Whether you voted for Obama or not one thing we can all agree on is that history has been made. Some would say that another great accomplishment is that the American people have regained a higher level of confidence in the nation’s democratic process of voting. Yet the thing to consider about these successes is that they are on a national level and one must wonder if they can effectively impact what happens on a local level in American life.
“I think these successes have translated to the local level. I think we’ve seen it here in the city of Chester where voters have looked at the quality and qualifications of the candidates. I don’t believe that they look at the race of the candidates. I think they measured the person’s character and ability to govern and that they cast their vote accordingly.”, reflects Chester City Solicitor Linda Cartisano.
Obama’s victory turned out to be a victory for many democrats throughout the nation. The Dems gained 6 new seats in the senate, bringing them to 51 seats total and just 9 seats shy of preventing filibusters. They had even more success in the House of Representatives acquiring 31 seats and pushing them successfully past the needed 218. Now Dems hold the House with 233 seats filled.
The question is what does this mean for the city of Chester?
“On a local level I was looking to see a Democrat get into the Senate so that we could have more help for our State Representative in the 159th district. When he passes things through the House of Representatives now he’s gonna have to continue to worry about those things that have been passed… to the Senate being altered or changed. So it’s not fulfilling the best interest always for the residents of Chester.”, says resident and community activist Carole Burnett.
In DC the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans are reflective of a national election process that receives higher scrutiny and is held to a higher standard in the court of public opinion. But local elections do not always receive the same coverage or are given the same level of critique. Which may allow for more rules to be broken during the election season and more power to be excessively exerted by one party. For example Chester is a city under Home Rule Charter, which enables Republican leaders to shut out Democrats from the local political process.
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t happen in some ways if the incumbency or if the power wasn’t shifted…”, answers Bill Thomas, once campaign manager of John Linder for Senate. “I’m sure it’s just as difficult for Republicans in a place like Philadelphia.”
One of the key issues with local politics is the limit of money and the other issue is viability. If you don’t have the money then you don’t have the power and if you don’t have the power then you’re not viable.
“In a local race, such as the Linder race, a lot of endorsements, which are part of where you would get support money are based on your initial viability.”-Thomas
As mentioned before the national level of political discourse is under a brighter light but on the local level things can get a bit grimy. Just this past Election Day Senator Pileggi found himself crossing the line when breaking rules regarding his presence at the polls. The Senator was up for reelection and he wanted to ensure that things were running smoothly…so it seemed. He even walked into the poll station housed at Katherine Drexel Church and talked with some voters who were waiting in line. They were not happy with the one voting booth present. That’s when a poll volunteer sprung into action and confronted the incumbent, accusing him of illegal electioneering.
“Where’s the democratic poll watcher? Where’s your poll watcher because he was in line talking to the people that was getting ready to vote. That’s a violation that’s not supposed to happen.”, yells the volunteer.
Pileggi quickly tried to squelch the flames.
“I have a watcher’s certificate first of all. Second, a lady who’s a neighbor called me over…”
The poll watcher quickly challenges him to produce the watcher’s certificate and also questions him for having one as a candidate. Unfortunately, the Senator did not have one at the time but even if he had it wouldn’t have made things any better.
“…that would be a clear violation cause he shouldn’t have a watcher’s certificate.”, affirms the poll volunteer.
“…I’m not gonna debate with ya.”, responds Pileggi.
According to some sources later that day the police were called on Senator Pileggi for having walked into the polling place of the Seniors Center, located on seventh and Hayes Street. He has also been accused of having asked for a voting count after entering the polling place during voting hours. Whether he has violated written laws is up for debate but without argument his presence was designed to sway the direction of voters at the polls. And some may argue that it was designed to intimidate.
The Senator has many business relationships within the city. One of his biggest supporters this year was the Laborers Union Local 413. The union showed their support in a number of ways. One of those ways was thru a flyer they produced that spelled out how union members were expected to vote all democratic except for the Senate seat. They wanted that seat to go to Senator Pileggi regardless of their personal appreciations for John Linder.
“A number of the people who support him also understand my dedication to the community…to Chester… I’ve worked with them or their sons and their daughters, in the school system, fighting for their rights, advocating for them at each step… I can understand… as an organization supporting the incumbent. I have no problem with that but as the individual to make the attempts that they made to keep me from beating Pileggi, especially in Chester, it just seems to me that it’s totally counter productive.”, answers candidate John Linder.
That seems to be the bizarre trend in Chester politics to some residents. Many grassroots organizations have found themselves working hard to educate people about the issues but to no avail daily survival is the rule of the day so the idea of positive change is welcomed although not so much practiced. But to some degree many of these organizations have a hard time being organized, which also plays a part in the city’s troubles. According to Linder the national level of politics has impacted the local scene by giving a model of successful grassroots organizing through the Obama campaign. Which is a testament in and of itself that something new has happened from the national level to the local level. If Obama’s presidency is anything like his campaign then America is in for a treat from the bottom up.