After negative ads focused on Cosby case, Democrat Steele wins DA seat in Montco

     Young son in hand, Montgomery County's first Democratic District Attorney Kevin Steele speaks after hearing about his histoic victory November 3rd, 2015. (Emily Cohen/for NewsWorks)

    Young son in hand, Montgomery County's first Democratic District Attorney Kevin Steele speaks after hearing about his histoic victory November 3rd, 2015. (Emily Cohen/for NewsWorks)

    Fist pumping. Chants of “Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!”

    At the Doubletree Hotel in King of Prussia last night, the anticipation was palpable. As election results came in, it became increasingly clear the party had not only solidified a majority on the county commission, but it had pulled off a kind of coup.

    After running biting ads against his Republican opponent, Bruce Castor, Democrat Kevin Steele won the District Attorney’s seat. Party representatives said this is a first for the county, which is one of the wealthiest and most politically important in Pennsylvania.

    Steele, an assistant DA under Republican Risa Vetri Ferman, beat Castor by more than 17,000 votes. As early as last week, Castor spoke confidently about his poll numbers and seemed assured of a win. The tide turned quickly.

    A couple of weeks out, Steele’s camp began running an ad it titled “Trust.” In it, Steele accused Castor of not standing up for victims by failing to prosecute comedian Bill Cosby for sexual assault back in 2005. (Castor was the Montgomery County district attorney from 2000 to 2008.)

    Castor called his opponent’s ads “disgusting lies” in his own ads and accused Steele of opting not to prosecute Cosby as well. But momentum seemed to build against the Republican, who arguably had more name recognition.

    Landing another blow, the accuser in that ten-year-old sexual assault case, Andrea Constand, sued Castor for defamation last week. In the suit, she alleges that he has spoken to the media disparagingly about her account of the alleged sexual assault in an effort to promote himself, and in doing so has undermined the future of a possible criminal case.

    Also in that defamation suit, Constand’s lawyer mentioned that the case has been reopened by current District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, who won a race for a judicial seat in Montgomery County last night.

    Having Steele in the DA’s seat could make or break a future case against the famous comedian. The county has until January of 2016 to initiate criminal charges.

    Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, Constand’s lawyer Dolores Troiani said that the plaintiff would likely back out of a possible criminal case if Castor won.

    “How can we possibly trust him?,” she asked.

    In response to the election results, Castor posted a statement on his Facebook. It begins, “Congratulations to Kevin Steele the next District Attorney of Montgomery County,” before telling his running mates “take heart that you ran zealous, clean races.” Castor did not appear at an election night headquarters as is customary, instead spending the evening with family.

    Steele himself was more circumspect after the results were in. “I had a record to run on, my opponent had a record to run on,” he said in response to a question about he role of negative ads in the campaign.

    Overall, the Democrats won ten county-wide races in Montgomery County. Republican Risa Vetri Ferman secured a seat on the Court of Common pleas and Republican upstart Joe Gale, who ran without party backing, will be joining the three-person board of county commissioners.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.