Montgomery County Republican Party … “Lost in Space”!

Montco-GOP-300x297Maybe when past and present leaders of the Montgomery County Republican Party (MCRC: Montgomery County, PA) look back over the past few years, they can pinpoint the moment when – and reasons why – things went bad.  Maybe they can dissect the personalities, grudges, and internal issues that caused the slide down the slippery slope.  Maybe they will have an understanding of what went wrong and why.  And maybe they have an idea of how to get it all back on track.

Maybe …

I’m not all that confident.  The County Party looks like the hapless Family Robinson from “Lost in Space” (the original TV series 1965-1968, not the movie).  Not sure exactly who is playing of Doctor Smith, but there are several candidates.  Like castaways in an immense expanse of universe, there’s a feeling of hopelessness.

Admitting you have a problem – a REAL problem – is always the first step in Recovery.  And Recovery is certainly what we need!

I do not consider myself a Committee insider.  I do not pretend to know the reasons or – more importantly – The Answers.  Maybe I should know.  Maybe if more of us in grassroots positions were more deeply involved, we might know.

Maybe that would have made a difference.  Maybe …

But I doubt it.

As a Committee Representative since 2006, I have attended some MCRC functions, though admittedly not enough of them.  Fact is, as your typical run-of-the-mill foot soldier, you are like a pawn on the chessboard … eyes forward and taking the heat.  You do the grunt work because it’s important to you and to your Community.

The politics of the politics?  We let the politicians weed that garden.  We allow them to make the sensitive political decisions in the belief they have The Big Picture.

Maybe there’s a good reason for that … party unity,  less distraction from the goals of developing the best candidates and winning elections, the appearance of stability and reliability to present to fund-raisers and contributors …

But how’s that been working out for you on Election Day?

The problem with that mindset is that we – the Party’s ground game – lose sight of where the boat is being driven or worse the direction the boat is drifting.  Somehow that has to stop.

My personal MCRC experience can be summed up in the following vignettes:

  • Pride and excitement in the election of Bruce Castor and Jim Matthews to the County Board of Commissioners in 2007 even though Democrats grabbed five row-office positions.
  • Hair-pulling aggravation as the Castor-Matthews relationship imploded into a farcical mess that – hindsight will show – sent the Party spinning out of control.
  • PA State Rep Mike Vereb

    PA State Rep Mike Vereb

    Pride and excitement at the election of State Representative Mike Vereb as MCRC chairman after the unconscionable behavior of a person who shall remain nameless.  I even wrote a glowing review of Mike’s fantastic acceptance speech a scant two years ago.

  • Confusion and frustration in witnessing – from afar – the infighting between The Committee and Joe Gale, the un-endorsed winner of a spot on the 2015 GOP ticket and the ONLY Republican – aside from Risa Vetri Fermin – to win their general election vote.
  • Disbelief that Republicans did not win a single row office in November 2015.

My own personal, foot-soldier/committee representative/Republican voter view is that the GOP in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania can’t seem get out of its own way.  What was a troubling anomaly in the Castor-Matthews imbroglio became a trend in the MCRC-Gale falling out.

I do not pretend to know all the reasons, the personal issues, ill-will, prideful stances, or nasty accusations that led to a voter-endorsed candidate being ostracized from our own Election Day GOP Party recommendations.  I just have the impressions that the episode was a case of cutting one’s nose off to spite their face; indicative that the MCRC had gotten even worse – not better – since Castor and Matthews had their schoolyard tiff; and instead of working towards Party unity, was trapped in a distrustful downward spiral.


Commissioner-elect Joe Gale

Not that we could possibly get much lower than the dazed, bloodied, and laying flat-out on the floor position we find ourselves in today.

So this Tuesday, we will vote for the next chapter in MCRC history.  This time around we have a wealth of candidates looking to become County Party Leader.  Some I know, some I don’t.

I’ll be looking for someone who gets what’s important.  Not The How we got to the lowly place we find ourselves, what’s most important is how do we get back where we were … back where we deserve to be!

With that in mind, I will be sending a link to this blog post to all of the candidates with the opportunity to respond here with their views on getting the CLIMATE of the MontCo GOP right for a Future unclouded by internecine feuds.  I do not want to hear about training committee representatives, improved communications, or changing the Party structure.  In my humble opinion, our problems are BIGGER than that!

