State Rep. Margo Davidson fended off a close Democratic primary challenge Tuesday, advancing to a general election race that likely will be much less competitive.
Davidson, a two-term incumbent in the 164th Legislative District, took about 52 percent of the vote. Her top challenger, attorney Billy Smith, grabbed about 42 percent. Dafan Zhang, an adjunct professor, gained about 5 percent.
That was the closest an incumbent state lawmaker from Delco came to losing a primary since former state Rep. Steve Freind defeated challenger Ellen Fisher by just 6 percentage points in the 1990 Republican primary for the 166th District.
Yet, Davidson can breathe a bit easier this morning.
She will face Republican Saud Siddiqui in the general election, but the 164th District is considered a safe Democratic seat, thanks to redistricting efforts that added Lansdowne and parts of Yeadon. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3-to-1 margin.
With the hotly-contested 164th primary over, much of the local political focus will shift to a pair of open seat races for the state Legislature.
The race for the 26th Senatorial District figures to be one of the most prominent in the state. It is one of six open seat races in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 27-23 majority.
Republicans clearly view the 26th District as critical. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, was amid a group of several Republicans who donated to the campaign of GOP candidate Tom McGarrigle. Pileggi contributed $100,000 — nearly a sixth of McGarrigle’s funding. Retiring incumbent Sen. Ted Erickson gave McGarrigle $25,400.
McGarrigle, the chairman of Delaware County Council, is being opposed by Democrat John Kane, the business manager for Plumbers Local 690. Kane mostly has received his campaign funding from unions.
At the May 5 filing deadline, McGarrigle had $558,266 cash in hand compared to Kane’s $360,716.
The other open seat that will receive local attention is the 163rd Legislative District, where Democrat Vince Rongione and Republican Jamie Santora are vying to replace retiring state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie, a Republican.
The state House is expected to maintain its Republican majority.
Rongione and Santora nearly have an equal amount of campaign funding. Rongione gained $74,091 in campaign funds during the first four months of the year while Santora raised $73,122.
State Rep. Margo Davidson is arriving at her victory party at Casey’s in Upper Darby after dispatching challengers Billy Smith and Dafan Zhang in the Democratic primary for the 164th Legislative District.
The Daily Times has not yet spoken to Davidson, but the Smith campaign just issued a statement on the race:
“Taking on an incumbent is always a great challenge, and I will forever be proud of the strong grassroots support of my campaign. This year, we gave Democratic voters a real choice – an all too rare and precious thing in our democracy. The contrast between the incumbent and me could not have been starker and I am proud to have fought hard for the right of every child to a free, quality education; the freedom for all women to make their own health care decisions; family-sustaining wages for all who work; and respect and equality for all Americans.
“We did not win the day, but we made it a real race. It is my hope that our incumbent representative heard us and will make a change in how she represents the 164th District.
“Voters tonight also chose our nominee for Pennsylvania Governor, and I am thrilled to support Tom Wolf for Governor. I will work as hard for Tom Wolf as I did for my own campaign, and I hope all Democratic voters in the 164th District join me in also working to send strong, progressive Democratic allies to Harrisburg this November.”
Dafan Zhang has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Look for more in tomorrow’s Daily Times, including remarks from Davidson.
In advance of tomorrow’s primary election, here’s a recap of our recent coverage on the 164th Legislative Race and other political news.
On Sunday, we examined the rarity of state legislators losing in the primary. No state legislator representing Delco has fallen in the primary since before 1980, but that could change Tuesday. We asked a few political science professors to break down the 164th District primary, where Margo Davidson could be upset by a challenger.
Last week, we covered the 164th District forum hosted by the League of Women’s Voters. We also broke down the campaign finance reports of each candidate — most of the money is being used to fund various mailers. Vince Sullivan took a look at the campaign finance reports submitted by the candidates in the 26th Senatorial District and the 163rd Legislative District — two open seat races.
Davidson also hosted a pair of recent press conferences. Two weeks ago, she urged the General Assembly not to cut funding for early education programs. Last week, she announced plans to build a hotel at the site of the former Sears building on 69th Street in Upper Darby. Tim Logue covered that.
Elsewhere, Gov. Tom Corbett stopped by Marcus Hook on Saturday, asking voters to come out and vote. Corbett has made five visits to Delaware County since March. Tom Wolf, the frontrunner in the Democratic gubernatorial contest, stopped by Chester earlier this month.
Also, both candidates in the 26th Senatorial District race have opened campaign offices recently. Republican Tom McGarrigle opened his office on Saturday. Democrat John Kane debuted his office earlier this month.
The three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 164th Legislative District have agreed to participate in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.
The forum, held May 15, will feature incumbent state Rep. Margo Davidson, of Upper Darby, and her two primary challengers — Billy Smith, an attorney from Lansdowne, and Dafan Zhang, an Ivy League graduate from East Lansdowne.
The candidates are vying for the opportunity to take on Saud Siddiqui in the general election. Siddiqui, the chief operating officer of the Upper Darby Caring Foundation, is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
However, the primary race could be a bigger factor than the general election due to the redrawn district’s heavy Democratic base. There are 25,043 registered Democrats compared to 7,515 registered Republicans.
Davidson is seeking her third term in Harrisburg, having become the first African-American, woman and Democrat to serve the 164th District. She won the party’s endorsement in February, though committee members nearly voted to hold an open primary.
Smith has launched a campaign targeting Davidson for her voting record on vouchers and women’s rights. He has produced a pair of mailers — evidence that he likely has raised a considerable amount of financial support (The first campaign finance reports are due next Friday). Davidson also has issued at least one mailer.
Zhang has focused his campaign on telling his American Dream story — he went from being homeless to obtaining a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now completing a law degree. Zhang has not issued any mailers or announced any endorsements.
The forum will be held May 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Millbourne Borough Hall. It is open to the public.
Today’s voter registration story in the Daily Times noted that the Democratic Party has increased its countywide advantage, though Republicans still hold majorities in two General Assembly districts that will feature open-seat elections in November – the 26th Senatorial District and 163rd Legislative District.
Here’s how the rest of the county’s General Assembly districts break down. Please note that districts with an asterisk only show the Delaware County portion of its voters. All numbers are as of April 29.
159th Legislative District
160th Legislative District*
161st Legislative District
162nd Legislative District
163rd Legislative District
164th Legislative District
165th Legislative District
166th Legislative District*
168th Legislative District
191st Legislative District*
8th Senatorial District*
9th Senatorial District*
17th Senatorial District*
26th Senatorial District*