"Since I was elected chairman and even while I was campaigning, everywhere I went, I was asked 'What are we going to do about Jim Matthews'?," county GOP Chairman Bob Kerns said in a press release announcing the censure.
"The voters I talk to feel betrayed and the Republican committee members are just devastated by Jim's actions. The voters placed their trust in Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor and the committee members put their hearts into the campaign to elect the Matthews-Castor team last year. This has been a difficult year for everyone," Kerns said.
Matthews rode Bruce Castor's coattails to re-election last November, but on Dec. 18, he announced that he had negotiated a power-sharing agreement with the lone Democrat on the three-member commissioners board. The deal made Democrat Joe Hoeffel vice chairman of the commissioners. Hoeffel then proceeded to hire all sorts of political cronies to lucrative county jobs.
Most votes taken by the board have been 2-1, with Matthews and Hoeffel getting their way over the objections of Castor.
More from Kerns' release:
"Montgomery County's voters pick the person, not the party. It's been that way for two decades and Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor campaigned on a set of priorities that are not being implemented. Instead, we're implementing the major priorities outlined by Joe Hoeffel and Ruth Damsker, but that agenda was rejected by voters in favor of a Matthews-Castor agenda. The voters have to know we don’t condone what’s happening in Norristown."Since taking over control of the county party in the spring, Kerns said he attempted to "bring Matthews back to the table."
As an example Kerns cited the Hoeffel promises of hiring a Chief Financial Officer, enacting a $50 million economic development plan, and Hoeffel's record in the 1990s of running up debt and paying for budget items with bond issues.
"When Hoeffel left the Board of Commissioners in 1998 he left us with hundreds of millions in debt and just $12 million in the bank. Our AAA bond rating was threatened. It was a disaster. Hoeffel and Matthews are pursuing policies that will put us right back in the same hole. This year alone they are looking to raid the county’s dwindling savings to pay for their programs. It's not the way Republicans would run this government. Jim Matthews got elected in 1999 and again in 2007 by pointing out what a disaster Hoeffel was as a commissioner in the 1990's. Now he's forming a government with him and implementing Hoeffel's agenda? It makes no sense and our committee and the voters are confused and hurt,” Kerns said.
"I did meet with him in early summer in the hopes of bridging the divide between he and his Republican colleagues in county government. He made it clear that he was not interested in any kind of reconciliation. I continued to pursue the matter through intermediaries throughout the fall," Kerns said in the release.
“At some point, we have to decide to move on and accept that, based on his actions, he is not a Republican anymore. No matter how often Jim insists he is a Republican, you are ultimately judged by how you govern and your record, not your words," Kerns said.
Kerns said on Election Day many committee members reported incidents where voters stopped to express their disgust with Matthews on their way into the polls.
"In the end, Jim's actions are the actions of an individual, not the Party. That is the message I hope people take away from this resolution. The party is standing up and making its position clear. We don't agree with Jim, we don't condone what he's doing as a Commissioner and he's not representative of our Party as long as he's engaging in this behavior. Don't blame the Party for the actions of one man," Kerns concluded.
A total of 56 Republican municipal leaders, area leaders and executive committee members attended Monday's Leadership Conference, where the censure vote against Matthews was taken.