Keep an eye here, if you wish.  Maybe we’ll get some answers …

Maybe …

I intend to go to Tuesday’s election meeting out of an obligation to contribute what little I can to making sure the Party is in the best position to recover from this not-so-special episode of “Lost in Space”.

Montgomery County and the Republican ideals we value deserve a much better effort!


Who would be better suited to fix Montgomery County’s budget mess?

It’s quite astounding, this plunge at sub-sonic speed that Montgomery County (PA) governance has taken since the November election. 

In a matter of weeks we faced a Commissioner’s arrest on perjury charges and a budget crises that finally bobbed to the surface like a bloated dead body.  But this happened only AFTER the election, despite MONTHS of reassurances from Commissioners Joe Hoeffel and Jim Matthews that all was well; that there was nothing to the rumors “floating around” concerning a sizable budget shortfall; and that all the hand-wringing was the work of political malcontents and other nefarious sources looking to make political hay at the expense of an unusual, personality-fueled “bipartisan” managing majority.

Oops …

That’s a $44 million “oops” for the FY2012 budget year.  An “oops” that would have resulted in a 29% property tax increase if alleged perjurer, Jim Matthews has his “no cuts, just raise taxes” way.  

Most maddening – to me anyway – is that it was a deliberate “oops” that callously may have affected an election, where voters – unaware of how bad the budget picture really looked – were denied the opportunity to evaluate the bona fides of the four candidates in the light of the true budget situation.  (e.g. Would one vote for candidates who promise “no tax increase” with such a bleak budget picture where significant service cuts were the only other solution?)  

Instead we witnessed an election campaign where one set of candidates (Democrats Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards) were able to take the “see no evil, raise no taxes” Tea Party approach to courting voters, while the other team (Republicans Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor) had to renounce their party’s proclivity to abhor any mention of raising taxes simply because they had insider suspicions – due to Castor’s presence on the County Commissioners Board – as to the real nature of the County’s budget morass. 

As taxpayers you should be enraged that such an opportunity was denied you by two politicians simply looking to throw an election away from Bruce Castor.  At least give Brown and Castor credit for refusing to make a promise they felt they probably could not keep.   

My intended point to this blog post was to call for the current Commissioners Board to punt the 2012 budget issue to the new Shapiro-Richards-Castor Board to be seated in January.  I felt  – especially given the alleged behavior of Jim Matthews in his personal use of campaign contributions, the violations of County guidelines for awarding millions in contracts, and the level of incompetence and cronyism in hiring County managers – that the only way to address the issue cleanly was to wait for the new Board to be seated by perhaps passing a continuing resolution of some sort to keep the County running until the new team could evaluate the budget.

Unfortunately, that desire has been OBE (overtaken by events) today.

In a decision passed down by the County’s solicitor’s office, the Commissioners were advised that the incoming Board cannot re-open the budget after Jamuary 1.  In fact, they will be limited to either spending any surplus or transferring funding from one department to another to meet any shortfalls.

This is not a particularly promising outlook for 2012, especially if an unforeseen crises or unanticipated costs arise during the fiscal year.  One important function that a budget reserve serves is to maintain a debt-to-cash ratio that keeps the County’s Moody’s bond rating at its current Aaa rating.  The loss of that rating could potentially prevent the County from borrowing funds at the best possible rate of interest.   

So hang on for a possibly bumpy ride in FY2012!

Hoeffel and Castor are working together (Hard to believe, I know.) to develop a budget that looks to include both reductions in spending and at least a 14% tax increase.  (In an aside, Jim Matthews likened the possibility of raised taxes as the end of a “tax holiday” for Montgomery County homeowners.  Real nice for a guy who used – allegedly – campaign donations for personal autos, personal expenses and country club memberships!  Now THAT’S a holiday!) 

This also means that we have to wait another year to see whether the Shapiro-Richards team can stick to their Tea Party-like “No new taxes” promise in FY2013 and beyond, and make their zero-based budgeting strategy work.

Frankly, that does not look promising!

Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews arrested! (Updated)

UPDATE:  New information in extracted from the 69-page indictment of former MontCo Commission Chairman Jim Matthews.  Apparently the problems at County go much further than Matthews’ alleged perjury. 

County Solicitor – and former Matthews campaign chairman – Barry Miller was fired on the basis of the grand jury findings.  According to the report, Miller directed award for health insurance services be awarded to CBIZ, an Ohio firm that donated thousands of dollars to Matthews’ 2007 campaign.

