Monday, August 06, 2007

Taxes could be downfall for Berks Democrats

With three months to go until the November election, it's looking more like a GOP sweep in Berks County.

After four years in the wilderness, Republicans are poised to regain majority control of the Berks County Board of Commissioners and it appears Recorder of Deeds candidate John Fielding will keep the only contested row office in GOP hands.

The commissioners' race took a dramatic turn last month when incumbent Democrat Judy Schwank dropped a bombshell and announced she was dropping out of the race. Schwank, the top vote-getter in the May primary, decided not to run for a third term. Instead she accepted a job as president and CEO of the advocacy group, 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania.

Without Schwank, a proven vote-getter and fund-raiser, at the top of the ticket, Democrats are left to fight for the lone minority seat on the three-member board.

Expect incumbent Republican Mark Scott and GOP newcomer Christian Leinbach to finish 1-2 in the voting in November.

Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Tom Gajewski will have to battle Schwank's replacement on the ballot, Kevin S. Barnhardt, for the third spot on the board. And don't be surprised if Barnhardt, who has Scwank's endorsement and financial support, knocks Gajewski off the board.

Even before Schwank's departure, the Democratic majority of Schwank and Gajewski had to defend the 34 percent property tax increase they passed during their current term. Berks County residents are mad as hell about the lack of progress on the property tax issue and they were looking to punish incumbents who supported tax hikes.

The GOP candidates simply have to remind voters that Gajewski helped pass a 34 percent property tax hike.

It also helps that Scott and Leinbach have promised no new taxes if they're elected. Who are Berks voters going to support. Somebody who says they won't raise taxes or a Democrat who voted for a 34 percent tax hike?

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