The high-stakes, three-headed race to become the next mayor of Chester and to lead the city out of bankruptcy is likely over.
First-term Councilmember Stefan Roots has declared victory over incumbent Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and real estate broker Pat Worrell in the Democratic primary. The race had not officially been called as of Tuesday night.
“Wow. I’m feeling like Chester is looking for a change, so now a lot of weight is on my shoulder,” Roots told WHYY News. “I’m that guy who has to be that change agent.”
Because there is no Republican candidate currently on the ballot, Roots will likely go on to win the general election in November.
“I’m overwhelmed by the overwhelming support from Chester residents who came out to vote. I promise you that they have picked the right person. I’m looking forward to being their mayor,” Roots said.
Roots positioned himself as the outsider candidate and the lone foil to the Kirkland administration, which has been marred by controversy.
Kirkland’s thorny relationship with the state-appointed receiver Michael Doweary, whose job it is to rescue the city’s finances, became a major sticking point in the race. Under Kirkland’s administration, Doweary asked the Commonwealth Court to strip city officials of their administrative duties, citing obstruction and unethical behavior.
Both Roots and Worrell ran on platforms that highlighted their desire to collaborate with Doweary to improve Chester’s outlook.
Additionally, Roots took aim at what he described as Chester’s Democratic machine for keeping fresh faces out of city politics. Kirkland was first elected mayor in 2015, but before that he represented the area in the state House for 23 years.
“I must say that Chester has spoken. Chester has spoken loudly. Chester has spoken decisively that they’re looking for a change and they’re looking for me to be that change agent,” Roots said.
Kirkland out-raised both of his opponents combined in order to keep his grasp on City Hall.
Get daily updates from WHYY News!