In addition, human resources director, Eleanor Schneider and Tom Snyder, a department head for outside services were cited as being “not qualified” or willfully blind and incompetent.  Schneider was Matthews’ personal secretary with no human resources experience before being appointed HR director.  Snyder could not answer grand jury questions about conflicts of interests on contracts his department managed.


UPDATE:  Most recent coverage from yesterday’s arrest:

Although perjury is the only charged leveled at Matthews, there was evidence of significant malfeasance, including the use of $100,000 for personal expenses.

UPDATE:  Charges involve perjury during a grand jury investigation into campaign contributions and contracts related in some way to a Matthews family business, Certified Abstract, which was reportedly directed for use by county employees for all farmland preservation open space sales.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I don’t usually post “breaking news” events, but I’ll gladly make an exception in this case!

Jim Matthews, brother of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and outgoing Montgomery County (PA) Commissioner was arrested on charges emanating from a grand jury indictment.

No additional information available as of this minute.  MontCo DA Risa Ventri-Fermin to hold 10:30 am news conference.

Some controversy was raised earlier this year about allegations that Matthews and Commission member Joe Hoeffel were violating Sunshine Law restrictions by holding private breakfast meetings outside of public scrutiny.  It’s difficult to imagine that Sunshine Law violations are the extent here, but that’s just speculation based on the fact that there is no indication that Hoeffel is included.

Matthews was persona non grata to many MontCo Republicans for ignoring the wishes of voters who elected him and fellow Republican Bruce Matthews to the Commission in 2007.  Matthews cut a deal to align himself with Hoeffel, a Democrat, due to personal animosity he held against Bruce Castor.  

More details here when known.

RUMOR:  Charges are perjury

A heaping bag of Disappointment

Watching what unfolded last night for the Montgomery County (PA) GOP was akin to suffering through a replay of Monday night’s woeful performance by the Philadelphia Eagles against those Chicago Bears.  Just like those inconsistent Birds, the impression I have is one of a team that was thoroughly outplayed by an opponent that simply “wanted it” much, much more.

Not that it was entirely a lost night.  Rumor had it (unconfirmed) that both Hatboro and Plymouth Meeting councils were won back by Republican leadership.  Our local Horsham Township Council candidates, Greg Nesbitt and Mark McCouch handily won their matchup as rightfully expected.  Eileen Behr, a superb candidate for MontCo Sheriff, and Stewart Greenleaf, Jr. – for Controller – were successful in their bids.  But aside from these and Nancy Becker’s victory for Recorder of Deeds, the overall contest – much like the Eagles-Bears game – was not nearly as close a performance as the final score might lead one to believe.  

Many good GOP candidates went down with the ship.   

Now, I have no claim to any formal political training, inside Montgomery County Republican Committee or Brown-Castor strategizing, or even a smidgen of political play-making capability.  In continuing with the Eagles analogy, I’m either the center spending half the game looking upside down with his head between his legs, or I’m the rookie guard – a la Danny Watkins – too caught up just trying to get the rudimentary footwork down to fully appreciate the more complicated levels of high stakes political gamesmanship.  I just know I’m laying here flat on my back with a bunch of cleat marks up the front of my jersey wondering what-the-sack happened to the game plan!

So take these personal impressions with that perspective in mind …

1.  Although I travel regularly through limited areas of eastern Montgomery County, there were certain locales – specifically Huntingdon Valley, Rockledge, and Abington – where little evidence in the way of Brown-Castor presence could be found.  Every day for the past two months commuting back and forth from work, I saw a plethora a Shapiro-Richards signage in these areas.  The Brown-Castor presence didn’t just fall short; it was completely absent aside from sporadic household displays.  In fact, of the several attempts of my own to populate Abington with GOP signage, some were met with REMOVAL of the signs from public grounds.  So despite my belief that the powers-to-be had a handle on this important election, I had a gnawing feeling in my gut that things were amiss!  

One of my posts from several weeks ago, dealt with the offensive sight of hundreds of Shapiro-Richards signs quite literally LITTERING huge stretches of Cheltenham Avenue and Rt. 422.  It was obviously an organized bit of intense labor.  And although I harbor no desire to see ANY campaign trashing neighborhoods and highways in this manner, one has to wonder where the GOP response was?  (Caveat: I have not been on either road since making that post, so maybe there was a response.) 

