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The Gloves Are Off in the Montco Commissioner Race

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

With the November election just weeks away, the Montgomery County Commissioner Race is living up to the hype as a race to watch. Democratic and Republican candidates are pulling out all the stops to garner enough votes in time for this heated election.

On Monday, Democratic candidates Josh Shapiro and Leslie Richards released a statement attacking Republican incumbent Commissioner Bruce Castor for failing to support legislation that Democrats argue would give the county revenue from the Valley Forge Casino scheduled to open next spring.

Shapiro and Richards are labeling Castor as a flip-flopper. Under current legislation the money goes to a state fund which is used for specific projects. Shapiro has introduced amendments in the Pa. House that would direct funds directly to counties. The campaign blasted Castor, who has voiced support for such measures in the past, for failing to endorse Shapiro’s effort.

To which the Castor and running mate Jenny Brown responded: OK.

“We support the efforts of our entire legislative delegation in Harrisburg in making sure that Montgomery County receives its fair share of casino revenues so that the next administration can have all the help it needs to undo the financial damage created by the borrow-and-spend policies of the past four years,” the Republicans said in a campaign statement.

As Jeremy Roebuck quipped in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “leave it to two Montgomery County political opponents to find a way to disagree about something they both fundamentally support.”

Perhaps the most interesting criticism from the Democrats is their direct assault on Jenny Brown vis-a-vis the Tea Party.

On Friday, one local Tea Party group formally invited all four Commissioner candidates to participate in a debate. Prior to that, apparently only Brown had met with one of the conservative groups. The Shapiro/Richards campaign took as an opening to assign the label to Brown.

“I think it is instructive that Jenny Brown met with the Tea Party, said she shared their partisan values and last week said that bi-partisanship is a terrible idea,” said Richards. And that wasn’t all. She called the Tea Party, “a cover organization for those who are the most partisan and extreme in our society and their candidates tend to be people like Christine O’Donnell, Michelle Bachmann and, apparently, Jenny Brown.”

Montco GOP spokesman Steve O’Toole brushed it off, and noted that the Shapiro/Richards campaign itself had borrowed from Tea Party policy proposals.

“The Shapiro-Richards campaign is using the Tea Party label to ‘attack’ Jenny Brown while at the same time using two of the Tea Party’s core platforms — zero-based budgeting and a no-tax pledge — as cornerstones of this campaign. Clearly they are out of ideas and have been reduced to childish name-calling,” said O’Toole.

“Our opponents have no choice but to attempt to distract the voters with name-calling and petty politics, but they cannot distract the voters from the Shapiro-Richards record of increased taxes, spending and debt. And nothing can change the fact that neither Jenny Brown nor Bruce Castor has ever raised taxes and that both have fought against reckless spending and increased debt at every turn. Our opponents cannot say the same.”

It’s an interesting maneuver, and likely an effort by Shapiro/Richards to fire up their Democratic base and raise Brown’s negatives. Polls show that the Tea Party’s approval ratings tend to be around even, especially among independent.

Correction: After a friendly note from the Shapiro/Richards campaign challenging the above statement, we delved into recent PA polling to back up our statement about the Tea Party. After going through several public opinion polls from the past few months, we weren’t able to find it. Indeed a Quinnipiac survey from late September showed that just 8 percent of southeast PA voters (excluding Philadelphia) consider themselves part of the Tea Party. And this national poll from Pew shows only 30 percent of independents support the Tea Party movement.

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