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MontCo GOP feud could spill into Lt. Gov. race

BLUE BELL—For more than a year, Montgomery County’s Republican Commissioners have been at each other’s throats politically. Commissioners Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor were elected by county voters in late 2007, promising the GOP control over county policy even as is struggled to hold onto voters. But Matthews infuriated Republicans by shunning Castor, instead forming a power-sharing agreement with Democratic Commissioner Joe Hoeffel. This has effectively locked Castor out of power, and embroiled the county GOP in bitter dispute.

Soon, that toxic climate—and the vitriol Matthews and Castor regularly hurl at each other—could move to a statewide stage, with both Commissioners interested in the party’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor.

Neither is aggressively pursuing the position, but both have made their interest known. For Matthews, it would be a second trip on the campaign trail; he was Lynn Swann’s running mate on the ticket’s unsuccessful big to unseat Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006.

In an interview at his law office here, Castor said he had reached out to state GOP chairman Rob Gleason, but was doing little else, for now, to pursue the race.

“I would be interested in the post if the party leadership and the gubernatorial candidate thought I gave them the best chance to win,” Castor said. “If they don’t, then I’m not interested in the post.”

Both describe each other as politically unfit for the position, an argument that would almost surely intensify if they both hit the campaign trail.

“I would be stunned if anybody would trust Jim Mathtews again, and the Attorney General is much too astute to make such a mistake,” Castor said.

At the same time, each would present political challenges for any gubernatorial candidate whose ticket they joined. Matthews is now something of a pariah in GOP circles because of his alliance with Hoeffel. The fact that his brother, MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews, is seen as a face of liberalism on TV doesn’t help either. Those traits could serve a ticket well in the general election, but would surely make getting there difficult.

Castor, similarly, has his own baggage. Coming from the southeast, like Matthews his only real shot at the office would be paired with western Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, the state Attorney General and early GOP gubernatorial front-runner. But Castor and Corbett have feuded before over Corbett’s relationship with Republican National Committeeman Bob Asher, who heads up Corbett’s exploratory committee for governor. The rift was hardened, insiders say, when the state party chose Corbett over Castor as its nominee for Attorney General in 2004. And in the recent corruption trail of former state Senator Vince Fumo, Castor, testifying for the defense, effectively admitted to some of the same type of political usage of government resources for which Fumo was eventually convicted. Hoeffel seized on the testimony, and other Republicans have said they would make it a campaign issue if they ran against Castor.

Castor said he would welcome any opponent bringing it up as an issue.

“I told the truth at the Fumo trial,” he said. “We had a disgruntled employee with a motive to try and make everybody look bad, and bottom line is he was rabidly anxious to get involved in politics, and i was reluctant to let him get involved. When I saw the extent of how untrustworthy he was, I got rid of him.”

Nonetheless, Castor appears to have an early leg-up on building a relationship with Corbett. A political supporter of Corbett recently reached out to both Castor and Philadelphia City Councilman Frank Rizzo to talk about a run. It remains unclear if Matthews and Corbett have talked about it. Matthews did not return multiple messages seeking comment last week. Montgomery County GOP Chairman Bob Kerns also did not return messages.

A longtime Montgomery County Republican insider said it was unlikely that either Commissioner would run for the office because of their political liabilities.

“I don’t see either one of them getting into the race because I don’t think either one of them would succeed,” the party insider said.

Hoeffel, who for months has been content to sit back and let Matthews and Castor snipe at each other, took the same detached approach when asked what it would be like if their feud went to a bigger stage.

“It would be pretty interesting,” he said. “I have no idea how that would play out.”

April 21, 2009 at 2:36 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [13] | post a comment

  1. Delco Dandy

    Apr 21st, 2009

    What about a Risa Ferman compromise?

  2. Dan Hirschhorn

    Apr 21st, 2009

    Hello Delco Dandy. This is Dan Hirschhorn, reporter, editor and publisher of pa2010.com.

    Thanks for commenting. Getting everyone involved in the conversation is critical to me, and I will often use these comment spaces to engage readers directly about their questions and comments.

    So, with that said, may I ask exactly what you mean by a “Risa Ferman compromise?”

    THANKS FOR READING!

