The major post-Election Day story in many places reads like this: The Democrats’ blue wave has come crashing down as Republicans made significant gains on Tuesday.
In Virginia, the GOP scored huge upsets at the top of the ticket, winning the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s seats. Closer to home, Bucks County Republicans swept the county row offices. But one notable exception to the conservative swell appears to be Delaware County, until only recently a Republican stronghold if ever there was one.
At the county level, Delco Democrats appeared Wednesday to be maintaining the grip they first gained in 2017, then solidified in 2019. Unofficial results showed incumbent County Council member Kevin Madden and running mate Richard Womack holding tight leads over their GOP counterparts, Frank Agovino and Joe Lombardo, for the two seats up for grabs this year.
Democrats also had comfortable leads in the races for sheriff, county controller, and register of wills, according to unofficial results.
With only one precinct left to report in-person results and many mail-in ballots still to be tallied, Democrats were mostly breathing sighs of relief on Wednesday: Those earlier victories were, it appeared, the real deal.
On Thursday evening, David Brown, a Democratic campaign official, told WHYY News that they were declaring victory for their two council candidates and the three row office races.
Brown, campaign manager of Delco Victory 2021, the county Democratic Party’s campaign arm, said that the Democrats at the county level defied the popular conventions of a party falling asleep at the wheel once it took control of the Oval Office.
“I feel great. I recognized what we were attempting to do, in spite of our victories in 2017 and 2019, was a monumental task, a monumental battle, and we made it,” Brown said in an interview Wednesday. “And it’s very satisfying to see how the work that we put in — the nuanced work, the hard work — and how tangible the effects of that work could be.”
If his confidence rings true and the Democrats have secured a win, how did they manage to fare so differently than many of their contemporaries across the country?
“I attribute so much of our success or strength to the structure of the Delaware County Democratic Party. We have a very strong infrastructure based on municipal parties with super volunteers and excellent candidates, many of whom, unfortunately, did not make it across the finish line in their respective communities, but the collective effort of these smaller subsidiaries of the party were critical to our success at the county level,” Brown said.
While Brown believes the party may have underperformed in municipal races in Upper Darby though it had stronger candidates, he thinks a lot of the blame falls on low turnout caused by people’s perception of what’s happening in Washington rather than tense local school board debates over masks and critical race theory.
“If the Democrats are not accomplishing enough at the federal level, where people pay attention — sadly, that’s really all that most people pay attention to — then it’s going to affect everyone down the ballot,” Brown said.
Tom McGarrigle, chair of the Delaware County Republican Party, acknowledged that the election results are still being tallied. He is taking a wait-and-see approach, though he believes that there were “issues” with the election involving the county’s use of a third-party vendor that sent out absentee ballots.
Earlier in the week, a lawyer for the two Republican County Council candidates filed a petition seeking an emergency hearing regarding 670 mail ballots that were incorrectly sent to the wrong people, but a Common Pleas Court judge dismissed most of the request.
Although attorney Michael Puppio told the Philadelphia Inquirer in a statement that he “was pleased with the outcome” of the court action, McGarrigle warned that the fight was not over — citing testimony given during the hearing.
“We’re exploring options to make sure that everything that the third-party vendor did was correct. So, I mean, we’re still working on that problem,” McGarrigle said.
He said he was largely pleased with the way Republicans performed so far in Ridley, Springfield, Concord, and even Upper Darby. McGarrigle said that Democrats should point the finger at the agendas of President Joe Biden and Gov. Tom Wolf as reasons why they aren’t doing so well.
“It’s clear to see that the wind is certainly not at our face anymore, it’s at our back. I think a lot of it has to do with the direction of the country,” McGarrigle said.
Delaware County results will continue to flow in over the coming days and — depending on the results — lawsuits could follow, both parties said.
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