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Gym, Gale Both Go Down to Surprising Defeats in Tuesday Primary

They are polar opposites politically, but they shared the same fate Tuesday night.

Progressive Philadelphia city councilor Helen Gym and Montco MAGA Republican Joe Gale were both defeated in Tuesday’s primaries, and both outcomes were viewed as surprising by political insiders.

In Philly’s Democratic primary for mayor, Gym had a narrow lead in the latest polls and the support of celebrity pols Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But she finished in third place with about 20 percent of the vote, well behind the victorious Cherelle Parker at 33 percent.

Parker, a former state representative and councilwoman, ran as a centrist Democrat. A Philadelphia native who campaigned on improving schools and public safety, Parker supports hiring more police and bringing back “stop and frisk” in the fight against crime.

“Under a Parker administration, every legal tool available, every constitutional tool available to our Police Department will be employed to ensure that we end this sense of lawlessness,” Parker said during the campaign.

In Montgomery County, incumbent GOP county commissioner and political firebrand Joe Gale was soundly defeated in his party’s primary, losing to both Liz Ferry and Tom DiBello. Both were endorsed by the Montco GOP, while Gale chose not to seek the party’s endorsement.

Gale, who was seeking his third term, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Last night was a great night for Montgomery County and the GOP,” said Republican Party Chairman Christian Nascimento. “Liz Ferry and Tom DiBello ran a hard, positive race that resonated with voters, and were able to overcome all the ridiculous negativity that was thrown at them.

“For the first time in over 10 years we will have a unified Republican ticket running for both seats on the County commission board. The hard work begins now, but I am so proud of how the party unified and came together to help get them across the line. This is a new day for the Montco GOP, and the first step towards returning Montgomery County to the example of responsible government that it once was.”

On the Democratic side, incumbent Jamila Winder (who was appointed in February to replace Val Arkoosh) and lawyer Neil Makhija beat out three others and will appear on the November ballots.

Likewise in Bucks County, endorsed GOP candidates Gene DiGirolamo, the incumbent, and Pamela Van Blunk beat unendorsed candidate Andrew Warren.  DiGirolamo and Van Blunk will appear on the November ballot running against Democrat incumbent commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia in the general election.

“We won big,” said Bucks GOP Chair Pat Poprik. “We had excellent candidates. We really did. And now for the fall, we have very strong candidates.”

In the statewide judicial races, Mongomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio will be the Republican nominee for Supreme Court justice, squaring off against Philadelphian Dan McCaffery, the Democratic nominee this fall.

Democrats comprise a 4-2 majority on the state’s high court, with the death of Chief Justice Max Baer last fall leaving the vacant seat.

And Megan Martin, a Delaware County native, who became the state Senate’s first secretary-parliamentarian, and Philadelphia Democrat Matt Wolf won their primaries and will contest for a seat on the Commonwealth Court.

Democrats Jill Beck, of Allegheny County and Philadelphian Tamika Lane will be on the ballot for two open seats in Superior Court, running against Republicans Maria Battista of Clarion County and Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Harry Smail Jr.

“Our entire endorsed slate of judicial candidates have won the Republican nominations for their respective races in November, and I couldn’t be happier about this team’s upcoming victories in the general,” said Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Lawrence Tabas. “From the beginning, we knew that these candidates would deliver wins in November and we are extremely happy the Republican electorate agreed with us.

“These four candidates will rule on the law as written and always uphold the Constitutions of Pennsylvania and the United States.”

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Convicted Murderer Appointed to Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors by Democrats is Back in Jail

The Montgomery County commissioners voted 2-1 to appoint a convicted murderer to the Prison Board of Inspectors last June.

Now that man, Vernon Steed, has been arrested again and is charged with forgery, identity theft, and theft by deception. Court records show he was unable to make bail and remains in custody.

Minority Republican Commissioner Joe Gale voted against Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Kenneth Lawrence Jr., opposing Steed’s appointment.

Gov. Josh Shapiro appointed Arkoosh as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She stepped down as county commissioners chair earlier this year. Arkoosh declined to comment about Steed.

In 1988, Vernon Steed was convicted of first-degree murder and served 32 years of a life sentence before his release in 2018.

At the June 2, 2022, meeting, Arkoosh said, “I just want to comment that I do intend to support Mr. Steed’s appointment. That he will bring an individual to the Prison Board of Inspectors with lived experience. And I think that will be an extremely important perspective to have as part of our county Prison Board of Inspectors.”

Gale said, “I would just like to point out the lived experience that this individual brings is 32 years in state prison for murder. So, I can’t support this, and we will need a roll call vote.”

Now Gale is telling his Democratic colleagues, “I told you so.”

Gale, who is running for re-election to the board, said in a press release, “It is unacceptable and embarrassing that a member of the Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors has been arrested and is being held in detention. It was an absolute disgrace for the Democrat County Commissioners to appoint a convicted murderer to the Prison Board of Inspectors in the first place. Now, less than a year later, their decision to override my opposition has proven to be a grave error in judgment, which jeopardized the safety and welfare of many.

