Township Elections 2023

This week I stopped by the Bureau of Elections in Media to find out who’d be on the ballot this year. The candidates for local office are:

  • Max Cooper for Ward 1 Commissioner (incumbent)
  • James Mason for Ward 3 Commissioner
  • Shaina Barnes for Ward 5 Commissioner (incumbent)
  • Candice Carbone for Ward 7 Commissioner
  • Nannett Whitsett for Region 1 School Board Director (incumbent)
  • Mary Jo Witkowski Smith (incumbent) and Bob Miller for Region 2 School Board Director

You’ll note that I’ve listed only one candidate for each office (there are two Region 2 seats up for election). Because there is only one. Zero Republicans filed nominating petitions for local office this year and there are no primary challenges for these local races. This is the first time in at least a decade a party has fielded no candidates for local office in our township.

I went back and pulled historical data for the chart below for commissioner and school board elections. The 2016 presidential election set off a trend of more Democrats and less Republicans running for local offices, with the exception of the pandemic and insurrection fueled 2021 when both parties fielded candidates for all offices (the number of offices open in these races alternates between 6 and 7).

There’s many possible explanations. The pandemic and partisanship could have taken their toll since then. Recruiting candidates for local office is increasingly difficult as the political environment continues to drive people away. The boost from the Trump-fueled outrage has faded away as well. And these offices require a lot of work for little to no pay – something many households can’t afford.

Our township is also becoming less competitive, Democrats now outnumber Republicans by about 5,000 to 3,200. Since 2017, over twice as many Democrats have registered to vote in Nether Providence as Republicans. The Democrats have the edge in every precinct except 5-1, where the Republicans have a margin of 6 voters. That leaves Democrats with significant majorities in every ward in the township. It’s hard to put the necessary energy into running for office when the partisan divide indicates victory is unlikely.

It’s possible candidates will run as write-ins in the May primary or nominate independents/3rd parties and we will have contested elections come November, but my past experience has been that its hard to win through the these processes. Or maybe everyone’s happy with our current set of local elected officials? I guess we’ll find out in a few months. And regardless of the local races, there are contested judicial and county races on the ballot.

Categories: Government, NPTownship, WSSD