2.  Shapiro-Richards played the negative and dirty games better.  From their TV ad portraying Brown-Castor as The Bickersons (The Negative) to drawing the downright hypocritical connect-the-dots picture of Jenny Brown as a Tea Party candidate (The Dirty since Josh Shapiro also met with and could therefore be portrayed as Tea Party-sympathetic.), the Democrats had no problem wading into the muck that played to those tired of Commissioners’ bickering and to their anti-Tea Party core.  (I won’t even go into the fact that Shapiro-Richards won on what was a very Tea Party-like platform of limited spending and no tax increases.  Oops .. maybe I will mention it.)  I saw little pushback – aside from Castor’s complaining of the Tea Party hypocrisy – from the Republican side. 

So why was so little made out of Richards’ Whitemarsh stewardship of an 8-fold increase in township debt (from $1.8 to $15 million)?!?  Could more have been made of the contradiction between the fiscal promises made by the Democrats as opposed to their actual records on the same subjects??  (The numbers to watch here are $435 million, the current MontCo debt hole.  With Richards record of debt accumulation, I predict this hole will grow to $3.5 million by Fiscal Year 2015!)

3.  Much theorizing went into the role of “Obama Democrats” in their county registration advantage.  Theories suggesting that those Democrats were only motivated by President Obama’s historic run to The White House … that many of them would not return in force for a relatively lower-key local race.  Low turnout – it was suggested – would be a boon for Republican hopefuls.  We certainly had low turnout in my township (roughly 28-30%).  Heck, my polling place didn’t even have a Democrat committee presence until dinner time!  Obviously, the Democrats out-performed Republicans in getting out their voters in Democrat-heavy areas.  The GOP? Not so much.

That’s enough Wednesday-morning quarterbacking for me.  When you lose, it’s either a failure in strategy/leadership or one of performance.  So the questions beg …

  • Was it long-simmering Castor-itis come home to roost?
  • Was the Republican electorate too complacent, disinterested, unmotivated?
  • Was the overall economic-political disgust a factor in keeping Republicans and like-minded independents home?
  • What can be done to counter the increase in Democrat registrations fleeing Philadelphia?
  • Why was there so little evidence of GOP feet-on-the-ground in locales I travelled through near the city?
  • To what extent are these problems rooted in the GOP Leadership in those communities and – perhaps – the County as well?   

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned …  Had an adverse reaction Monday to “Stop the Tea Party. Stop Jenny Brown” lawn signs I saw that morning while driving to work.  The reaction centered around the hypocrisy of a Shapiro campaign making hay from a meeting that duplicated HIS OWN inclination to drink the TEA!  Amazingly the signs had disappeared by the time I had driven pass them on the way home that night. 

I just really hate losing … especially when I know I’m right.

Important election day for Montgomery County (PA)

This Tuesday, November 8 Montgomery County (PA) voters will face crucial decisions on the future health and welfare of the County in an election that will address the makeup of County leadership and management of 11 row offices. 

In the headline contest Republican candidates Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor faceoff against Democrats Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards for control of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.  On election day, voters will cast ballots for TWO preferred commissioners.  The top three vote-getters will assume seats on the Commissioners Board, thus ensuring one minority representative will serve with two from the majority party.   

As background, the 2007 election for the County Commissioners Board was waylaid by the duplicitous Republican-elect Jim Matthews, when he worked a backroom, split-management deal with Democrat minority member, Joe Hoeffel.  Matthews’ low-handed dealings betrayed the wishes of the County’s electorate – a vote that demanded a Republican-controlled Commissioners Board – by essentially handing de facto control to Hoeffel.  Matthews’ behavior left him isolated from his own party and dependent on Hoeffel’s concurrence to get anything accomplished.  Democrat Hoeffel had unprecedented control – for a minority party board member – over patronage, contracts and budget decisions.

The issue of who was really in charge of the Montgomery County Board over the past term is an important distinction, because as of February 2011, the County possessed a $435 MILLION bonded debt obligation.  This is a RECORD HIGH for Montgomery County!  The County budget for Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) is already $25 million short in projected revenues!  And in September the County’s Treasurer, Tom Ellis reported that the County’s Financial Health Index (the ratio between cash reserves and debt service) projects to 0.63-to-1 for FY12, where a ratio of 2-1 would be considered “unhealthy”. 

The solution posed by current Democrat County Controller Diane Morgan to improve the County financial picture by pursuing fraud, waste and duplication is not a strategy that instills much confidence when looking at a $435 million hole.  