“For the protection of the general public and all county employees and workers, Mr. Steed must be removed from the Montgomery County Prison Board of Inspectors immediately,” said Gale. “I have long advocated that appointees to the Prison Board must 1) Document an unblemished history as a law-abiding member of the community; and 2) Offer positive experience as a correctional officer, law enforcement officer, or legal practitioner well-versed in the criminal justice system.

“I fully expect that my input will now be heard and a qualified, law-abiding applicant will be chosen to replace Vernon Steed,” said Gale.

Kelly Cofrancisco, county communications director, said, “While the commissioners are unable to comment on this specific case, the county continues to support applicants from all backgrounds to apply to serve on Montgomery County boards and commissions in a volunteer capacity. The county remains committed to appointing residents with lived experience and diverse perspectives to serve in these positions.”

The prison board is a citizen’s oversight board with members appointed by the county commissioners and the courts.

As of Monday, Steed’s name was scrubbed from the Montgomery County website. Steed resigned from the board on April 21, Cofrancisco said.

A notice on the website said applications for a new member are being sought.

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Eight Contenders Run for Montgomery County Commissioner in May

Three Republicans and five Democrats will be on the primary election ballot on May 16, seeking two slots for each party for the November race to fill the three-seat Montgomery County Commissioners Board.

With Democrat Jamila Winder as the only endorsed incumbent in the race, the contest for commissioner is more competitive than it has been for years.

Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence, Jr. is not seeking another term. Republicans Liz Ferry and Tom DiBello gained their party’s endorsement. Republican incumbent Commissioner Joe Gale, who portrays himself as an outsider, did not seek it.

Locally the GOP is operating at a significant voter deficit, with 202,880 registered Republicans to 301,156 Democrats. Voter rolls show 95,653 registered independents or those belonging to other parties.

It is those independent voters that Ferry believes Republicans can sway. She argued Democrats have drifted too far to the left to appeal to most residents.

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale

“We care about things the normal, working residents of Montgomery County care about,” Ferry told DVJournal.

Ferry is an Upper Dublin Township commissioner, the only Republican on a seven-member board there.

“I’ve been able to get things done,” said Ferry. “That’s my objection to Joe Gale. After seven years, besides voting no, he has no accomplishments. And I’ve been able to get no tax increases budgets passed, reduce expenditures and find innovative ways of doing things. And I think that’s what we need.”

Montgomery County taxes have increased 8 percent this year, 8 percent the previous year, and 5 percent the year before that.

“And again, nobody’s doing the homework to say what’s going on, why costs are increasing, and what can we do not to raise taxes on residents who already are feeling the effects of all the things that happened in the last couple of years, with the pandemic and now inflation,” Ferry said.

DiBello holds a master’s degree in information systems, has worked for large companies, and has owned a small business. He served as Limerick Township auditor from 2006 to 2014 and on the Limerick Board of Supervisors from 2002 to 2004, as well as on the Spring-Ford School Board from 2009 through 2021, where he was president five times.

He described himself as “very involved in the community.”

“Crime is rising throughout the county, carjackings, murders,” DiBello said. “I felt with my background and experience; it was time for me to run for county commissioner and focus on getting the county on the right track again.”

DiBello noted he would be a full-time commissioner and not have another job. He said he would address issues of election integrity, such as ballot-box stuffing, that have arisen in the past few elections. He plans to support military veterans and service members and work to address homelessness in the county.

Echoing DiBello’s remarks about crime, Ferry argued current commissioners had approved a “matrix” to reduce bail so that criminals charged with a crime are released rather than waiting in jail until their trials.

“It’s a more sophisticated version of what Larry Krasner is doing in Philadelphia,” said Ferry. “Bad apples are committing crimes on our communities and then immediately getting out and doing it again.”

Incumbent Joe Gale, meanwhile, said he has consistently voted against tax increases. He also voted against the recent 12 percent increase for commissioners’ salaries and pledged to refuse that pay increase.

First elected in 2015, Gale said he had been a watchdog for the county taxpayers during his tenure as a minority member. He claimed Ferry and DiBello had voted to increase taxes during their time in public office.

Commissioner Jamila Winder

In addition to Winder, Democrats running are Tanya Bamford, Kimberly Koch, Neil Makhija, and Noah Marlier.

Bamford is a Montgomery Township supervisor. Koch is a Whitpain Township supervisor. Makhija is an attorney and executive director for Impact, an Indian American civic organization. And Marlier is the county prothonotary.

Ferry argued that whoever is elected should be singularly focused on the commissioner’s job.

“We need a person who does not plan to run for other offices” and will be devoted to running the county well, she said.

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GALE: Entitlement and Greed Behind Montco Commissioners’ Vote To Raise Their Own Pay

While Santa Claus is saying ho, ho, ho Montgomery County’s Democrat commissioners are once again saying go, go, go to higher property taxes.

