What questions do you have about the 2023 elections? What major issues do you want candidates to address? Let us know.
All three Bucks County commissioner positions are up for election this November. For the first time in nearly four decades, a combination of factors such as dissatisfaction with former President Donald Trump, charismatic candidates, and demographic changes granted Democrats majority control of the county board in 2019.
Incumbent Diane Ellis-Marseglia and then-newcomer Bob Harvie spearheaded Bucks County’s blue wave. The pair are running for re-election, but the GOP is not letting their decades-long grasp of the county’s highest office go without a fight. The lone Republican commissioner on the board, Gene DiGirolamo, is running again alongside the current county controller Pamela Van Blunk.
Pennsylvania’s third wealthiest county is not immune to problems. From the everpresent flooding threat and the effort to ban books in some of the local public schools, Bucks County voters have myriad reasons to cast a ballot on election day. Here are the candidates for the County Board of Commissioners race:
Diane Ellis-Marseglia (Courtesy of Bucks United)
Bio and experience
Born and raised in Lower Makefield Township, Marseglia brings more than 15 years of experience as a county commissioner. Marseglia was first elected to the board in 2007 as the lone Democrat. Prior to that, she served on the Neshaminy School Board and the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors.
Marseglia said she was drawn to public office for two reasons: her more than 20-year career as a social worker and her family’s belief in the importance of participating in democracy.
“As I went into this position in 2008 as a clinical social worker, I had as I always say a suitcase full of ideas and things I wanted to accomplish — very few of which were accomplished because I didn’t have support,” she said.
As a commissioner since 2020, Marseglia said she was able to unpack that “suitcase” and accomplish many of her ideas.
“Some things are still in motion, which is one of the reasons that I wanted to run again, I want to see these things through for the good of the county.” she said.
The Middletown Township resident and mother of two said one of the board’s biggest accomplishments in recent years is the Bucks County Co-Responder Program.
This initiative partners police officers with a team of social workers during mental health calls.
“We’re up to 21 police departments now that have taken us on … It’s working well because it is getting our police back on the streets where they can deal with crime and keep crime low and deal with citizens’ issues, but it lets the social workers that are embedded there deal with people who have mental health problems, drug and alcohol issues, issues related to aging so that police are being police and social workers handling those problems,” she said.
Marseglia said the Democrats’ results when controlling the board prove that the body can deliver quality services without raising taxes.
Reason for running
She wants to return to the office, so that she can continue her work on addressing mental health issues across the county. Officials recently broke ground on a mental health diversion center in Doylestown.
“The idea is that if someone has a serious mental health issue and they end up interacting with police officers, they often end up arrested and put in our jail because there’s no place for them and instead the police officers will be able to take them to this center,” she said.”There’s 24 beds there and they will receive treatment.”
Bob Harvie (Courtesy of Bucks County Republican Party)
Bob Harvie Jr.
Bio and experience
The Bristol Borough native is a relatively fresh face to county governance. But, his time in local government stretches all the way back to 1999, shortly after he moved to Falls Township. Harvie served for two years on the Falls Township Planning Committee. He was then elected to the township Board of Supervisors in 2003 — and again from 2008 to 2020.
During his time in elected office, Harvie worked as a high school history teacher for 26 years.
“I’ve talked before publicly about being raised in a family that always emphasized public service,” he said. “From youth sports to PTO’s to elected office to volunteering in church, I watched my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents all get involved in things and so I think that’s why I became a teacher.”
Since becoming county commissioner in 2020, Harvie said his main goal has been to make local government more responsive to the people’s needs.
“I felt like there was a different attitude that needed to be brought to county government,” he said. “It was always very kind of a passive approach to government before — almost like do as little as possible and I felt like there were challenges that needed to be addressed.”
Harvie said one of his proudest moments as a county commissioner was the board’s handling of the 2020 election. Pennsylvania, one of the biggest swing states in the country, was under the microscope. After the election, Bucks County was sued 11 times by parties, who with no evidence, questioned the authenticity of the results. The county won every single lawsuit.
“We wanted to make sure we counted every vote and to have that kind of free and fair election is something that’s critical to what a county commissioner does and next year’s election is not going to be any less contentious,” Harvie said. “So I think the record we’ve achieved of being bipartisan and just doing what’s right and not necessarily doing what’s politically right all the time — just doing what’s right — is I think the biggest thing I’m proudest of.”
Reason for running
Harvie said one of the biggest issues facing Bucks County is climate change. Fatal storm events supercharged by the climate crisis have become an increasing threat to communities living in Bucks’ flood-prone areas.
He said protecting the county’s natural environment and waterways is a priority and one that has already been set in motion. He said it’s not just about the next election, but the next generation.
The county is working on the first climate action plan in its history and hired its first sustainability director.
“We joined lawsuits to keep fracking out of the Delaware River Basin,” Harvey said ”We are currently suing the makers of PFAS and PFOS chemicals, which have contributed to poisons and pollutants in some of our streams.”