Montgomery County Commission Chair Valerie Arkoosh has weighed in on her county’s Democratic congressional primary, urging former Congressman Joe Hoeffel to butt out.
Arkoosh is a leading Democrat in the county. Hoeffel, 67, has served as state representative, county commissioner, and Congressman, and he’s run for U.S. Senate, governor and lieutenant governor, 16 campaigns in all.
In a Facebook video posted Saturday, Arkoosh said that being a perpetual candidate isn’t a qualification for office.
“Joe seems to really like to run for office, but not necessarily govern once he gets there,” she said in the video.
The 4th Congressional district, recently drawn by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, has most of Montgomery County and leans Democratic.
There were three women in the race before Hoeffel entered — state Reps. Mary Jo Daley and Madeleine Dean, and former CeaseFire PA director Shira Goodman.
Daley has since dropped out and endorsed Dean.
Arkoosh said Hoeffel’s name recognition from his years in politics could attract voters, but she said she remembers what county government was like after Hoeffel finished his last term as commissioner in 2012.
“I was very disappointed to find the mess that Joe left behind at the county, and I continue to this day to clean that mess up,” Arkoosh said in the video.
She cited the depletion of the county’s financial reserves, its failure to make payments to the pension fund, a bond downgrade, and “a grand jury report that raised serious ethical questions about Joe’s behavior.”
Hoeffel’s final term as county commissioner were tumultuous. The two Republican commissioners, Bruce Castor and James Matthews (brother of MSNBC host Chris Matthews) had a falling out, so Hoeffel made an inter-party alliance with Matthews to run county government.
A 2011 grand jury report was tougher on Matthews than Hoeffel, but it did raise questions about the awarding of county contracts.
Hoeffel denounced the report at the time as sloppy and politically-biased. He was not charged with any crime. Matthews was accused of perjury, a charge that eventually was dropped.
Hoeffel said in a phone interview that he was disappointed in Arkoosh’s remarks.
He insisted the county was well-managed when he was commissioner:
“We had to deal with the great recession of 2008,” he said.
He said the county’s pension fund was more than 100 percent-funded when the recession hit, and the commission’s decision to skip some payments was the right call.
“In order to make the budget work in a very tough time we had to make some tough decisions,” Hoeffel said, “but we left the county in good shape. It was not the mess than Val says.”
Three down the stretch
Hoeffel said he has the experience and contacts to have an immediate impact in Washington, but he’s well behind his two competitors in fundraising.
Campaign finance reports filed over the weekend show that as of March 31, Dean had $385,460 on hand (with the help of a $250,000 personal loan). Goodman had $134,642, and Hoeffel had only $20,038.
Arkoosh said in her video that Hoeffel’s name recognition could make him a spoiler in the race and keep two deserving women from their chance to go to Washington.
“I’m calling on Joe to withdraw from the primary election,” she said.