As Whitemarsh Supervisor, Leslie Richards oversaw an amazing 8-fold increase in township debt – from $1.8 million to $15.0 million!  So one can assume that a Shapiro-Richards-controlled Commissioners Board could very well continue a budget philosophy of spend-spend-spend, despite their pronouncements in favor of a “zero-based budgeting” approach to County finances.  Josh Shapiro already has a record of raising taxes; and his solution for fixing the traffic problems on Rt 422 is to leverage funding from the State and Federal Government. 

My understanding of leveraging includes the promise of putting up substantial funds (more borrowing!) to demonstrate a financial commitment which is then used to elicit funding from other sources, in this case the State and federal government.  More fiscal insanity is not the response taxpayers want!

The solution favored by the Brown-Castor team is to slash expenditures while in the pursuit of gambling income from the new Valley Forge Convention Center casino development.  This has the potential for being a tax-neutral solution, assuming the County can successfully reverse a state law that prevents direct Montgomery County control over its share of casino proceeds, a flawed – and unfair – state law fully supported by Shapiro in his duties as a State Representative.  Instead the Pennsylvania Financing Authority controls MontCo’s funds from gambling revenue, the funds limited to use in treating sites with environmental contamination in preparation for future business redevelopment.  Bucks County – on the other hand – enjoys direct and complete control over its portion of revenue from the Parx casino because somehow that casino is licensed under a different classification than the proposed Valley Forge development.  (Confusing? Yes.)

It’s not difficult to recognize which debt solution makes the most sense in these troubling economic times or which team is best positioned to pursue it.    

Both Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor have well-respected records as government leaders.  Brown has served as Commissioner in Lower Merion Township since 2005.  Castor, after a successful term as Montgomery County District Attorney, was elected to the Montgomery County Commission in 2007. 

For these reasons, the right votes are for Jenny Brown and Bruce Castor for Montgomery County Commissioners!


On the subject of Row Office candidates, I have provided my impressions on several occasions.

I have been much impressed by several of the female row office and judicial candidates, particularly Eileen Behr for Sheriff, Maureen Coggins for Judge on the Court of Common Pleas,  and of course Risa Vetri Ferman, who is running for re-election after a superb term as Montgomery County’s District Attorney. 

Another strong Republican contender is William “Bill” Donnelly for Prothonotary (Clerk of the Court for Common Pleas), who led a modernization effort during a previous term, achieving recognition as one of the most efficient such offices in the country. 

Normally, I’m one to loath suggesting that anyone pull the straight party lever when they enter the voting booth.  But frankly, I cannot find a single candidate on the Montgomery County Republican ballot that I will not support with my own vote!

Whatever your voting inclinations, DO NOT forsake this opportunity to set the course for Montgomery County’s future!  Get out and vote!

MontCo plan for airbase runway punted by Horsham LRA

Good article today in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Montgomery County’s poorly developed “plan” for preserving the runway at JRB Willow Grove.  The “plan” consisted of Montgomery Count expressing their desire to take possession of the runway as a “valuable future asset”.

That was it!  That’s the whole “plan”!! 

No financing, no maintenance, no discussion of feasibility …  certainly no responsibility either.  The County even went so far as to pointedly stress their lack of interest in running an airport.

Gee, what’s not to like?!? 

So the Horsham LRA punted that low-hanging fruit basket back at the County, and seemed to have a little fun doing it at Wednesday’s HLRA meeting.  

This development really changes nothing to the prospects for an airport, either for or against.  But it’s good to know that the “leadership” tenures of County Commissioners Jim Matthews and Joe Hoeffel will expire shortly!

Take the rest of the year off, guys …


And by the way, Bruce L Castor, Jr., who is running for re-election to the County Commission with Jenny Brown, has taken an anti-airport stance; backing local opposition to a commercial airport. 

Remember THAT in November’s election, Horsham!

Montgomery County (PA) Republican Committee endorsement night

Last night I attended the MCRC endorsement meeting for candidates running for county offices and for new and retained judges.  I serve as a Committee Member in Horsham Township (Area 11).  This was my first foray into the party endorsement process for endorsing nominees to run in a general election.  I was very interested in participating in the process and witnessing how a local party organization went about selecting endorsed candidates.

