On Tuesday voters in all the suburban Philadelphia counties will be selecting county commissioner (or council) candidates. This post is a look at one particular aspect of one of those races.
In Montgomery County each party is fielding an incumbent paired with a familiar name in county politics. For the Democrats the incumbent is Ruth Damsker and her running mate is Joe Hoeffel, who previously served as congressman, county commissioner, and state representative. The Republicans are represented by incumbent Jim Matthews and current county District Attorney Bruce Castor. Those skilled at guessing the someone’s gender based on their first name will have noticed that Ruth Damsker is the only woman running.
Does that matter, you ask? Aren’t we all gender blind? Well, I would say that no we are not. Two points related to this race.
When campaigning for the state Attorney General office in 2004 one message Castor recorded for distribution stated:
Hello, I'm Bruce Castor the conservative, pro-life Republican for attorney general. As a Montgomery County DA, I helped close down a local abortion clinic violating the law. As attorney general, I'll vigorously oppose tax payer funded abortions and physician assisted suicides. Last month I spoke out strongly against same sex marriage, and my opponent, Tom Corbett, strongly criticized me. I've always staunchly supported the pro-life movement, and our traditional values. Now I'm asking for your vote. Tomorrow is election day. Please vote for the conservative pro-life republican -- Bruce Castor for attorney general. Thank you.
Castor is entitled to his beliefs and voters who share them should vote for him. Voters who do not should vote for someone else.
Jim Matthews had an interesting opportunity a few years ago. In 2000 the commissioners created a board to write the rules and advise them on the distribution of $5 million to community revitalization projects. (Source: Diane Marczely Gimpel, “Commissioner chose six men; woman is wanted for seventh slot,” Morning Call April 7, 2000.)
Here was what he came up with:
Chairman of the seven-member board if Kenneth E. Davis of Gladwyne, president of an Ardmore lobbying firm; Other members are Lansdale Borough Manager F. Lee Mangan, Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono, former Springfield Township Supervisor James R. Selsor, civil engineer Stuart L. Rosenthal of Lansdale and Jeremy Nowak of Wynnewood, president of a community development financial institution.
That first name will be familiar to those who have studied Montco’s political history. All those names look pretty masculine to me. Here’s the next paragraph in the article:
The seventh member has yet to be picked by Commissioner James Matthews, who said he is looking for a woman from the western end of the county to fill the volunteer spot.
So I guess he filled the first 6 spots, then looked at the list and thought, “Gosh I need one of those girly things, a whosit, a whachacallit, a woman, that’s it, a woman.”
Or you could say an afterthought. There wasn’t even a single seat on the seven person board designated for a woman. Both the western part of the county and half the human race had to share.
One cannot help but wonder if someone named Ruth had been making the selection if the names would have been different. Yes, Damsker was a commissioner then, but a minority commissioner doesn’t always have a lot of say in such things.
And that’s one of the major reasons why I like to see a little diversity in government.