Winning elections is hard work. Running against well-known opponents with deep pockets is a challenge even for an incumbent or an elected official seeking a different office.
One of the most watched races on Nov. 6 will be the contest for Montgomery County commissioner. Republicans have controlled county government for more than 130 years. But some in the party are getting nervous as Election Day approaches.
The GOP candidates are incumbent Commissioner Jim Matthews and Bruce L. Castor Jr., the current county district attorney, who passed up what would have been automatic re-election to run for one of three open county commissioner seats.
The Democratic candidates are incumbent Commissioner Ruth Damsker and former U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel, who also served as a Montgomery County commissioner before winning a seat in Congress.
Although the Democrats have been chipping away at the voter registration lead Republicans had, the GOP is still dominant in Montgomery County. And while Damsker and Hoeffel have name recognition and lots of money to spend, they haven’t exactly electrified voters with their agenda of higher spending and a more government bureaucracy.
What worries Republicans more is fellow Republicans with their own agenda. The combination of a dull campaigner in Matthews, the inept leadership of Montgomery County Republican Chairman Ken Davis and the party’s ties to convicted felon Robert Asher could prove to be a huge obstacle for the party to overcome.
The Castor-Matthews ticket was a shotgun wedding forced on both men by the county Republican Committee, which has been split since Davis was narrowly elected chairman. Castor wanted a clean break from the Davis-Asher team that has presided over a string of embarrassing defeats for Republicans at the polls in recent years.
Castor also made it clear he won't take any money from Asher, who was convicted in 1986 on charges of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, four counts of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering, and one count of perjury. The case also involved former state Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who was convicted in the bribery scheme. Dwyer was the guy who shot himself during a televised press conference.
Despite his past legal troubles, Asher is the darling of a certain segment of the Republican Party, both at the county and state level. Some Republicans apparently believe that lots of money makes past sins go away.
Davis has also hurt the party because his lobbying firm was awarded a huge county contract by Matthews and Tom Ellis, the other GOP commissioner.
Matthews is one of those people who can't live without Asher's money or Davis' lousy political instincts. Visit Jim Matthews Exposed Web site for more.
A recent poll showed Castor ahead in the commissioners' race, with Hoeffel second and Matthews barely keeping ahead of Damsker, who brought up the rear. Instead of hitching his wagon to a winner like Castor, Matthews keeps running back to Davis and Asher.
Matthews has set up his own campaign fund and has hired his own consultants, which begs the question: Is Matthews trying to lose the race for the Republicans?
Castor is a proven vote-getter who appeals to Republicans, Democrats and independents. He has an outstanding track record as the county's top law enforcement officer and can keep the county commissioners in GOP hands for another four years.
From the start, Castor was willing to unify the party and run with Matthews as long as Davis and Asher kept their distance. That isn't happening. Matthews appears to be running his own campaign, with Davis and Asher pulling the strings. That is a recipe for disaster.
As the campaign enters the home stretch, Montgomery County Republican leaders better send a clear message to Davis and Asher to stop their meddling. The only people Davis and Asher have helped so far is the Democratic candidates.