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Meet the Republicans

With the election on the horizon, our newest reporter, Althea Hutchinson, sat down with candidates from both parties, in no particular order. The views in these articles are the views of the reporter and should not be considered an endorsement of any party or candidate.

The 2019 election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5th 2019.

Polls are open from 7am – 8pm.

These days, with people more engaged than ever, it’s more important than ever to know your local representatives, officials, and candidates. With that in mind, I found myself at a barbeque for the local Chester County republican candidates, their supporters, and other elected officials, or core members of the party. On the Chester County Republican webpage, there are 14 candidates – 7 men and 7 women – listed, most with a short bio attached. Most of those 14, along with many others, made appearances at the event on Thursday night, which, in and of itself, was far more informal than I had expected. Of those present, I got the opportunity to talk to nearly all of them, and several others, either already elected or simply deeply involved, about them, their ideas, and their motivations in office.

Amber Little-Turner was the first contact I made, and I was immediately impressed by how approachable she was. She introduced herself as Amber with a big smile, and I found her incredibly open and easy to talk to. A current field agent for Senator Pat Toomey, and with a political career both in and around West Chester, Little-Turner seems plenty qualified for the Recorder of Deeds position she’s in the running for. Her more middle-ground, independent policies make her a unifying, instead of a polarizing, force, which adds to both her sincerity and approachability.

Andrea Cardamone, running for Court of Common Pleas Office of Chester County, had a similar gravitas. She immediately strikes you as incredibly confidant, qualified, and intelligent, and within a few moments it’s easy to recognize her charisma and, just like Little-Turner, how absolutely easy it is to talk to her. Prior to the 16 years she spent as a prosecutor, Cardamone graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law, and achievement in and of itself.

Charles Gaza, who introduced himself happily as “Chuck”, has a nearly polar opposite first impression – he’s open and friendly and take up space, both physically and in personality. While other candidates, such as Michelle Kichline, whom I only met in passing, appear reserved or less talkative, Gaza is perfectly ready to engage on nearly any topic. I had the chance to talk for a short time with himabout his military service, as Gaza is both an Army and an Air Force vet – which is where he got his start in law. We also touched briefly on some of the work he’s been doing, combatting the opioid crisis. Running for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Gaza is a longtime veteran of the District Attorney’s office.

Other members of the ballot include Jim Fitzgerald, running for Sheriff, a veteran of the Marines, and a longtime member of law enforcement. He was easy to speak with, as his shirt – dark blue, printed with octopi – was a conversation piece in and of itself. While I never managed to speak to Matt Holliday, running for the Prothonotary position, I did enjoy speaking to Terrence Farrell, running for County Commissioner. Farrell has held the post for 12 years, putting him up for his reelection to his 4th term. Relatively local, Farrell stressed the importance of using your vote and of aid to those most vulnerable, which uses roughly half of his budget annually. He was quick to credit the great success of Chester County to a series of fiscally conservative, careful Republican commissioners, and to speak on the importance of education in our greater community.

Terri Clark, who spent 9 years teaching special education in WCASD schools, before serving 12 years on the school board, is enthusiastic, effusive, and competent. She was described to me as the “perfect Republican Woman” by a state constable named Douglas Castaldi, with whom I talked for several minutes. Castaldi, although not up for election this year, is held fast in his conviction in nearly every word he speaks – no matter what he’s saying, he means it. This is a similar conviction to what I noticed in Michael Noone, who comes from a very successful law background to run as District Attorney. Jumping into the race on a late start – after his predecessor dropped out of the running in early July – Noone has a self-assurance to his ability that one finds comfort in when speaking to him.

Although Vince Abbinanti doesn’t appear on the Chester County Republican website, his campaign for township supervisor is interesting – in the defense of his 17-month-old daughter’s future, he wants to improve upon infrastructure, including crumbling terracotta pipes, like the one thatdamaged Five Points’ Road recently, and deal with local issues in his debut to the political world. He also mentioned briefly that his Democratic opponent, currently holding the office, focuses too much on planting trees. A good conversationalist and working man, it’s hard not to like Abbinanti, even if his policy doesn’t align with your own.

The candidate with whom I was able to talk to the longest, however, is PJ Redmond, running this year for Magisterial District Judge (15-2-3). A local lawyer who spent 25 years in private law, he switched over to life as a public defender and found what he described as a new perspective – the people who really needed his help. Redmond describes himself as a dad to more than just his own children – he’s a deeply involved scout master at St. Agnes, as well as a mentor to many young people. Although he ran for – and was not elected to – the same position 6 years ago, as an Independent, the thing that struck me most about Redmond is how genuinely passionate he sounds about each topic we were able to talk about. He seems to have loved being a public defender, and had more life to him than many of the younger candidates I spoke with.

Although not all of the members of the Republican ballot are here – in particular, I never spoke to or saw Nancy Gill (running for Magisterial District Judge 15-3-7), Megan McCarthy King (for Superior Court Judge) or Judge Christylee Peck (also for Superior Court Judge) – those I did talk to seemed to be honest, caring people with good intentions, regardless of their or their party’s policy. Thus, the largest lesson to take away from a backyard barbeque with a slate of Republicans is this – the willingness to discuss issues across the aisle, to even just begin to open a dialogue with someone of a different political alignment – that’s far more important, especially on a local scale, than the outrage over one tweet or another by a systemically blocked Washington career politician.

Someone told me tonight, paraphrasing Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, that truth always dies first in warfare, and that the same is true in politics. And this for many is a maxim that seems true in thedivided political landscape. The people I spoke to, however, offered me both truth and opinion, and seemed both interested in and willing to aid anyone with an interest in politics and their campaigns.

The 2019 election is on Tuesday, Nov. 5th 2019.

Polls are open from 7am – 8pm.