In Blow to GOP Culture Wars, Democrats Roll in Suburban Philadelphia School Board Races

Plus: Jason Kelce is one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive.

school board races philadelphia suburbs protests culture wars

People protest the Moms for Liberty national summit outside the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown on June 30, 2023 in Philadelphia. The culture wars played out in school board races around the region this week. / Photograph by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Check each morning Monday through Friday for the latest edition of Philly Today. And if you have a news tip for our hardworking Philly Mag reporters, please direct it here. You can also use that form to send us reader mail. We love reader mail!

Democrats Roll in Suburban School Board Races

Heading into Tuesday, the eyes of pundits and politicians and educators across the country settled onto the Philadelphia suburbs. Okay, they probably focused on their own mayoral race or whatever first, but THEN they thought “Hey, I should check out what’s going on in the Central Bucks school board.” They had reason to: the bellwether Bucks County district has been at the front lines of the conservative culture war, banning books, creating policies restricting political and social policy discussions, and suspending a teacher for helping a trans student file a federal civil rights complaint. Doylestown venture capitalist Paul Martino has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Central Bucks school board and other races in recent years, hoping to tilt the balance of power to the right; his wife, Aarati, ran in the Central Bucks race this year.

Well, lost she lost by 16 points. And the board flipped from a 6-3 Republican majority to a 6-3 Democratic one. The board of the third-largest school district in Pennsylvania, the one that had found itself in the headlines of the Wall Street Journal just two days ago, had suddenly been turned on its head.

“Folks, I’d like to say this is a victory for the Democratic party,” said State Senator and Bucks County Democratic Committee chair Steve Santarsiero at the party’s election night event. “And it is. But it’s really a victory for the kids of the Central Bucks schools … to all the haters out there, this is what democracy looks like.”

And the Central Bucks earthquake was just the start. The Pennridge Community Alliance — which promised “an end to culture wars, wasteful spending, secret agreements, and poor policies” — took over all five seats in that district, whose Republican-led board recently adopted the controversial conservative “1776 Curriculum” and a variety of anti-trans policies. In the Perkiomen Valley district, the Democratic group PV Forward swept into power, uprooting two Republicans. The margin of victory for the Democratic slate in the North Penn School District race grew by more than 60 percent over the last race, in 2019. Upper Moreland, Norristown, Phoenixville, Methacton — the news was all the same.

And it wasn’t just here. State College. Central York. Loudon County, Virginia. Iowa! Even freakin’ Antonin Scalia’s daughter got trounced. Maybe “we’re gonna ban Judy Blume books!!” isn’t the rallying cry some on the right think it is.

Happy Anniversary to All Who Celebrate

Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of one of the most momentous events in Philadelphia history. I am, of course, speaking of Four Seasons Total Landscaping Day. Every time I see one of those trucks around the city now I act like I’m seeing a celebrity.

And, as always, remember: your poor planning does not constitute my emergency.

Ed Brown Elected as Upper Darby’s First Black Mayor

Upper Darby has been around a long time — it will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2036 — and is home to one of the most diverse communities in Pennsylvania. (Its zip code is the fourth-most diverse out of the state’s 2,166 zips.) But until last night, it had never had a Black mayor. Ed Brown, a Democrat, changed all that.

“For me to be the first African American to be elected mayor by the constituents, by the community, I consider that a huge honor and that’s one that I take very seriously and will hold very near dear to my heart,” Brown told WHYY.

And from the On-Hold Sports Desk …

Another slow night on the sports front, friends. All I’ve got to report are the results of a Big Five battle at the Palestra between Drexel and La Salle. The two were knotted up, 32-32, at halftime, but the Explorers pulled ahead in the end and wound up on top, 67-61. The Flyers also played. Need something to live for? The Sixers face off with the Celtics tonight at 7 in the final game of this home stand. Each team only has one loss so far this season. Oh hey, look who’s back:

And while we’re on the football beat, Travis Schmavis:

This just in: He didn’t win. By which we mean, he wuz robbed.

Any Doop News?

You bet. The second game in the Union’s three-game MLS Cup playoff series with the New England Revolution is tonight at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, with a 7 p.m. start. The Union lead the series, 1-0, thanks to their 3-1 win on October 28th. They’ll be without defender Kai Wagner, who’s been suspended for three games by MLS for use of a racial slur toward opponent Bobby Wood in Game 1.

Any More College Hoop News?

The Bucknell Bison visit the Penn Quakers tonight at 7 p.m.