of county government more transparent and accountable if elected. While the county may have benefits, there is room for improvement in both fiscal discipline and program development.
Moskowitz, for one, was adamant that the county has fallen behind in acting against gun safety and climate change, for her pressing priorities. Now, she and Maxwell will be able to put their ideas into practice. Source
The three-member Board of Commissioners constitutes the chief governing body of the county. Elected every four years, the commissioners are responsible for policy making, fiscal management, and the administration of county affairs. The board is made of of 2 members of the majority party with 1 minority member. Ex: Currently Farrell and Kichline are the Republican majority members. Cozzone is the minority party member. There will always be minority party member.
Chester County commissioners are paid an annual salary of $80,702, according to the county. Dec 9, 2014
This year the people have an opportunity to change the look of the board. There are currently 4 announced Democratic candidates.
Commissioner Farrell has been on the board since 2008.
Commissioner Kichline has been on the board since 2014.
Terence Farrell- 10 year Incumbent
Michelle Kichline – 4 year Incumbent