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Following his victory in the Nov. 2 general election, Erie County Executive-elect Brenton Davis vowed to usher in what his campaign wordsmiths called “a new era of two-party cooperation.”

Davis, who will be the first Republican to hold the office since 2005, will adopt a county government navigating its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, still nurturing the infant Erie County Community College, and responsible for distributing tens of millions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funding.

And that’s on top of the monumental task of running county government.

More: Brenton Davis wins Erie County executive race; Tyler Titus concedes

Newly-elected Erie County executive Brenton Davis takes questions after his opponent, Democrat Tyler Titus, conceded the race on Nov. 3.

The election earned Davis some political capital and he’s saying some encouraging things about bipartisanship. The reality is that he’ll still have to work with a 4-3 Democratic majority on Erie County Council and a county workforce that’s been appointed or hired by three different Democratic county executives over 16 years. Cooperation with Erie Mayor Joe Schember and the all-Democratic Erie City Council also will be essential.

Davis, who’s never held political office before, can’t afford to operate in a partisan silo.

‘A role … for everyone’ including Titus

On Election Night, after it became clear he had an insurmountable lead, Davis told me he wanted to bring together Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and others.

He even said there was a role for his Democratic opponent Tyler Titus, who was attempting to become the first openly transgender person elected county executive in the country.

“It’s time to close ranks,” Davis told me. “We need to stop the division. We need to work together. And that even includes folks like Tyler Titus. I think there’s a role to play for everyone. And that doesn’t mean positions, but that means indirect influences in society. I think everybody has their skillset and I think we all need to put our oars in the water and row together.”

Those remarks remind me of something he said in April when I asked him about county government declaring racism a public health crisis.

“A mandate with no teeth is just a slap in the face,” Davis said at the time. “We need true and inherent change at the root of the problem. And you start by leading by example in all facets.”

Here’s an opportunity for Davis to do just that. While no one is expecting Davis to offer his former rival a job, it would be smart to tap into Titus’ unique ability to lift up and offer hope to people who feel forgotten or silenced.

Titus’ candidacy, it should be noted, was remarkable. For an openly transgender person to tell their story, to spread a message of hope and acceptance was both courageous and inspirational. Titus secured more than 32,000 votes, about 48% of the ballots cast.

Strange bedfellows

Davis has already recruited two Erie Democrats, former Erie County Councilman Fiore Leone and County Council chairman Carl Anderson, for his transition team.

It wasn’t all that long ago — February of 2020, during the height of the community college debate — that Davis lodged a series of accusations against proponents of the college, including Anderson, whom Davis accused (incorrectly and without proof) of being improperly paid by Empower Erie to the tune of $82,000. Empower Erie, the nonprofit behind the community college push, sent Davis a cease-and-desist letter threatening legal action.

So, it’s a bit surprising Davis courted Anderson to serve and that Anderson accepted the offer. Perhaps it’s evidence these men see the value of working across the aisle.

More: GOP’s Davis, county-executive elect, creates transition team; picks include big donor, Dems

Helping Davis is also a way for both Anderson and Leone to thumb their noses at their own party’s leaders. As the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Both Democrats were clearly discontent following their Democratic primary losses, Anderson’s coming at the hands of Titus in the county executive race in May and Leone’s happening in his re-election bid in 2019.


It’s a good thing campaign websites don’t get as much traffic these days as candidates’ social media pages because anyone who visited Davis’ site,, and clicked on the Facebook link at the bottom was redirected to a satire/parody Facebook page that takes aim at the candidate.

Apparently, the Davis campaign forgot to change the link when the candidate changed his Facebook handle from “Erie working man” to “Davis for Erie.” Former Erie County Councilman and Erie School Board member-elect Jay Breneman, a Democrat who was one of Titus’ biggest supporters — and Davis’ biggest critics — adopted the abandoned “Erie working man” handle. The link hadn’t been changed as of Tuesday.

More: Increased vaccination rates, bipartisanship among Davis’ top priorities upon taking office

Another look

Despite losing the county executive race, Erie County Democrats didn’t do all that bad, as a new report from the Philadelphia Inquirer points out.

In the race for Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Republican Kevin Brobson, the winner statewide, performed worse in Erie County than GOP candidate Sallie Mundy did in 2017. Erie was only one of three counties across the state where this happened.

The 12-point shift from 2017 in Erie County favored Democratic state Supreme Court candidate Maria McLaughlin.

Republicans, though, outperformed their 2017 totals in every county in the Superior Court races, including in Erie.

Erie County Democrats also held onto the open seats for sheriff and clerk of records, among others.

Laughlin’s Plan B

As we reported Sunday, state Sen. Dan Laughlin was weighing a scenario in which he would run for president of the Pennsylvania Senate, a position which all 50 members vote on, and, if successful, abandoning his not-yet-official campaign for governor.

Gaming it out: State Sen. Dan Laughlin: ‘I like my chances’ in governor’s race, but fundraising lags

Plan B?: Laughlin considering bid for senate president, exiting governor’s race if successful

But in announcing his own gubernatorial campaign this week, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman also revealed that he won’t leave his leadership position, dashing Laughlin’s alternate path to power.

Contact Matthew Rink at Follow him on Twitter at @ETNrink.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Matthew Rink: Davis calls for ‘new era’ of cooperation, and other observations