As a result, homeowners will see their 2023 county tax bill soar by eight percent. It will be the fifth rate increase in the last eight years.

Money grabs have become the new normal as Democrat Commission Chair Val Arkoosh has established a long history of raising taxes (see 2016, 2017, 2021, and 2022). But it wasn’t without help. For example, the 2016 tax hike was passed with “yes’’ votes from now Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and my Republican predecessor on the Board of Commissioners, Bruce Castor.



Truth be told, I am the only Montgomery County Commissioner in over a decade to vote ‘no’ to a tax increase.

And I have done so consistently, as it is my moral and fiduciary duty to be a conservative watchdog for the silent majority who are sick and tired of being fleeced by wasteful and reckless spending.

Speaking of wasteful and reckless spending, I recently voted “no” to a 12 percent pay raise for elected officials and went on the record to refuse participation in the compensation package that the Democrat county commissioners voted to approve. That’s right, I am NOT taking the money.

It is stunning and appalling that my colleagues had the nerve to award themselves a taxpayer-funded salary increase during a time when so many people are out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

The sense of entitlement and greed is overwhelming. In fact, the excess is so rampant that it is nearly impossible to detail the county’s many layers of largesse. The most egregious of which involves the decadent renovation of the justice center in Norristown.

Thanks to spiraling construction costs and countless contract amendments, the price of this boondoggle has already surpassed $400 million. The final tab is anybody’s guess. But what’s for sure is Montgomery County taxpayers will be footing the enormous bill.

In addition to shining a spotlight on extravagant capital budget expenditures, I have also opposed millions of dollars in outrageous spending related to the county’s bloated operating budget – which includes, among other things, a multitude of mail-in voting contracts and woke Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training.

Now is not the time for more of the same. Facing the hurdles of runaway food and energy prices, empty store shelves, and shrinking 401(k)s, the last thing families, retirees and small businesses need is the burden of higher taxes thrown in their faces.

In these uncertain times, Montgomery County residents deserve a voice of sanity. And I will continue to be that voice in an effort to restore common sense and fiscal responsibility to the county courthouse.

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Shapiro Promises No New Taxes, But Critics Say He’s Broken That Pledge Before

Democrat Josh Shapiro promises to cut taxes if elected governor.

Specifically, Shapiro says he would cut the cellphone tax, send $250 gas tax rebates to car owners, and expand the property tax and rent rebate program. Both Shapiro and his Republican opponent, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, agree the state’s corporate taxes  — the second highest in the country — should be reduced to attract businesses and jobs.

But Shapiro had a record of raising taxes when he served as a Montgomery County commissioner, despite promising voters during the campaign that he would not.

Shapiro voted to raise Montgomery County property taxes in 2015 and 2016 by a total of 21 percent. In 2015, Shapiro had just been re-elected as commissioner and in 2016, he had been elected as attorney general and was leaving his county post when he voted to again raise taxes.

Before being elected county commissioner, Shapiro pledged not to raise taxes.

In 2016, Joe Gale, the minority Republican Commissioner, called the tax increases “a money grab.”

Gale pointed out that in addition to hiking property taxes, Shapiro and Commissioner Val Arkoosh also voted to increase health inspection fees on businesses by 2 percent over three consecutive years. And Shapiro voted to increase the vehicle registration fees for county car and truck owners. The two Democratic commissioners also voted to increase the hotel tax by 100 percent. Shapiro voted to institute a separate community college levy, having the taxpayers pay for it separately and removing the county’s contribution to the college from the general fund, freeing up $22 million, said Gale.

“Josh Shapiro campaigned for county commissioner on a no-tax pledge, yet within weeks of being re-elected commissioner, Shapiro voted to increase taxes by 10 percent,” Gale said at the time. “Just a few weeks after being elected to his new position (attorney general), he’s increased taxes by 11 percent.”

Gale said, “There’s a pattern here. You elect Josh Shapiro on a Tuesday and the next week you’re hit with a double-digit tax increase…A 21 percent tax increase over the course of two years is outrageous.”

Skippack resident Mike Marino, a former Montgomery County Commissioners chair, said Shapiro “imposed an assessment as a contribution to Montgomery County Community College. It appears on my county bill of over $100 each year. It was a sneaking way of raising your taxes without calling it a tax. He is a typical Democrat that constantly raises taxes and then states that he does not. Just another attempt to deceive the public. Exactly the same tricks as Joe Biden.”

For his part, Shapiro tweeted on June 22, “As county commissioner, I inherited a deficit – so I got to work. I balanced our budget, and by the end of my term, Montgomery County was back on track to financial stability. Experience matters.”

Shapiro’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment about Shapiro’s record on taxes.

Gale, who had also run for governor but lost to Mastriano in a crowded Republican primary, added, “Josh Shapiro is, and has always been, a tax and spend liberal who has never seen a money grab he didn’t like. Once elected governor, he will grow the size of government and the already bloated state budget.”

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