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Republican wins special election in Bensalem, after postponement efforts fail

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Kathleen “K.C.” Tomlinson was victorious in the special election Tuesday for the 18th PA House District in Bensalem.

An effort to postpone the special election against Democrat Harold Hayes due to the risk of exposure to the coronavirus and the resulting potential for a shortage of staffing at the polls was unsuccessful.

Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger Monday night denied the petition of the Bucks County Board of Elections, and the intervening petition of Bensalem resident Elly McNelis, to postpone the special election

“Congratulations to K.C. Tomlinson on her decisive victory in Bensalem,” Bucks County Republican Committee Chair Pat Poprik said Wednesday.

“We are confident that with the progressive shift of the Democratic Party, voters will be looking to the GOP and its candidates for leadership this year. Last night’s double-digit win for K.C., in a district that Hilary Clinton carried easily in 2016, is the first in what will be a string of Republican victories from now through November.”

According to unofficial results provided by Bucks County’s Board of Elections, Tomlinson received 4,514 votes, or 55.26%, and Hayes received 3,631 votes, or 44.45%. The race was one that could help determine who controls the state House next year.

Poprik said the unofficial results show an overall voter turnout of around 20 percent.

Tomlinson will serve the remainder of former State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo’s term. DiGirolamo is now a Bucks County Commissioner. Tomlinson is currently the recommended Republican candidate for the April 28 primary election for a full two-year term. Poprik said the Bucks County Republican Party will support Tomlinson in that effort.

The unsuccessful petition filed by the Board of Elections cited “an extreme staffing shortage” as a result of the coronavirus threat. It added that of the 135 personnel required to conduct the special election less than half had confirmed their availability as of 12:39 p.m. Monday, and 20 had called in sick.

Trauger’s order aligns with those of judges in several states, who denied requests to delay primary elections scheduled for Tuesday, also in light of the coronavirus. He said there was no legal authority under which he could stay or postpone the election.

The judge said the county and municipality had prepared diligently for the election, and he ordered the county Board of Elections to continue with all safety measures, including the provision of hand sanitizers, sanitary wipes, rubber gloves and face masks, as well as signage reminding voters of the need for social distancing.

Trauger added that voters at higher risk regarding COVID-19 could vote in the same manner as a voter who is hospitalized on election day.

jarthur@buckscountyherald.com


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