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EXCLUSIVE: Hoeffel will run for governor

EXCLUSIVE: Hoeffel will run for governor

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel has decided to seek the Democratic nomination for governor, jumping into an increasingly crowded primary field as he seeks to portray himself as a progressive standard-bearer for the party.

Hoeffel, fueled by a concern that the party may be tacking right, made his decision after commissioning a poll on the race that his campaign said yielded encouraging results. While no formal announcement has been scheduled, Hoeffel, a former Congressman, is in the process of staffing up for his first statewide campaign since he lost a Senate race to Arlen Specter in 2004.

“I do intend to run,” he told in an exclusive interview on Sunday. “I’m going to move forward aggressively. I’m in the race and ready to ride.”

An internal poll by noted Democratic pollster Celinda Lake found Hoeffel holding a narrow lead in a five-way Democratic primary. In the survey of 800 likely primary voters, 15 percent said they would support Hoeffel, compared to 12 percent each for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and state Auditor General Jack Wagner. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox trailed the pack with six percent and five percent, respectively. The campaign released a poll memo but not the complete details of the survey itself, making its veracity difficult to assess. But Hoeffel was almost certainly boosted by the positive description used by interviewers, who called him “the one true progressive leader in this race, not afraid to stand up for working families, even when it’s politically unpopular.” The poll was consistent with other surveys in showing a majority of voters still undecided. [See the poll memo here.]

The political challenges for Hoeffel going forward are considerable, but he could very well be boosted by a geographic base in the heart of the Democratic primary electorate. He seemed destined for political obscurity after giving up his House seat in a failed bid to unseat Specter five years ago. After being elected a county commissioner, he was looking at a term as the minority opposition in county government. But Hoeffel forged a power-sharing agreement with Republican Commissioner Jim Matthews, locking out Republican Bruce Castor and amassing a significant amount of control over policy in the suburban Philadelphia county.

He won’t have the financial resources of a candidate like Knox, and may lack insider support compared to Onorato. But hailing from Montgomery County, which has led the leftward political trend in the Philadelphia suburbs over the last decade, has made Hoeffel a mainstay of party politics in southeast Pennsylvania, where the Democratic primary is likely to be decided. And having been prominently placed on a statewide ballot in 2004, his name recognition is likely to exceed other candidates.

“That’s probably why I have a narrow lead right now,” Hoeffel said. “I’ve got to build on that.”

Since news of his interest in the race first broke, Hoeffel has voiced concern that the party lacks a viable progressive candidate. While never criticizing them directly, his sentiments have clearly been aimed at Onorato and Wagner, who are seen as more socially conservative than the party’s liberal base.

“The other Democrats who are running are all good people, good public officials,” Hoeffel said. “We’ve got differences in policy matters, which should make for a healthy debate.

“I think the Democratic Party’s at a crossroads, and I don’t want to see it veer to the right,” he added. “I think the party’s got to hold the progressive center in Pennsylvania.”

He defined that “progressive center” as being “socially liberal and fiscally responsible.”

“That’s what I will stand for,” Hoeffel said.

He is only just starting to build a campaign team, but already has hired area political consultants Lou Freimiller and Lauren Townsend, whose Cheltenham-based firm has worked for various local Democrats.

Correction: This article originally included erroneously a politician represented by political consultants Lou Freimiller and Lauren Townsend. Freimiller has worked for Allyson Schwartz in the past, but the firm has not.

September 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm

--Dan Hirschhorn

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comments [19] | post a comment

  1. […] I said yesterday, Joe Hoeffel is running for governor. “I do intend to run,” he told in an exclusive interview on Sunday. “I’m going to […]

  2. […] Hoeffel will run for governor… […]

  3. The Pennsylvania Guardian

    Sep 20th, 2009

    Obama and Rendell are both falling in the polls and Hoeffel wants to take the party even further to the left ???

    Who’s financing his campaign ? The GOP !!!

  4. Is he for real?

    Sep 20th, 2009

    Since Hoeffel plans on running for governor does he plan on resigning from the County Commission. Afterall he is the author of the county ethics policy which require top county staffers to resign before a run for office.

    No time like the present to practice what he preaches.

  5. Mark Copple

    Sep 20th, 2009

    The tactical team of Sestak + Hoeffel running for the soul of the party in PA.

  6. North Wales Dem

    Sep 20th, 2009

    Hoeffel is not even on the statewide radar screen if it was not for his deal with Jim Matthews.

    Thank God for Matthews. He’s the Democrats best friend.

