The Borough of Conshohocken unexpectantly has a lone Republican on its borough council. Two-term council member Karen Tutino changed her registration recently from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.
Earlier this year when Tutino was preparing to run for a third term as a Democrat, the Conshohocken Democratic Committee elected to not endorse her and instead backed Alan Chmielewski.
After learning that she lacked support from the local Democratic Party establishment, she thought she would serve out her term and bring her political career to a close. However, she soon realized that she wanted to continue serving her community. That led to her switching parties and standing outside the precinct on election day asking voters to write her in on their ballots.”
Tutino continued, “I have received positive feedback from residents and businesses who appreciate my independent thinking and genuine interest in serving the borough.”
“Based on the direction the Colonial Democrats chose to move, I decided the best option for me to be able to continue serving Conshohocken was to get on the ballot (as a Republican) and work for ALL constituent votes in the general election,” shared Tutino. “Putting it into perspective, we are one square mile; party affiliation doesn’t determine whether you have concerns about speeding on Fayette Street or whether you would enjoy a dog park. I prioritize what is in the best interest of the borough and its residents, not special interests.”
Conshohocken has a long history of local politicians flipping from Democrat to Republican or vice-versa during a term or to run for office. In the past 15 years or so, sitting councilmembers Jack Coll, Vince Totaro, and Jerry McTammney also switched from Democrat to Republican. Former mayor Bob Frost did the same.
Longtime Colonial School Board President Susan Moore was first elected as a Republican but switched to Democrat and won two more terms.
Next door in Whitemarsh, Fran McCusker ran for supervisor as a Republican in 2015 and lost. In 2017, he was back on the ballot as an endorsed Democrat and received more votes than any other candidate. He went on to win re-election and today the former Republican is the chair of the Whitemarsh Board of Supervisors.
Can Tutino win in the general election as a Republican? In 2019, Tutino bested the Republican candidate Joe Ferrigno by 33 votes. As the incumbent, she has had almost eight years in office and two election victories to build support in Ward 1. However, the ward has grown in population. In 2019, the two large apartment communities above the Matsonford Bridge did not exist. Those alone added several hundred potential new voters to Ward 1.
If Tutino received 10 write-in votes in the Republican primary, she will qualify for the general election. She will face Chmielewski, who ran unopposed in the Democratic Party primary.
The unofficial results show a significant amount of write-ins on the Republican and Democrat sides.
While it is not yet known if the 44 write-ins in the Democratic Party primary are for Tutino, the likelihood is that they are and show continuing support for her from within the party. Both candidates were outside the polling location on election day and the “write-in” had just eight fewer votes than the lone candidate on the ballot.
The Republican ballot was what really counted for Tutino as the party had not fielded a candidate. Again, it is not known whether these 41 votes are for Tutino, but she had the only active write-in campaign.
“Considering I did not campaign and it was a write-in situation, the results are very encouraging, said Tutino.
Once the official results are posted we will know if she will appear on the ballot for the general election.
Photo: Headshot from Borough of Conshohocken