Make no mistake about it: New Hope Mayor Larry Keller has managed to handily fend off all contenders for his position since 1998, and as a popular incumbent, odds are he’s going to win another term of office come Nov. 7.
But this time around he’ll have his hands full, as Democratic challenger Geri Delevich is showing unexpected strength, according to interviews and an online survey.
It’s not that Keller, a Republican, has been resting on his laurels. He’s been out shaking hands, and has ramped up his online effort. Keller has also attempted to spotlight in ads what he considers his “LGBT” and Democratic support, a politically astute jab at Delevich’s base.
New Hope is a Democratic stronghold, but voters have historically disregarded political affiliation when choosing among local candidates. And the mayor’s office is largely ceremonial, its most important role being supervision of the local police force.
One Keller supporter last week opined that the incumbent was thought to have enjoyed as much as 75% support among voters, but that number may have solidified closer to 60%.
In fact, a Free Press online poll conducted between Oct. 10 and 11 using SurveyMonkey showed the two candidates in a dead heat.
Among 269 respondents, 50.93% said they would choose Delevich in November, and 49.07% favored Keller. While the poll represents a small, unscientific sampling, it seems to mirror sentiment on the streets of New Hope.
“Larry is New Hope,” observed Greg Gauthier, who runs the Village Toy Shoppe at 19 N. Main St. with wife Leslie. “He eats, breathes and lives New Hope. In today’s world, it seems everybody’s choosing sides, but when I think of Larry, I think back to the old saying ‘He’s a man for all people.’ As business owners and locals, we feel that the perfect mayor for New Hope’s future is the mayor who guided us through much of our past.”
“I’ve known and liked Geri for almost 30 years,” said Peter Markowicz, owner of the Exquisite Earth at 126 S. Main St. in New Hope. “She was the first person to stand up for gay and transgender people. She passed an anti-descriminatory law in New Hope, the first one in Pennsylvania, and that’s huge. I see her volunteering everywhere, helping clean up the streets and sidewalks, and doing things. I think she’s a good person, and will be a wonderful mayor. It’s time for a change.”
“I’m voting for Larry,” said a man from Ney Alley. “He came and introduced himself and shook my hand.”
“I’m not a big supporter of either candidate, but maybe it’s time for a change, for new energy,” said a West Bridge Street resident.
While Keller’s quest for re-election may prove more challenging than ever before, he seems up to the task.
But in a race that may indeed be more hotly contested than anyone would have imagined, might events in Washington play a bigger role than thought? Will New Hope voters ignore Keller’s Republican party membership, as in the past, or will Delevich raise the stakes and attempt to persuade voters in this Democratic bastion that a vote for her is also a stand against President Trump?
“I’ve always voted for either party, but with what’s going on in Washington, I’m only voting for members of the Democratic Party,” said a West Mechanic Street man.
The New Hope Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a “Meet the Candidates” event on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Dubliner on the Delaware, 34 N. Main St., featuring a short presentation from each candidate, along with a brief question-and-answer session.