When a U.S. president is unpopular, the American people have a pretty tried-and-true way of letting him know it: They throw out all his buddies in Congress. (See: Democrats, 1994; Republicans, 2006.) The one thing they never do—well, unless hell is proverbially freezing over—is take out their presidential angst on their local officials.
Put on your jackets. Demographic shifts—notably, an influx of yuppies and immigrants—are suddenly giving hope to Democrats throughout Philly’s suburbs; the party is running competitive races for county commissioner in both Montgomery and Bucks, which have been locked down by the GOP for decades. And in Delaware County, bedrock elephant country that hasn’t seen a D on its county council in—drum roll, please—27 years, Wallingford attorney David Landau, 54, a partner at Wolf Block, is considered to have a real shot at a seat.
Republicans outnumber Democrats three to two in Delco, but Bush lost the county in both 2000 and 2004. Toss in GOP-tinged corruption scandals—including an FBI investigation that cost 10-term Delaware County Republican Curt Weldon his Congressional seat last November—and “the Republican brand is in pretty rough shape right now,” says one Democratic operative. Not surprisingly, Landau is running not just against the local GOP, but against the White House. “If you don’t like George Bush, then you won’t like the way our county runs its government,” he tells me one day over lunch.
It says something that Republicans have chosen not to ignore Landau, but rather to respond with both barrels. Current county council chair Andrew Reilly, who’s not running for reelection, calls Landau’s criticisms “wild and reckless.” “I don’t think voters are going to be scared into voting for Democrats locally just because George Bush is in the White House,” he says. Fact, or wishful thinking? We’ll find out next month.