Evaluating Candidates for County Council and Court of Common Pleas: A Brief Primer for Haverford Democratic Committee

Overview

The Republican Party has largely written the history of Delaware County politics. 2017 saw the beginning of a historic shift with the elections of Democrats Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek to County Council and Democrats taking Sheriff, Register of Wills, and Controller (all County Council mandated elected positions). Democrats need to pick up just one seat on the Council to be in the majority and set the agenda for a new era of fairness and transparency.

2019 offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to cement and expand upon the historic 2017 Democratic gains at the local and county levels. This February 24th, as elected and appointed members of Haverford Township Democratic Committee, we serve an important role in endorsing candidates for elected Delaware County offices with all other county Committee members. This year, those county-level offices include District Attorney, three seats on County Council and four Delaware County Court of Common Pleas judgeships.  There are currently 13 candidates for County Council, nine candidates for Judge, and Haverford’s Jack Stollsteimer is the sole candidate for District Attorney.

As a voting bloc, Haverford Township carries considerable weight, comprising more than 10% of the total Delaware County Democratic Committee. Haverford is the second largest community in Delaware County after Upper Darby. Radnor Township and Chester City hold the third and fourth spots respectively. Informing ourselves about the candidates, evaluating them, and voting in the nominating convention is critical to our role on Committee and ultimately helps us to educate voters as we prepare for the May primary. Our ability to unify behind Democratic candidates through endorsement is an important mechanism for us to counter the Republican machine in Delaware County.

County candidates will be attending and speaking at our January 8th Committee meeting at Lynnewood Elementary School. You will be receiving additional information about more opportunities to hear from and meet with both local and county candidates during January and February.

We will also be serving a similar role in our critical local elections for Haverford Township Commissioner and School Board, which help to fuel local turnout for the county-level elections. The local elections will be addressed separately.  Below is intended as an overview of both the evaluation of candidates and process for nominating convention.

County Council

Under the Home Rule Charter, the County Council has authority to pass ordinances and to provide for a budget and personnel to meet the needs of Delaware County. Importantly, this includes levying taxes, issuing bonds, and meeting staffing needs for the many departments under their authority.  Examples of services supported through the county include economic development, public transportation, waste disposal, human services, prisons, land use, and culture. This authority extends to issues such as prison reform, pipeline construction, and public health.

County Council oversees a roughly 3,400-person organization that has extraordinary impact on many facets of life in our county. First and foremost, it is important we elect people with the leadership experience, skill sets and values to govern our county and lead us into the future.

Below is a brief list to help augment your own review of the candidates. Personal meetings, candidate forums, and campaign literature are all good avenues to learn more about candidates.

Considerations in Evaluating County Council Candidates

  • Leadership experience
  • Willing and able to commit time to running a county-wide campaign and serving if elected (County Council has public meetings Tues and Wed every other week, but there are many public appearances and department meetings during rest of week)
  • Connections to Delaware County
  • Community service (e.g. volunteering, activism, etc.)
  • Track record of upholding values of equity and inclusion (e.g. evidence of successful advocacy on behalf of marginalized populations)
  • Ability to build consensus and bring needed technical expertise to policy issues before the County Council (e.g. environmental concerns, prison reform, public health)
  • Held elected office?
  • Activity with Democratic Party (e.g. volunteering, official roles, vision for Party?)
  • Complementing existing skill sets and background of Democratic County Council Members
  • Gender parity
  • Diversity (e.g. racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity)
  • Geographic parity (e.g. where do they live in the county?)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g. ability to connect with voters)
  • In good standing (e.g. no outstanding legal issues)

 

Court of Common Pleas

Republicans have controlled the courthouse in Media since the early days of the Republican Party. No Democrat has ever been elected to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.  2019 represents a major opportunity to elect Democrats to this court, with four open seats. The Court of Common Pleas is the primary trial court in Delaware County and hears both criminal and civil cases. Court of Common Pleas judges also hear appeals from minor courts and matters involving families and children.

Below is a brief list to help augment your own review of the candidates. Personal meetings, candidate forums, and campaign literature are all good avenues to learn more about candidates.

Considerations in Evaluating Court of Common Pleas Candidates

  • Leadership experience
  • Willing and able to commit time to running a county-wide campaign and serving if elected
  • Connections to Delaware County?
  • Experience before Court of Common Pleas
  • Prior experience as a judge
  • Prior experience as a lawyer
  • Community service? (e.g. volunteering, activism, etc.)
  • Held elected office?
  • Track record of upholding values of equity and inclusion (e.g. evidence of successful advocacy on behalf of marginalized populations)
  • Evidence of impartiality, compassion, and ability to persuade in professional career
  • Technical expertise relating to the court system
  • Activity with Democratic Party (e.g. volunteering, official roles?)
  • Gender parity
  • Diversity (e.g. racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity)
  • Geographic parity (e.g. where do they live in the county?)
  • Personal characteristics (e.g. ability to connect with voters)
  • In good standing (e.g. no outstanding legal issues)