A Newhouse/Public Opinion Strategies poll has the Republican candidates for Montgomery County commissioner rising, while their Democratic challengers are sinking.
The poll shows Republican Bruce L. Castor Jr., the Montgomery County district attorney, leading the pack with 52 percent, followed by Joe Hoeffel, a former Congressman, at 44 percent. The big news is the rise of Jim Matthews, an incumbent Montgomery County commissioner. Matthews, at 43 percent, has pulled to within one percentage point of Hoeffel. Trailing the field is incumbent Ruth Damsker, with 34 percent.
This is a much-watched race that could set the stage for the 2008 presidential race. Whoever wins Southeastern Pennsylvania will win Pennsylvania. And whoever wins Pennsylvania could be the next president of the United States. Having control of county government is essential for political parties.
If the poll numbers carry through Election Day, the commissioners' board will consist of Castor, Matthews and Hoeffel, with the two Republicans holding the majority.
The recent criminal charges filed against the campaign manager for Hoeffel and Damsker may have something to do with the Democrats' falling popularity.
Joanne C. Olszewski, a county party leader and co-chair of the Hoeffel-Damsker campaign, recently resigned as Montgomery County jury commissioner when she was implicated in an illegal video machine gambling probe. Olszewski quit the Hoeffel-Damsker campaign, but she is holding on to her county party post.
An earlier Newhouse poll had Matthews ahead of Damsker by six percentage points. He's now pulled ahead by nine points and could overtake Hoeffel to finish in second place.
That would leave Hoeffel and Damsker to battle it out for the final seat.
In addition to the bad publicity the Hoeffel-Damsker team has received, voters may also be realizing how expensive things will get if the liberal Democrats take control of county government.
According to veteran Montgomery County Courthouse reporter Margaret Gibbons of the Norristown Times-Herald, Hoeffel-Damkser have proposed more than $100 million in new spending during their campaign. Somebody has to pay for all the growth in government. Taxpayers are in no mood to pay more taxes.