Chester County Republicans look to seize back majority control of commissioners board

The GOP lost majority control of the Chester County Board of Commissioners in 2019 for the first time in history. The party’s endorsed candidates are looking to take it back.

Republican candidate for commissioner David Sommers (left), Republican Committee of Chester County chairperson Raffi Terzian (center), and commissioner candidate Eric Roe pose at the Chester County GOP endorsement convention.

Republican candidate for commissioner David Sommers (left), Republican Committee of Chester County chairperson Raffi Terzian (center), and commissioner candidate Eric Roe pose at the Chester County GOP endorsement convention. (Courtesy of Mitchell Micale)

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For as long as Chester County has existed, Republicans maintained majority control of the county’s executive branch. But in 2019, Democrats rode the “blue wave” and captured a majority on the three-seat Board of Commissioners for the first time in history.

Now, Chester County Republicans are on the offensive as the party looks to seize back power on the county commission this election cycle.

With the lone incumbent Republican Commissioner Michelle Kichline stepping down, party officials are endorsing Eric Roe and David Sommers as they seek a new majority.

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Roe, a former state representative for Pennsylvania’s 158th House District, is a familiar face for many in the county. He said he wants Chesco to be the most “family-friendly” and “business-friendly” area in the country.

But, he said Chester County is changing at a rapid pace.

“We have a lot of development taking place here. Some of it’s good, but not all of it is. And we need to make sure that we are building in the right places so that we’re not tearing down otherwise green spaces, open spaces, wetlands, forest lands, farmlands just for the sake of building. We need to be using smart growth policies,” Roe said.

In addition to prioritizing land preservation, Roe said if elected, he plans to improve communication with constituents and advocate on behalf of taxpayers.

“As a county commissioner, I will absolutely serve as a check and balance against any attempts to raise our taxes,” Roe said.

Eric Roe, his wife Alice, and three of their children (Courtesy of Michael Morby)

While he said “mistakes have been made over the last four years” by his Democratic opponents, Commissioners Marian Moscowitz and Josh Maxwell, Roe, 35, said he has a “decent working relationship with them” and will not be running a negative campaign.

“I don’t intend to engage in any mudslinging. I don’t intend to be openly hostile to the Democrats running. My goal is just to talk about what I’ve done lately,” Roe said.

Sommers, 48, a teacher for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 23 years, decided to jump into the political fray during the height of the pandemic.

“I felt that there was a big disconnect between elected officials and their decisions that they made impacting schools, churches, houses of worship, small businesses, local businesses — that there was a disconnect that our elected officials did not necessarily perhaps understand because they had not experienced those decisions at the ground level,” Sommers said.

Characterizing himself as a political outsider, he said county government needs an infusion of “regular, working-class people.”

Sommers platform focuses on cutting spending and limiting the role of government.

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“I don’t think they should do anything that would go against the Constitution, those God-given rights. I also think that we need to make sure government is transparent as well. That could be from the voter services that the elections are certified without having outstanding reconciliation. That should be done as well as we should have accountability for our precinct — the roles of the different precincts. The 230 throughout Chester County should be updated,” Sommers said.

Pennsylvania currently requires all 67 counties to do annual maintenance of their voter rolls.

Because Chester County requires minority party representation on the board of commissioners, no political party will be completely excluded from the county government.

Sommers said preserving land and addressing the closures of Brandywine and Jennersville hospitals are two issues where he can find common ground across the aisle.

Democratic party officials say they are energized and not taking anything for granted in any of the county-wide races. Maxwell levied criticism at the county Republican party for compiling a ticket of only male candidates for commissioner, judicial posts, and other row offices.

WHYY News reached out to the Republican Committee of Chester County for an interview, but officials were not available for an interview.

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