Chesco Commissioner Cozzone to challenge State Sen. Rafferty

KATHI COZZONE
Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone speaks at a recent banquet. Cozzone announced Tuesday she is running for state Senate. Photo courtesy of CECCC

(Updated at 3:31 p.m.) WEST CHESTER — Kathi Cozzone, the vice chairwoman of the Chester County commissioners, announced Tuesday she would seek the Democratic nomination to run 44th state Senate District.

If she wins in the May primary, she would face incumbent Republican state Sen. John Rafferty in November.

“I’m proud to be a constant advocate for the people of Chester County and I’ve worked hard during my time as commissioner to make this county an even better place to live and work,” said Cozzone in a press release announcing her decision to run.

“However, time and time again we’ve seen our local communities devastated by the governor’s budgets, and we need a senator in Harrisburg that will stand for the people of Pennsylvania, instead of being yet another ‘yes’ vote for Corbett’s disastrous budgets,” she said.

Cozzone, of Uwchlan, becomes the second sitting Chester County commissioner to seek higher office. Earlier this year, commissioners’ Chairman Ryan Costello announced a run for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach.

Cozzone was elected to the three-member board in 2007, and established herself as an early supporter of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Coming from the business world, Cozzone put an emphasis on long-term, strategic planning to make sure that county government identified specific goals and planned how to achieve them.

She and her two Republican colleagues on the board, Costello and Commissioner Terence Farrell, have made a point of working in an atmosphere of collegiality, and the three have largely agreed on the largest issues that come before them — including a succession of tax-increase free budgets, the development and construction of a Public Safety Training Center, and the overhaul of the county’s Emergency Services radio system.

In addition, she holds the distinction as the first Democrat to hold a leadership position on the board, having been elected to serve as its vice-chairwoman three successive terms.

She has, on the other hand, butted heads with the two Republicans on some big issues, including her neutral stance in the re-certification of an employee’s union at the county’s Department of Human Services, a move her colleagues bitterly opposed, and her no vote on the sale of the county’s courthouse complex in downtown West Chester.

Rafferty was first elected to the 44th Senate District seat in 2002 and has easily won re-election every four years since then. He was risen to the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Transportation Committee and was instrumental in getting a $2.3 billion transportation package through the Legislature last year.

Republicans control both chambers in the Legislature and the governor’s mansion.

In her announcement, she took aim at Rafferty’s support of the Corbett administration.

“While in Harrisburg, Sen. Rafferty has voted with his party instead of his constituents on every major issue,” Cozzone said. “In the past few years we’ve seen Harrisburg Republicans force too many cuts to education, lead too many attacks on working families, and not focus nearly enough on getting Pennsylvania’s economy back on track. It’s time for new leadership in Harrisburg, and I’m ready to fight for the families of Pennsylvania.”

The 44th District comprises municipalities in northern and western Chester County, as well as municipalities in eastern Berks (Amity, Douglass and Union townships) and southern Montgomery counties.

In last year’s legislative redistricting, the district dropped areas from Berks, but added several townships in northern Chester, including North Coventry, South Coventry, East Coventry, Warwick, East Vincent, West Vincent and East Pikeland. In Montgomery, Pottstown was moved out of the district, but more municipalities were added. The district now covers the following Montgomery County communities: Collegeville, Limerick, Lower Pottsgrove, Lower Providence, Royersford, Upper Providence, West Norriton and Worcester.

The voter registration figures suggest an uphill battle for Cozzone, but not as steep as in prior years. Under the new redistricting plan adopted last year, there are 72,149 registered Republicans in the three counties, and 66,512 Democrats, for an edge of 43.8 to 40.4 percent. There are 20,130 independent voters.

It appears that Cozzone’s race is being taken seriously statewide, as the announcement of her intention to run for the seat came from the state Senate Democratic Campaign Committee.

In 2010, Rafferty, with support from the groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, won the district by 62 percent to challenger and political neophyte Matt Stehman’s 37 percent.

The base salary of a state senator is $84,012. The primary election is May 20.

EARLIER VERSION OF THIS STORY

UWCHLAN – Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone planned to announce her campaign for election to the state Senate on Tuesday. She will be running for the 44th District seat currently held by state Sen. John Rafferty.

Cozzone was first elected as a county commissioner in 2007 and won re-election in 2011. Before serving as a commissioner, Cozzone spent almost 25 years in financial business management, where she managed budgets for corporations. Cozzone said she plans to bring that business experience to Harrisburg.

“I’m proud to be a constant advocate for the people of Chester County and I’ve worked hard during my time as commissioner to make this county an even better place to live and work,” said Cozzone. “However, time and time again we’ve seen our local communities devastated by the governor’s budgets, and we need a senator in Harrisburg that will stand for the people of Pennsylvania, instead of being yet another ‘yes’ vote for Corbett’s disastrous budgets.

“While in Harrisburg, Sen. Rafferty has voted with his party instead of his constituents on every major issue, and in the past few years we’ve seen Harrisburg Republicans force too many cuts to education, lead too many attacks on working families, and not focus nearly enough on getting Pennsylvania’s economy back on track. It’s time for new leadership in Harrisburg, and I’m ready to fight for the families of Pennsylvania,” Cozzone said.

Pennsylvania’s 44th Senatorial District covers parts of Berks, Chester, and Montgomery counties.

Information from the Daily Local News, www.dailylocal.com

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