Powerful GOP Machine Suffers a Major Blow in Delco’s Special Election

What does it mean for pols who want to take down Philly's dominant Democratic Party?

From left to right, Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Paul Mullen and Lisa Esler.

From left to right, Leanne Krueger-Braneky, Paul Mullen and Lisa Esler.

There was a lot going for Republican Paul Mullen in the special election in Delaware County’s 161st House District.

Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district. The GOP machine also rules supreme in Delaware County, where a Democrat has not won a County Council seat for decades. And yet, Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky won the election Tuesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

What does it mean? That Republicans are perhaps losing their grip on Delaware County. Special elections are where political machines should dominate, since only diehard voters usually show up to the polls. And even worse for the GOP machine, there are slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the county as a whole — as compared to the 161st district only, where that ratio is flipped — which could spell doom for upcoming elections.

On the other hand, it appears that part of the reason Krueger-Braneky won is because a credible and conservative write-in candidate, Lisa Esler, also ran in the special election. Krueger-Braneky got 48 percent of the vote; Mullen got 42 and Esler got 10. If Esler hadn’t thrown her hat in the ring, would Mullen have received an extra 8 or 10 percent of the vote, making him the champ?

The results of this race also matter because Krueger-Braneky’s win is good news for Philly. As Citified’s Patrick Kerkstra wrote about the election last week:

Granted, Democrats are badly outnumbered in the Pennsylvania House, 120-83, so it’s not as though Gov. Wolf’s budget will triumph and city schools will get more cash if Krueger-Braneky gets elected. But the city’s suburbs really are where Philadelphia can most plausibly find allies in Harrisburg over matters like school funding. The city certainly does have some moderate Republican friends in the ‘burbs, but Philadelphia’s priorities are generally going to be more in line with Democratic suburban candidates than GOP ones.

On other note, maybe Philadelphia’s Republicans can learn something from this election about defeating a dominant political machine even when party registrations are working against you.