I was curious to see how open the process was; how objective the process would be; and to what extent back-room power politics might be involved.  I came away pleased in the way The Party went about this process, attempting to ensure a ticket that would win in November that would promote a management philosophy for Montgomery County reflective of Republican principles.  Endorsements do not preclude an unsuccessful party nominee from running as an independent, so the Party attempts to preserve unity behind the ticket by working to ensure a fair and impartial process.

Of course the big fight was for the head of the ticket, consisting of two Party candidates for the three seats on the county’s Board of Commissioners.  (Each party nominates two candidates.  But only the three top vote-getters are seated, ensuring one minority representative.  Please see another post on this blog for some well-publicized history on the soap opera-like relationship of the outgoing Board.)  The Montgomery County Democrats have nominated – unopposed – the up-and-coming State Representative Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards, a Whitemarsh supervisor.  Given Shapiro’s pull with Democrats, this should prove to be a hotly contested race this year.  The county GOP has lost its long-held advantage in voter registration.

The candidates for the two commissioner endorsements were current Commissioner Bruce L. Castor, Jr., Lower Merion Commissioner Jenny Brown, and State Representative Kate Harper.  Candidates Marie N. Cavanaugh and Jill Govberg withdrew their nominations after poor showings in a poll of county GOP leaders.

The crowd was huge, as was witnessed by the almost impossible task of finding parking if you got there after 6:30 for the beginning of festivities at 8:00 PM at Westover Country Club in West Norriton.  Of roughly 850 committee people eligible to vote on endorsements, over 500 were present.  With 234 proxy votes (Each committee member can vote for one other signed-over committee member proxy.) the number of potential ballots exceeded 700.  A truly impressive number!

There are rules by which any candidate must receive a majority of ballots cast to obtain a party nomination.  If additional ballots are necessary, there are also rules by which candidates must receive a minimum percentage of ballots cast to move on to subsequent rounds.  There were at least two rounds of balloting last night. But only Register of Wills required the second ballot.  Voting was done by anonymous ballot, using the same voting machines we see at our local polling places every Election Day.

After the usual political pep talk, provided by recently renewed County GOP Chair, Bob Kerns, only the remaining candidates for Commissioner were permitted roughly 2 minutes to make their final case.  This was – quite frankly – wholly unnecessary, since committee members have been bombarded with mailings and phone calls seeking support.  And given the crucial nature of the endorsements being sought for Commissioner, it was unlikely that a significant number of voting members did not have their candidate homework finished or their minds made up before entering the venue. 

On the first ballot, Bruce Castor and Jenny Brown won the party endorsements for Commissioner, with Brown leading the way as top vote-getter.  The race between Castor and Kate Harper was close, but not close enough to force a second round of balloting for endorsement.

There were a number of unopposed nominations for county row offices, including District Attorney (Risa Ventri Fermin), Coroner (Dr. Gordon Clement), Prothonotary (Bill Donnelly), Recorder of Deeds (Nancy Becker), Controller (Stewart J. Greenleaf Jr.), and Clerk of Courts (Moon Ahn). In addition to the candidates for Commissioner, the positions of Sheriff (Winner – Eileen Behr), Register of Wills (Patricia Mosesso) and Treasurer (H. Charles Wilson III) were contested endorsements.  Several sitting judges, Thomas Branca and Arthur Tilson, were nominated for 10-year retentions.  And two candidates for open judgeships (Maureen Coggins and Daniel Clifford) were endorsed, with several candidates withdrawing their nominations at the meeting.  Three candidates vying for the two judicial endorsements.  (Maureen Coggins really wowed me when she addressed Area 11 committee members in January!)

As for my own preferences, I was pleased with how closely my votes reflected the will of the collective committee.  I backed winners for all but Register of Wills (I voted for Valerie Harris.) and one of the judge positions (Backing Mr Sheierson – whose name I indubitably just butchered – in lieu of Dan Clifford).  I even had the winner in the mild upset victory of Chuck Wilson for Treasurer over party leadership-backed Martin Dyas.  I was much more impressed with Mr. Wilson’s background than that of Mr. Dyas when both addressed the Area 11 committee members during a January candidates meet ‘n greet.  

In the end, I was quite impressed, not only with the superb group of candidates the committee endorsed but also with the openness of the process.  At no time was there any attempts to pressure the committee members into rubber-stamping any pre-selected slate of favorites.  (A suggestion from my local committee chairman, sure.  But I went off the reservation for several positions.  And voted for the candidates I had decided on prior to last night.)

