Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shapiro Richards Office Openings

Of the three counties I cover Montgomery County posts the most information about events on their website, which makes it easier to cover events there. This weekend I attended two office openings for the Josh Shapiro / Leslie Richards (Democratic) campaign for County Commissioner. Montgomery County is the third largest county in Pennsylvania, larger than Boston and Atlanta. It’s a race that many across the state are watching (see Politics PA’s analysis of the race with a link to their interview of Shapiro & Richards).

The campaign already had two offices, one in Abington, Shapiro’s home territory, and Ardmore (see news articles on these openings at This weekend offices in Elkins Park and Lansdale opened. A fifth, in Conshohocken, is due to open next week. More offices open throughout the county before the November election.

The Elkins Park office is near the intersection of Old York Road (Rt 611) and Church Rd (Rt 73) in the Yorktown Shopping Center. It’s at street level, by the exit onto the Old York Rd spur. When I was there Shapiro and Richards were talking to people in small groups. About 30 people, give or take, were there, clustered in conversation. A number of candidates were there. County-wide candidates, Linda Hee (recorder of deeds), Jason Salus (treasurer), Richard Haaz (judge for Court of Common Pleas), and Cheryl Austin (judge for Court of Common Pleas) were among them. Abington Township Commissioner Lori Schreiber (she of the spiky silver hair), and Sean Kilkenny, who is active in county politics, were also present. Olivia Brady of the Montgomery County Democratic Women’s Leadership Initiative was greeting people at the door. If there were other local political luminaries in the crowd I missed them. One wall in the campaign office was covered with brochures, info on local candidates. You don’t always see this and to me it’s a sign that the candidates for the higher (county) office are partnering with candidates for lower (township) office. That’s always a good sign because it implies the higher level candidates will look out for the little guy. I don’t know anything about Cheltenham Township Ward 7 candidate Heidi Morein but her logo is very catchy, appealing, and a design I haven’t seen before.

The Lansdale office is in Sumney Forge Square, at the intersection of Valley Forge Rd and Sumneytown Pike. It’s in the row of storefronts that parallels Valley Forge Rd, at the end furthest from the intersection. The walls in this office were decorated with colorful maps of the area but that might change as it looked like the office was still being finished. Richard Haaz and Jason Salus were at this opening also, as was Olivia Brady. Again people were talking among themselves and the candidates were working their way around the room. There were about 35 people there when I was there. The office has a lot of windows with great views of the surrounding area.

Most campaign offices have both experienced staff and fresh faced newcomers. These were no exception but the youngsters had a bit more polish than most. They were very professional. I’m told that the campaign has attracted a lot of interns; if the people I talked to are examples, the campaign is getting the cream of the crop. While there were candidates and political figures around there were a lot of regular folks, too. I enjoyed some small talk and came away with a few good book recommendations. At each office there was a least one toddler. A campaign that is accepting of small children is a good campaign. (Shapiro has four children, Richards three – that may be a factor.) The informal political events I like the most are those that resemble community gatherings. There was no resume waving or bluster. The candidates moved through the room easily, greeting people they knew, and meeting those they didn’t. The people were pleasant. There wasn’t any GOP bashing. The talk was positive and forward looking. It was a hot day and it’s a tribute to the candidates that that many people would come out in such uncomfortable weather.

Shapiro is currently a state representative for the 153rd district (most of Abington township, some of Upper Dublin). He has favored, and worked towards, strong ethics laws for elected officials, makes his expense accounts public on his state house site ( and is widely regarded as an elected official with a bright future. One of his signature pieces of legislation, which has yet to become law, bans texting or handheld cell phone use while driving. One that has passed makes it easier for college students to transfer credits from one public college in the state to another. He’s known for being accessible to the public, holding over 70 townhalls in his six years as a state rep. He also has a reputation for working with people across the aisle. I’ve attended some of the multi-candidate or multi-official events he’s been at and he is frequently acknowledged as the most knowledgeable person in the room, with even more senior politicos deferring to him for facts or opinions.

Richards is on Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors and during her three years in office the township has balanced the budget without raising taxes. Like her running mate she has supported efforts to make government more open and transparent. For those who don’t like attorneys, Richards is the only non-lawyer running for county commissioner. She is a senior project manager at a woman-owned civil engineering firm, and has managed projects dealing with infrastructure, such as bridges, and trail development. These skills have served her well helping Whitemarsh complete stormwater projects and on preservation and open space measures. Personal trivia: I think her celebrity lookalike is Project Runway judge (and former Elle magazine fashion editor) Nina Garcia.

The campaign is utilizing not only traditional outreach measures such as knocking on doors, but social media such as Facebook ( and twitter (@shapirorichards). They’ve also initiated an “11 for ‘11” program, asking supporters to reach out to 11 friends and family members and encourage them to be voters as well.

As mentioned, another office opens this week in Conshohocken, followed by one of the campaign's quizzo events (see their facebook page for details). I went to an earlier quizzo meet. They're fun, so if you live near Conshy check it out.

Thanks to the Montgomery County Democrats for having an updated events page and to the Shapiro / Richards campaign for putting me on their email list.

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