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Local Politics

2019 Schuylkill County Coroner Race – Post-race Analysis

analysis schuylkill county coroner

Schuylkill County just experienced one of the most intense political campaigns in recent memory. And it was all to determine who would be the next County Coroner.


How bad is it when that’s your high-profile race?

Here are some key takeaways from the 2019 Schuylkill County Coroner’s race:

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All Eyes on the Coroner’s Race – Sad Sign of the Times

Right to the point of things not exactly being so great here, most everyone’s attention on Tuesday night focused on the heated race for Schuylkill County Coroner. Two-time incumbent David Moylan defeated Democrat Deb Detweiler by more than 3,000 votes.

But consider how depressing it is that our biggest race in 2019 was for Coroner. Sad.

Let’s look behind all the vitriol that spoiled this campaign season. This isn’t about whether the office is being run efficiently or with a funeral home-like customer service approach. The problem here is that the County Coroner apparently struggles processing too many deaths that require his services.


It’s because there are too many cracked out drug addicts on Schuylkill County streets and these drugs are poisoning our communities. Opioid overdose deaths spiked in Moylan’s second term, causing a backlog in the County morgue.

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Schuylkill County shouldn’t have a backlog at the morgue and not because the office isn’t quick enough in determining cause of death. It shouldn’t have one because it’s generally not the type of place that requires a Coroner’s services that often.

Violent crime is very low. Traffic-related deaths are down. We should barely need a Coroner. But because of opioid drugs flooding the market, we need a Coroner now more than ever.

Moylan Can’t Hold All the Cards

The Canary hears (not confirmed) that this third term is likely it for Moylan in the Coroner’s office. In addition to getting that house in order (which apparently needs to happen to some degree), Schuylkill County must also prepare for a post-Moylan era in the Coroner’s office.

No one person can be responsible for so much of the office’s inner-workings. He’s got the “mobile morgue” at his property in New Philadelphia and many of the services he conducts as Coroner are done through that facility. Moylan’s done well in the time he’s been in office at keeping costs low — not relying on an automatic autopsy for every deceased person the office processes through use of virtual autopsy is one example — but it’s not a sustainable model.

The next Coroner will spend half their term trying to get an office that’s almost wholly reliant on the predecessor out of their hands. That likely will cost the County more until a better, permanent solution is found.

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In addition to getting the current house in order, Moylan’s biggest gift to the County would be establishing practices that can be transitioned to his successor.

An Advanced Campaign That Misfired

We haven’t seen a local political campaign as advanced as Detweiler’s this year.

No push for local office so effectively used social media and video marketing. You can’t fault the challenger for her ambition and execution. She worked very hard at rallying support for her and against a popular two-term incumbent.

Of all the routs tallied up on Election Night, the Coroner’s race was the closest. Detweiler likely got a lot of Republican voters to flip on Moylan and vote for her challenge.

However, the tone of the campaign was vitriolic from the get-go. To paint a popular and well-respected community physician as Detweiler did was not a good look. You have to respect your opponent in any competition. That wasn’t shown in this race and voters definitely started to sour on the message after a while.

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At the end of the campaign, some of Detweiler’s supporters began circulating photos allegedly from inside the county’s mobile morgue on social media. You can’t claim you’re going to restore integrity to the office you’re seeking when you have people out there using the unclaimed deceased as political props.

Don’t Believe Everything You See on Social Media

If you saw a pro-Moylan post on Facebook, you were in a small group of people. Otherwise, you likely saw scads of posts on that site promoting Detweiler’s bid for Coroner. And with that, you saw dozens or even hundreds, in some cases, of people expressing their support for her campaign.

And when people see that, they generally think, “My goodness, everyone’s behind this lady.”

Well, you see now how what you get on social media isn’t exactly a mirror of real life. It’s kinda like the Trump campaign back in 2016. You probably didn’t see too many pro-Trump posts but every other person on your feed seemingly had something negative to say about him.

Never dismiss the power of the silent majority.

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