Certainly there must have been some horse-trading in the pre-meeting nuptials between Castor and Brown; but given the critical importance of this year’s election, one can accept the candidates’ efforts to develop the pairing most likely to succeed in November.

Montgomery County (PA) Republican politics

(Well, after trying to impress upon myself the need to build blog content in a regular, timely manner, I have already missed my schedule.  But frankly, I did not particularly like the appearance of what I had working, so maybe it’s best.)

Instead I’ll talk about one of my favorite topics … politics.  In this case, a look at our township Republican Committee meeting last night that allowed candidates for GOP endorsement to Montgomery County (PA) offices to address those local committee members who will decide the party’s November ticket.

If you’re from Montgomery County, you may or may not know the following:

  • MontCo is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania
  • MontCo had been – in decades past – solidly Republican.  Essentially, if you could make it onto the county Republican ticket, you were a shoe-in.  Not so any longer.  Now Democrats outnumber Republicans in the County, and this years election looks to be a tough contest.
  • Tom Corbett, who won the Pennsylvania Governorship last November, took almost every county in PA.  But he did not carry MontCo! 

Now, if you’re not from MontCo, you may be interested to learn that one of the outgoing County Commissioners is James Matthews, brother of MSNBC Hardball host – Chris Matthews.  I used to like Chris until he started sounding so shrill, and especially after his on-air I-got-a-thrill-up-my-leg bit when candidate Barack Obama made a speech during the 2008 Democratic primary.  Of course he wasn’t the only media type to suffer ThrillUptheLeg-itis that campaign season, but I digress.

Long, long story short … His brother, Jim was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2000, ran an unsuccessful campaign for Lt. Governor with former Pittsburgh Steeler, Lynn Swann.  He was re-elected to the Board in 2007, running with a reluctant ally in Bruce Castor.  But although BOTH Castor (#1 in balloting) and Matthews (#3) won seats on the Board (3 total), Matthews decided to strike a deal with the minority member of the Board, Democrat Joe Hoeffel!  This effectively froze Bruce Castor out of the County management process; and essentially handed the keys over to Hoeffel and the Democrats.  There is no greater betrayal – in my opinion – than an elected official pointedly, deliberately frustrating the intentions of the voters who put them in office! 

Fortunately, Matthews has been forced to see the writing on the wall.  And since he had no chance to capture a county GOP nod, he is not seeking re-election … not that he had much of a choice.

Anyways … to last night’s meeting …

The County will elect the following offices in November: Commissioners (3 … Dems and Reps run two-to-a-slate. Three top vote getter are in.  So you end up with two majority Commissioners and one minority Commissioner.), District Attorney*, Recorder of Deeds*, Prothonotary*, Coroner*, Controller*, Register of Wills, Sheriff, Treasurer, and Judges (2 this year).  The * offices have only one candidate running unopposed for the GOP nod.

Of those who appeared last night, I was most impressed with Bruce Castor, who really has his pulse on the County and seems itching to work on the Board with a willing and loyal fellow Republican so they can actually get things done RIGHT.  I also liked both Jill Govberg and Kate Harper.  But I’m told Kate does not play well with others in the Party.  Jill bothered me with lack of detail in a question I asked her on “misguided policies” she would change and her obfuscating answer on supporting the ticket if she does not get the nod.  Jenny Brown could not make the event for good local (Lower Merion) political reasons.  Disappointing … but I plan to call her as she was highly touted by several people.

As for the other contested nominations, I really enjoyed the appearances and off-the-cuff remarks of Valerie Harris and Denise Marshall for Register of Wills.  Eileen Behr – for Sheriff – is an interesting success story as the Chief of Police in Whitemarsh Township.  Chuck Wilson struck me as more qualified for Treasurer.  And I was truly impressed with Maureen Coggins for one of the Judge nominations, although all four candidates there seemed extremely qualified.

Even with all the people who spoke last night, it was not all that painful.  Last year, when the Horsham Republican Committee hosted candidates for the Pennsylvania 13th Congressional District opposing Allyson Schwartz, we only had 4-5 speakers.  But by the time night was FINALLY over, I felt like I ahd been waterboarded.  I knew then we had absolutely no chance beating Schwartz.  Last night was very, very different! 

The MontCo GOP caucus is February 9.  Being my first time as part of this process, I’m interested in seeing how this plays out.