The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election are in, and they include winners and losers in a number of important local contests, including Hellertown Borough Council, Lower Saucon Township Council and Saucon Valley School Board races. Lower Saucon Township voters also cast ballots in a referendum on instituting term limits for council members.
The big winners in Tuesday’s elections held in Saucon Valley were the Democratic slates of candidates, which defeated slates that included a number of Republican incumbents seeking re-election to both Lower Saucon Township Council and the Saucon Valley School Board. Meanwhile, Democrats also swept the council race in Hellertown borough.
In Lower Saucon, the Democrats won despite a torrent of mailers endorsing the Republican ticket, some of which were mailed by a landfill-affiliated political action committee (PAC) called Responsible Solutions for Pennsylvania, which public campaign finance records show spent thousands on Get Out The Vote and other marketing efforts from late September to late October.
In the township council race, according to unofficial Northampton County results, incumbent Democratic councilwoman Priscilla deLeon along with challengers Laura Ray and Victoria Opthof-Cordaro–who campaigned on the Saucon Valley Together slate–beat a Republican slate made up of incumbents Sandra Yerger and Mark Inglis as well as challenger Susan Blair.
According to the unofficial results, it was a significant victory for the Democrats, who ran on a platform that included opposition to the controversial proposed expansion of Bethlehem Landfill, support for reconnecting the township with Hellertown Area Library (HAL) services and a mission to mend damaged relations with neighboring Hellertown borough.
The results show deLeon receiving the most votes (2,335), followed by Ray (2,264 votes) and Opthof-Cordaro (2,244 votes), who previously ran for council in 2021.
The top Republican vote-getter in the township council race was Blair with 1,473 votes, according to unofficial results, which show Yerger receiving 1,472 votes and Inglis earning 1,451 votes.
With more than 11,240 votes cast, unofficially the Democrats received approximately 61 percent of the total compared to the Republicans’ 39 percent; an impressive showing in a township in which Republicans have historically held a significant voter registration advantage and in which Republicans now hold a 4-1 majority on council.
That majority will become Democratic by a margin of 3-2, assuming that the results of the election are certified and the newly-elected council members are seated in early January; a change the Democrats who will then be in the majority celebrated that fact in a post on the Saucon Valley Together Facebook page early Wednesday.
In the hotly-contested race for five seats on the nine-member Saucon Valley School Board, the results were similarly lopsided in the Democrats’ favor, according to the county’s unofficial results.
The results show the Democratic ‘Saucon Choices for Change’ slate made up of Vivian Demko, Jay Santos, Bill Broun and Donald L. Carpenter III along with incumbent Democrat-Republican Laurel Erickson-Parsons defeating Republican incumbent candidates Susan Baxter, Michael Karabin, Shawn Welch and Bryan Eichfeld by a sizeable margin. A registered Democrat, Erickson-Parsons ran on the incumbent slate that included Baxter and Karabin, both of whom have served on the school board for nearly 30 years. With Karabin also a registered Democrat, the incumbent slate sought to portray itself as a bipartisan representation of the district, which comprises Hellertown Borough and Lower Saucon Township and is home to approximately 17,000 residents.
According to Northampton County unofficial election results, Demko, a former Saucon Valley teacher and union leader, was the top vote-getter in the race with 2,967 votes. She was followed by Erickson-Parsons (2,741 votes), Santos (2,731 votes), Broun (2,659 votes) and Carpenter (2,636 votes), according to the results.
The top Republican finisher was Karabin, with 2,278 votes, followed closely by Baxter (2,277 votes), Welch (2,179 votes) and Eichfeld (2,163 votes), according to the county’s unofficial results.
If Erickson-Parsons’ vote total is included with the combined total of the other four Democrats on the ballot, the margin of victory by which the group won seats on the school board is similar to the margin by which the Democrats swept the Lower Saucon Township Council race, as it works out to be approximately 60.7 percent to 39.3 percent. (Note: These totals do not include a statistically insignificant number of write-in votes cast in the races.)
The four Saucon Choices for Change candidates ran on a progresssive platform that was critical of how the current school board has handled issues like a controversial after-school club whose members were backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which successfully sued the district alleging discrimination when the club was forbidden to meet on district property in the spring.
“Our opponents have dragged Saucon through a string of costly lawsuits and unnecessary, costly controversies,” the group’s website states. “The board they control has no unified vision and has lost the respect of local stakeholders. At times, our district’s dealing with local partners and parents have been inexplicable. There is no comprehensive curriculum. Every other day, we get a new superintendent, a new plan to end all plans—and more chaos, teacher-blaming and incompetence.”
In Hellertown borough there was another set of victories for Democrats Tuesday, with the election of incumbents Liz Thompson and Mike McKenna and newcomer Lynley Solt to borough council, according to unofficial results.
Republican incumbent Andrew Hughes finished fourth in the race for three open seats on the 7-member council; a result that was not entirely surprising, given the voter registration advantage borough Democrats have and the fact that the community of 6,000 has historically been a Democratic stronghold in a county that is considered an election bellwether of national significance.
Unofficial tallies from Northampton County show Thompson winning both 2-year (for which she ran unopposed) and 4-year terms on council. In the competitive race for the four-year terms, she was the top vote-getter with 874 votes, according to the county’s unofficial results, which show McKenna receiving 805 votes, Solt receiving 776 votes and Hughes receiving 680 votes.
Democrats already had a 6-1 majority on borough council, which is expected to become 7-0 when the new council is seated in early January.
In Lower Saucon Township, voters also approved a referendum to impose term limits on council members by a margin of roughly three to one (2,721 votes in favor of term limits to 809 votes against them).
Consequently, beginning with the 2025 election, newly-elected township council members will be limited to serving two consecutive 4-year terms.
DeLeon is currently the longest-serving member of Lower Saucon Township Council, with a council tenure of approximately 35 years. Yerger, after whom a township park was recently renamed, has served on council for nearly 20 years.
Northampton County voters also approved consecutive term limits for county-wide elected officials, including the county executive (two terms of 4 years) and controller (two terms of 4 years), as well as county council members (three terms of 4 years).
Tuesday’s elections in Northampton County were noteworthy not only for their results, but also for a voting machine programming error that caused confusion and consternation among both citizens and county officials.
The error was of a limited scope and occurred when a voter selected “Yes” to answer one question about a judge’s retention to the Pennsylvania Superior Court and “No” to answer to the other judicial retention question; a combination which resulted in the printing of a paper receipt showing the votes flipped.
County officials said the votes were digitally recorded correctly and would be tallied correctly, but County Executive Lamont McClure (D) told local media he was “livid” over the error caused by an employee of voting machine corporation ES&S, which officials said could have been prevented if the machines had been tested at the county level more rigorously prior to Tuesday’s election.
A report by LehighValleyNews.com noted that this was the second time issues with the ES&S machines caused problems during a Northampton County election, although it was relatively minor compared to a calibration error that affected machine touchscreens during the 2019 general election.
The results from Tuesday’s election will not be official until they are certified; a process that typically takes about two weeks to complete.
The results of the race Lower Saucon Township Controller, in which there were no balloted candidates, are also still unknown. Democrat Lynn Hill mounted a write-in campaign for the position in October, running ads on Saucon Source to promote her professional experience, community involvement and other qualifications.
The unofficial summary results from Northampton County show that a total of 596 votes were cast in the controller’s race, but they aren’t broken down by individual names.