A new day is coming to the third-largest county in Pennsylvania and the 2023 elections hold the key.
Long-time chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners – Val Arkoosh – resigned to take a position as Secretary of the Department of Human Services with the Shapiro administration.
“Working together as Montgomery County Commissioners, I saw Governor-Elect Shapiro’s commitment to enhancing the health and well-being of his constituents firsthand,” she said. “I look forward to advancing the Governor-Elect’s agenda.”
Days later, fellow Democrat Ken Lawrence Jr. announced that he would not seek reelection to the Board when his current term expires at the end of the calendar year.
“I never contemplated how long I would serve when I began this journey, but after a lot of thought and discussion with my family, it’s clear to me that ‘four more years’ is too long,” said Lawrence. “There have been high and low moments over the past six years, but through it all, I have considered it a privilege to be a public servant in Montgomery County.”
The first Black commissioner in Montco history, he was appointed to fill out the term of now-Governor Josh Shapiro upon his resignation to become Attorney General.
That leaves Republican Joe Gale as the lone possible incumbent in the race. He has not indicated whether he plans to stand for reelection.
He did, however, have some parting remarks about the departing Arkoosh.
“Dr. Arkoosh will long be remembered for her totalitarian response to the coronavirus pandemic,” wrote Gale in an op-ed. “She was one of nation’s most ardent defenders of business lockdowns, school shutdowns, and mask and vaccine mandates. Too often, big-government bureaucrats don’t just get it wrong, they get promoted. And, sadly, Valerie Arkoosh is the latest politician to fail forward.”
President Judge Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio has directed that Democrats interested in filling the Arkoosh vacancy should do so no later than next Monday, January 23.
Pursuant to the Montgomery County code, “Any casual vacancy in the office of county commissioners shall be filled, for the balance of the unexpired term, by the court of common pleas of the county in which such vacancy shall occur by the appointment of a registered elector of the county who was a member of the same political party as the commissioner whose place is to be filled at the time the commissioner was elected.” (16 P.S. § 501)
Montgomery County spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco said county officials are “hoping” to have the seat filled by the next commissioners’ meeting on Feb. 2.
The county’s Board of Judges will interview candidates and vote. According to Pennsylvania law, in the event of a tie, Carluccio will make the final call.
Until the position is filled, action items before the Board would be tabled in a tie (1-1) vote and placed on an agenda at a future meeting.