Intrigue… On My Mind

Jim JonesFrom, with permission.

(WCJim is Jim Jones, Borough of West Chester Democratic Member of Council, Ward 6)

On My Mind (September 6)
WCJIM has been to school for a lot of years, likes to nose around in local politics and history, and often appears to know what he’s talking about. But once in a while, something happens to remind him (and everyone else) that he’s not the heaviest hammer in the tool box. Usually someone makes a comment that is not intended to be profound, but it will collide with other bits of gossip and detail culled from the public record to trigger an “ah-ha” moment. And when it does, that’s what reminds WCJIM that “I should have figured that out a long time ago.”

This week’s “ah-ha moment” comes as a result of a question raised during a conversation that took place at last week’s Swingin’ Summer Thursday. For those who missed it, the event was extremely well attended thanks to excellent weather, the return of the WCU population, and the fact that it was the last one scheduled for this year. As WCJIM made his way through the crowd, he briefly became part of a conversation in which someone observed that with no Republicans running for Borough office this year, the winners are likely to register the lowest vote totals recorded in a long time. In other words, turnout will probably be very low.

A few feet further on, WCJIM saw a booth promoting school board candidates Carty, Tiernan, Liczwek, and Samuel — all running as Democrats. A short distance beyond them was a booth touting Republican candidates for row offices like coroner, but making no mention of their candidates for school board. Since the school board election is a “local election” for Borough residents, the contrast seemed striking. Why would Democrats try to publicize a local race in West Chester while Republicans downplay it?

Cue the “ah-ha.” With West Chester voting solidly Democratic for the past decade, a big turnout in West Chester bodes poorly for the Republican school board candidates. That probably explains a comment made earlier in the year by someone who was interested in running for Borough office as a Republican, but who decided not to do so when the party told him it wasn’t “the right time.” Republican strategists can read the election results as well as anyone else, and the totals for State Representative Barbara McIlvaine Smith’s last election show that not only did the Borough deliver a huge majority for Smith, they were joined by precincts in East Bradford, West Goshen and (yikes!) even East Goshen. Since all of them will be voting for school board candidates this fall, it appears that the Republican strategy is to suppress turnout in Democratic strongholds like “Berkeley on the Brandywine” (as one Republican candidate has called the Borough) and pump it up in their strongholds. Expect the Republican school board candidates to hold sleepovers at Hershey’s Mill (in East Goshen), but don’t count on seeing them in the Borough before November.

Part of this makes sense — when your hand is weak, you play your cards in the order that wins the most tricks. But there is something revolting about a political machine that values winning ahead of engaging the public. There are reasons why the Republican Party is in deep trouble in Chester County. Borough voting patterns are not the cause; they are a symptom.


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