  7. Alex

    Sep 20th, 2009

    What does happen to his commissioner job while he runs?

  8. Tim

    Sep 20th, 2009

    I don’t know what to think.
    Does he stand a chance in the primary?

  9. David Diano

    Sep 20th, 2009

    Sestak + Hoeffel


    Specter + Hoeffel (I’ll pay extra for front seats to that)

  10. Brian Kline

    Sep 20th, 2009

    With help from netroots activists touting a Sestak-Hoeffel progressive ticket, Hoeffel will become the first candidate to emerge from the crowded field. He is the candidate the Democratic base and the media have been waiting for all these months. His flirting over the summer has already forced Chris Doherty to open his campaign with a pro-choice position statement in hopes of winning over Southeast progressives.

  11. Jon Geeting

    Sep 20th, 2009

    I’m optimistic. The name recognition is key. The Sestak/Hoeffel primary is a sure thing in Southeast PA, certainly Philly.

  12. WPA

    Sep 21st, 2009

    Hoeffel splits the vote no question. It weakens knox and Doherty and helps Onorato because he’s got the money in a crowded field. Wagner may be the sleeper in this race.

  13. Obamarox

    Sep 21st, 2009

    Reverse math because they won’t release the full poll … 800 people: 400 people undecided (50%), 120 for Hoeffel (15%), 96 each for Wagner and Onorato (12% each), 48 for Doherty (6%) and 40(5%) for Knox … margin of error 28 people (3.5%) either way.

    Just as in the GOP field and previous statewide surveys, this confirms that voters are not ready to make up their minds until they hear a campaign from the candidates.

    I think that they should release the entire survey as part of a commitment to transparency. We need more openness in government and in campaigns. Release the questions and release the data. I know it won’t happen but that is how I feel.

  14. steelersfan

    Sep 21st, 2009

    The more crowded the race gets, the less chance that Onorato will run. The corporate interests pulling his strings had a simple idea: muscle people out and declare him the front runner based on cash alone. Well, now we have a string of polls that say people want a campaign. They want to hear people say what they have done and what they are going to do. The Onorato strategy plan has blown up. He is not the inevitable candidate.

    If Dan the Taxing Man has to defend his tax hikes on working people, his sweetheart deals to his wealthy contributors, and his disastrous tunnel to nowhere, he will get clobbered. My prediction is that Onorato will not run and pocket the money for a future campaign.

  15. terrie m

    Sep 21st, 2009

    Steelersfan, I know you like Wagner and there is some interesting stuff in the poll for you. When the pollsters look at favorables, Wagner is tops at 29% positive. That finding is buried in there as a little nugget.

    They also ask a second time who people will vote for after a brief positive statement. You ought to go read the positives. Hoeffel’s reads a little differently than the others — more like a policy list for the future without identifying Joe through his biography or actual work in Congress or as County Commissioner – while the other four candidates are described in more biographical and accomplishment oriented terms. However, the statements contain no negative attacks so they are just the positive messages.

    There is some bad news for your other pet peeve, Dan Onorato. After they read these positive descriptions of the five potential candidates. Hoeffel goes up to 23, Wagner goes up to 18 and Knox to 12. Doherty goes to 6. Even though they don’t mention the beer tax or any other negative, Onorato actually loses ground going down to 11. I thought you would enjoy that.


    Sep 21st, 2009

    Our prosecutor just ate up a Hoeffel like opponent in the state and the Philly suburbs last year. You people have got to learn that the rest of the state – and that includes most suburban voters – does not buy this Hoeffel kid. We tried him a few years ago and sent him back with his bottom spanked but good. Our GOP message is: if we would not send him to Washington, what makes you think we would trust him in Harrisburg? We need a prosecutor to clean up the state.

  17. Lee Levan

    Sep 21st, 2009

    ” We need a prosecutor to clean up the state.”

    GOPHAWK, Don’t you mean to prosecute Democrats only (as he did in “Bonusgate”?

  18. Tim

    Sep 21st, 2009

    Hey Lee
    Are you aware that BonusGate isn’t even over?
    Just wait Lee.

  19. m1

    Nov 14th, 2009

    As went New Jersey, so goes Pennsylvania. The American voters are sick of the all the failed, shove down your throat, job killing, liberally derranged ideas progressives are touting.Higher Taxes, Intrusions in the private lives of people. we will not vote for any progressive, not happy with republicans either. The person that will win will be conservative with taxpayer dollars. Kitchen Table issues.

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