Democratic Chester County Commissioner Andew Dinniman won a stunning victory last week against his fellow commissioner Republican Carol Aichele to fill the 19th senatorial seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Bob Thompson in January. In a special election held concurrent with the May primary, he garnered 56 percent of the vote from those who cast their ballots in that Northern Chester County district.
Amazingly, Mr. Dinniman's ascent to a seat in Harrisburg was more than a century in coming from Chester County - a sign that this largely Republican area was finally ready to cast its votes for someone on the other side of the senatorial aisle.
What happened? Was it was just Andy or a combination of things that made his triumph happen?
Let us suggest three things.
First, it's clear by the popularity numbers published in newspapers, television and on the Internet that the popularity of Republican President George Bush is at a dismal level. People don't like the war, gas prices and the apparent disregard for open communication evidenced in the administration. They also don't like the state Republican legislature, which has not come up with a viable tax reform plan and which voted itself an unpopular pay raise. Perhaps that backlash against Republican leadership, which Mr. Dinniman called the "background music" helped carry him into his new seat.
The second factor that helped Mr. Dinniman was what Kennett Square Borough Council President Jeff Darman calls "soft Republicans" and what other pundits call "Rinos" - Republicans in name only.
Historically, the agrarian and fiercely self-sufficient residents of this county may have joined the Republican Party because it represented their ideas and philosophies. But now, as the party grows older, it is more the party to join because it holds the power and makes the decisions.
The Republicans here usually win elections, and they have better rallies, buttons and baseball caps. They control county government, and they present more candidates. Who wouldn't want to sign up for the party that actually gives the chance to choose someone in the primary? Yet, deep in their hearts, many Republicans are ambivalent about classically Republican values inside a voting booth. Given an attractive Democratic candidate, they have little compunction about splitting their ballots or voting the other party altogether.
Thirdly, there is the factor of Mr. Dinniman himself. For 15 years he has worked hard as a commissioner and has attempted - quite successfully - to promote his causes in a non-partisan manner. He is present at every parade, celebration, Chamber of Commerce dinner and public event. When it comes to supporting popular causes, he is always there with a glad hand for everyone regardless of party.
He himself pointed to his support of open space and gleaning the harvest as things he believes in and constituents like. He said many of the people who move to Chester County come here because of the open space, and they find his environmental advocacy attractive.
Mr. Dinniman also pointed to the Quaker heritage of the county and its willingness to help the less fortunate. In that regard, his gleaning program to give fresh vegetables to the hungry rings with favor among those more fortunate.
All in all, the circumstances came together to carry Mr. Dinniman to victory. Most of all though, it was Andy himself.
We congratulate him and wish him well as he joins the state senate next month.