  3. Montco Manny

    Apr 21st, 2009

    In order for there to be a “feud” doesn’t Matthews have to have someone — anyone — on his side? No one is on his side, he is universally despised and dismissed because of his dirty dealing with Hoeffel.

    Castor’s stock, on the other hand, has soared in Montco. Honestly, it’s never been higher and the county has a strong county chairman respected around the state for the first time in a long time.

    Ferman has absolutely no interest in statewide politics, especially not for a job like Lt. Governor, though the Democrats would love to dislodge her.

  4. David Diano

    Apr 21st, 2009

    Monto Manny sounds like a Castor stooge.
    Castor’s stock may be okay among the partisan GOP, bitter over the loss of GOP nepotism in county jobs. However, the county seems to running smoothly and Castor continues to come off like a spoiled partisan brat that can’t get his way.

    His kind of winning-party-take-all approach has been rejected in favor of bi-partisanship.
    I agree Castor has nothing but baggage and liabilities.

    BTW, Hoeffel is having so much fun, he should be paying the taxpayers for his front row seat to the Castor/Matthews show.

  5. [...] MontCo GOP feud could spill into Lt. Gov. race… [...]

  6. Montco Vet

    Apr 22nd, 2009

    Montco Manny, are you serious?

    Castor is just plain awful. He has NO stock amongst the voters anymore, and his relentless contrarian nature has gotten the best of him. Has anyone ever attended a commissioner’s meeting? Bruce doesn’t have a clue about what goes on in the county. He spends all his time disagreeing with Matthews and Hoeffel, even on issues that might be good for the county and could be considered in line with Republican principles. Matthews cannot and should not be excused for his complicity with Hoeffel on a whole host of issues, but Bruce is completely incapable of doing anything constructive to combat it. He lets his uncontrollable ego get the best of him, and he comes across like a buffoon.

    Castor is not a leader. Sorry. He used to be, but he’s not a leader anymore. He has too much baggage to be a viable candidate for higher office.

    And what does the Republican party chairman have to do with anything related to this discussion?

  7. Montco Manny

    Apr 22nd, 2009

    In selecting a Lt. Governor candidate? The party chairman has tons to do with it.

  8. Montco Manny

    Apr 22nd, 2009

    Oh and Dave, I don’t know what the view is from over there in Delaware County, but maybe you didn’t hear about Hoeffel and Matthews giving the Human Resources director job to Matthews secretary, a Republican with a high school diplmoa, ignoring all of the educated and qualified professionals.

    They didn’t put an end to anything. The cronyism and patronage is now Democrat instead of Republican. How is that good for the county?

    That is one example of dozens since this bastardization of election results took place.

  9. David Diano

    Apr 22nd, 2009

    Manny-
    You just used Matthews Republican secretary as an exmple of Democratic patronage.
    MY point was that Castor was crying over losing HIS ability to hand out patronage.

  10. Anonymous

    May 5th, 2009

    I say get rid of all of them and get some people that are going to understand that we are in a recession!!! Who is going to pay for all of the maintenance of these big projects??? The very taxpayers that are supporting these people, thats who!!!

  11. Jim

    Aug 16th, 2009

    I have watched with great interest the debacle that has become the public life of Bruce Castor. Those who live by the sword die by the sword and over the years the illustrious Mr. Castor has burned a lot of bridges on his ego-driven qwest for power and prestige. It all seems to be catcing up to him as his opportunities and list of supporter keep dwindling. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, which is what Castor had as D.A. Daddy can’t help you get into higher office now, can he Bruce baby?

  12. karen

    Sep 11th, 2009

    This whole conversation and article seem to me to
    be irrelevant, given the fact that Congressman Gerlach was not even mentioned. Quite frankly if the gop leadership just stepped aside and our bumbling commissioners paid attention to the jobs
    they were elected to do, we could move to a primary
    that could produce a very effective team. Governer
    Elect Gerlach and Lt.Governer Corbet pro business
    leadership meets law and order!

  13. Bill Shaw

    Sep 11th, 2009

    Didn’t Bruce Castor prove to be an idiot during the Fumo trial? Castor proved to be no better than Fumo and made a complete fool of himself.

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