Bucks County Democratic Party Chair Steve Santarsiero Reflects on the 2023 Blue Wave, Ready to Build on the Momentum in 2024

The state senator believes the county is changing from purple to shades of blue. But people volunteering and getting involved is vital to continuing this progress.
Photo by David Iskra.

Bucks County kicked off the New Year with multiple ceremonies inaugurating newly elected Democrats at practically every level of local government.

In an interview with the Bucks County Beacon, State Senator and Chair of the Bucks County Democratic Committee Steve Santarsiero shared his thoughts on last year’s municipal election wins and the upcoming 2024 elections.

“First and foremost, reelecting Bob Harvey and Diane Marseglia and winning our county row office positions was one of the most significant victories we had,” Santarsiero said.

Democrats have elected a majority to the county board of commissioners only four times since the Civil War, but prior to November had never achieved reelection.

In addition to the commissioners, Democratic incumbents were reelected as Register of Wills and County Treasurer. Additionally, Democrats were also elected as Coroner and Clerk of Courts.  

Santarsiero believes the wins are in part indicative of a county that is changing from purple to shades of blue.

“We flipped three school districts, including the Central Bucks School District and we flipped, I believe, another five towns, municipalities,” he said.

Complementing the Central Bucks win, all five Democrats running for school board director seats in Pennridge were elected and Council Rock Democrats secured victories in four out of six races. All three school districts now have a Democratic board majority.

READ: The Bucks County Beacon’s 2023 Year In Review

Democrats dominated in supervisor and council seats in Chalfont Borough, Doylestown Township, Doylestown Borough, New Britain Township, Newtown Township, among others.  

“Those are all significant and I think indicative of the fact that the Republican Party, nationally right now, is kind of off the rails. It’s been hijacked by these MAGA extremists and you’ve seen that even at the local level,” he said.

Many of the blue victories would not have been possible had registered Republicans not crossed the aisle and voted for Democrats, an outcome Santarsiero referred to as “backlash” by GOP electors against far-right extremism.  

“The ascendancy in the Republican Party of these extreme groups helped fuel a lot of the success that we had,” said Santarsiero.

Making school and municipal meetings boring again was a shared sentiment among Democratic candidates that Santarsiero found humorous yet truthful.

“Let’s get back to the role of governing locally, of doing the hard work of making sure that our kids are getting a great education in the school districts, doing the hard work of making sure that our towns are providing services and maintaining public safety without this hyper partisan extremist agenda interfering.”

He said he believes that argument resonated with people regardless of whether they were Democrats, Independents, or even moderate Republicans.

When asked if the upcoming 2024 presidential election might present differently in comparison to previous years, the BCDC Chair acknowledged that Donald Trump’s influence, along with his numerous lawsuits, could give rise to unprecedented scenarios.

READ: There Is A Civil War Inside the Bucks County Republican Party

“It could well be. I mean, it could be basically a repeat of 2020, or it could be something even different from that to the extent that there is some resolution in these various [legal] cases against Donald Trump.”

Santarsiero emphasized that Democrats in Bucks County need to focus on making sure voters are aware of what the Biden administration has done over the last three years on the local level and throughout the country.

“Donald Trump is an existential threat to American democracy,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that and for that reason, I’m going to be working very hard personally, but also to make sure that everyone involved in the Democratic Party in Bucks County, whether you’ve been involved for years or whether you decide that you’re going to get off the sidelines this year and get involved, that we work overtime to provide the margins that Joe Biden will need here in Bucks County to win Pennsylvania.”

Ensuring the reelection of Senator Bob Casey and retaining the seats of Bucks County statehouse representatives, as well as the potential to pick up additional seats, are all priorities of the local Democratic committee.

Ousting Republican Brian Fitzpatrick from his congressional seat is another significant race in Bucks County.

“We will work hard to win that race as well. Ashley [Ehasz] is a very accomplished, bright woman who really has a very impressive story to tell.”

READ: Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick’s Worst Votes of 2023

Santarsiero is also focused on improving voter turnout saying that while the Bucks County Democrats continue to increase the participation of electors, there’s more that can be done to capture registered Independents and those who split their ticket.

The Beacon asked if Democrats will be able to count on Gen Z for votes.

“The younger people whom I speak to, including my own kids, care very deeply about the future,” he said. “The future includes whether or not we’re going to address climate change. Whether or not women will have reproductive freedom and control over their own bodies. Whether or not we are going to at long last address the scourge of the gun violence epidemic in our country.”

“I think the Democratic Party addresses every one of those issues,” he said, noting that affordable housing and education were additional Gen Z concerns. “I think they see there’s one party that’s talking about the future and what needs to happen and one party that seems fixated on regressing.”

The possibility of another Trump presidency is not lost on Santarsiero, who believes that a majority of Americans will reject him because they understand who he is and what he represents. That result, he pointed out, should not be taken for granted.

READ: Biden in Pennsylvania: America Must Decide Whether Democracy Remains its Sacred Cause

“I would just ask that if you’re not involved right now and you care about these things, and you agree with what I’ve said in the course of this interview, please get involved,” he said. “We could always use more folks to help out. Whether it’s as a volunteer or a committee person or whatever, we will meet you where you are in terms of your time and what you can bring to it.”

“This has never been more important than it is right now.”

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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