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The Montgomery County Democratic Party Executive Committee, led by Chairman Marcel L. Groen, selected a distinguished slate of candidates Thursday night to present for endorsement by the entire party committee on February 17.
The historic Democratic successes in Montgomery County in recent years have been fueled by the party's strong and unified leadership, its ability to attract the best possible candidates, and its tremendous fund-raising and field work in election campaigns.
"The quality of the candidates we get to run for office increases with every election," Groen said. He praised the diversity and strength of the slate, and said of Montgomery County Democrats: "We are the standard that the rest of the state would someday like to emulate."
Groen said he expected County Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Valerie Arkoosh, the party's standard-bearers, to retain a Democratic majority on the Board of Commissioners in this year's election. He said he also expected the party to sweep the nine county "row offices" that are on the ballot, five of which are currently held by Democrats, and to elect four additional Democrats to available seats as judges of the county's Court of Common Pleas.
Selection panels appointed by Groen spent "three weeks of nights and weekends," as he termed it, looking in depth at the qualifications and personal qualities of numerous individuals who sought endorsement. Their recommendations were approved unanimously Thursday by the Executive Committee, which packed a large room at the AFSCME District Council 88 offices in Plymouth Meeting.
The Executive Committee recommended the following candidates for full party endorsement:
* Josh Shapiro. As chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Shapiro has led in reforming county government, boosting services, and balancing the budget -- all while holding the line on taxes and restoring the rainy day fund. Shapiro and Leslie Richards in 2011 became the first Democrats to win control of the courthouse in 150 years.
* Valerie Arkoosh. A medical doctor with a nationally-recognized name in healthcare and also a strong record of organizational leadership, Arkoosh was recently unanimously chosen by the Common Pleas court to become a commissioner in place of Richards, who resigned to take on the job of PennDot secretary.
* Incumbent D. Bruce Hanes for REGISTER OF WILLS. An attorney, he has served two terms as Register of Wills and also currently teaches part-time at Philadelphia University. As the issuer of marriage licenses in the county, he has led the fight for marriage equality.
* Incumbent Dr. Walter I. Hofman for COUNTY CORONER. Dr. Hofman is the only forensic pathologist to ever serve as Coroner in the county and one of few in the state to ever do so. This unique qualification has enabled him to personally perform more than 11,000 autopsies and to certify the death of over 18,000 people.
* Incumbent Mark Levy for PROTHONOTARY. In his two terms of experience as Prothonotary, Levy has offered exceptional public service and introduced innovative technologies, especially with electronic court records. A former platoon sergeant in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, he earned his college degree at Temple University.
* Incumbent Jason Salus for county TREASURER. A former businessman with a degree in finance, Salus has brought private-sector financial acumen to the office of Treasurer, identifying new sources of revenue to help balance the county budget, making smart investments and reducing his own department's budget.
* Incumbent Ann Thornburg Weiss for CLERK OF COURTS. An attorney by training and practice, she has twice been elected Clerk of Courts. She has introduced numerous innovations to the courts, including more user-friendly services and streamlined work processes.
* Sean P. Kilkenny for SHERIFF. An attorney and expert in municipal law, Kilkenny serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve's Judge Advocate General's Corps. He has served as Council president in Jenkintown and as a trustee of Montgomery County Community College.
* Karen Geld Sanchez for CONTROLLER. A partner in a large law firm, she holds both a law degree and an MBA. She has been recognized as a "Pennsylvania Super Lawyer Rising Star" by Philadelphia Magazine and as a "Lawyer on the Fast Track" by The Legal Intelligencer.
* Jeanne Sorg for RECORDER OF DEEDS. Currently the Mayor of Ambler, Sorg has pushed for smart development and economic growth initiatives while working with homeowners to solve decades-old issues. Her performance in office helped the Democratic Party gain a majority on the Ambler Council.
* Kevin R. Steele for DISTRICT ATTORNEY. As the current first assistant district attorney of Montgomery County, Steele oversees a staff of 145 prosecutors, detectives and administrative personnel that handles 10,000 criminal cases per year. He personally leads the Homicide Unit in all of its investigations.
JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
* Todd Eisenberg. A trial lawyer, he is lead claims counsel for Peco Energy Company. He formerly handled legal matters for several local townships and boroughs. He works in a voluntary capacity for children's advocacy, support of the homeless and Legal Aid of Montgomery County.
* Wendy G. Rothstein. A partner at the Fox Rothschild LLP law firm, she has achieved numerous "firsts" in her career as a leader at law firms and other legal organizations. She has been secretary and a board member of the Norristown Zoological Society and an advocate for women in business.
* Natasha Taylor-Smith. As assistant solicitor in the Montgomery County Office of the Solicitor, she is responsible for providing legal counsel to several county human services departments, including those serving older people and people with behavioral health issues or developmental disabilities. She formerly was a public defender for financially-indigent clients and also operated her own law firm. She manages a girls' softball team and is a ministry leader at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown.
* Daniel J. Clifford. A partner at the Weber Gallagher law firm, he has served as chair of the Family Law Section of both the Montgomery County and Pennsylvania bar associations. He has served on the board Adoptions From the Heart agency and on the board of the Equality Forum.