SPRINGFIELD — Tom McGarrigle has another title he can claim: Delaware County Republican Party chairman.
Thursday night about 400 GOP committee members unanimously elected the former state senator and county councilman to head the 162,182 registered Republicans in Delaware County. The floor was opened to anyone who wanted to become leader of the party and McGarrigle was the sole person to be nominated. No other candidates were considered.
"With your support and your hard work and getting out the message that we need to deliver that the Delaware county Republicans provide good government, we’re fiscally responsible and we’re transparent on all aspects of our government, we will deliver," McGarrigle said after his victory. "And I'm excited about a Republican win in 2019 and with your help we will get it.”
McGarrigle, a Springfield gas station owner, is fresh off losing his 2018 re-election campaign for the 26th District state Senate seat to Democrat Tim Kearney of Swarthmore.
Former county GOP leader Andrew Reilly announced his plans to leave his position after becoming head of the Southeast Pennsylvania Republican Caucus Dec. 1.
Reilly has headed the county party since 2009 and had planned on serving only five years.
"The enjoyment I experienced in leading the county campaigns and interacting with all of you triggered my serving a full nine years," he said to the hundreds assembled at the Springfield Country Club. "I want to express my thanks to you for that opportunity."
He added that he will continue to serve as the Republican District Leader for the 168th legislative district and as chairman of the Middletown Township Republican Party.
"I understand that over the last 20 years there is a slow demographic shift that has been occurring in all suburbs across the country which has been accelerated by national political issues," Reilly said."But even against that backdrop, I am confident that the party that stands for limited government, low taxes, good government, a strong commitment to public safety and a strong national defense will continue to succeed."
Reilly said McGarrigle was elected to county council during a 2007 political season when the country harbored anti-Republican sentiment.
McGarrigle is also aware of the work that lies before him even as his optimism remained prominent Thursday night.
“I think we’ve gone through some rough times but I think our greatest times are still ahead of us,” he said. “I’m not here tonight to tell you that I have a magic bullet or the magic answers. I’m here to tell you that I’ll work hard to represent this great county.”
Voters in Delaware County have heavily favored Democratic candidates in the last two elections. Democrats now outnumber Republicans in Delco.
In 2017, the first Democratic county council candidates, Kevin Madden and Brian Zidek, were elected to office in almost 40 years. That same year, Democrats won three row offices: Controller Joanne Phillips, Sheriff Jerry L Sanders Jr. and Register of Wills Mary J. Walk.
Last year, Democrats took a slew of state offices, including McGarrigle's. Freshman Democratic state representatives include Jennifer O'Mara, D-165, of Springfield; Mike Zabel, D-163, of Upper Darby; and Dave Delloso, D-162, of Ridley Park.
Democrats also won the former 7th and current 5th U.S. congressional seats last fall.
Changing registration numbers were part of the impact of that with Democrats' recording 184,328 registered voters as of the November election.
Reilly previously said that the national media's emphasis on negative news out of Washington while overlooking an expanding economy and record-setting job numbers also came into play.
In his role as county chairman, McGarrigle said one of his focuses will be reaching out younger Republican voters.
"We can do that by engaging the great active young Republicans that we have in Delaware County, seeking their input and their advice in how to get those young Republicans engaged in the Republican Party in Delaware County,” he said.
McGarrigle also said his platform includes expanding the party's social media presence, communication between the county and local party levels and voter outreach.
He said he wanted all to understand that "a Delaware County Republican is someone who is dedicated to the betterment of our community, fiscally conservative and always conscious of the needs of the individuals that need our help in Delaware County."
McGarrigle stressed he wasn't interested in telling the local, county or state elected officials how to do their jobs.
"I’m running because I’m interested in recruiting strong, community-oriented candidates who are really willing to work extra hard to get elected and work extra, extra hard to do a great job of providing good government not only to Delaware County but to all the communities that we serve," he said prior to being nominated by Bill Devine of Ridley Township and seconded by Josephine Laird of Marcus Hook.
Telling the committee members they are "the lifeblood of this organization," McGarrigle added, "I'm excited by the challenges we face and I will challenge you as committee members to bring our message of good government, fiscal responsibility and transparency to the voters of Delaware County.”
A 1977 Springfield High graduate, McGarrigle served as a Springfield township commissioner from 2003 to 2007. In 2008, he began his eight-year tenure on county council, serving as chairman from 2010 to 2013. He was elected to the state Senate in 2015.
Since 1980, he has owned the G+M Automotive shop on Woodland Avenue in Springfield. In fact, Reilly has said when he has needed him, he'd call McGarrigle at his shop at 6 a.m.
"I'm really excited about this," McGarrigle said Thursday night. "I'm a guy, I started in this game as head of the Springfield Youth Club and to come here, I'm truly honored to represent this great committee. Delaware County's is the greatest committee in the commonwealth."