Lehigh County's nine-member Board of Commissioners is its legislative branch, empowered by Lehigh County's Home Rule Charter to enact the county equivalent of laws. They also hold the purse strings. With a five to four Republican edge, a swing of just one seat could change the balance of power. Four legislators are elected "at large," i.e. countywide. The rest, elected from a specific geographic area, are called "District Commissioners." This year, voters in each district will decide whether to keep or dump its five district representatives.
Sterling H. Raber (R, District 1). - This is the only real open seat. Lehigh County's quiet man, Raber is one of the most well-respected government officials in the Lehigh Valley. But after twenty-seven years, this New Tripoli pig farmer is packing it in. Another dignified former commissioner, Marc Grammes, is reportedly interested. I am unaware of any Democratic interest in this seat, which would be an uphill battle.
Percy H. Dougherty (R, District 2). - Dr. Dougherty has ably chaired Lehigh County's Board at least six times and is a very large part of the reason why the Commissioners work so well together. His bipartisan approach to government and quirky sense of humor are a refreshing change of pace. I'm used to having Northampton County Council members like Dertinger scream at me during or after meetings, so it's very unusual for me to attend a meeting in which elected officials actually try to get along and in which the chair is very interested in public input.
Incredibly, Dr. Dougherty may be facing a primary challenge from a Republican who thinks Daugherty is just too damn accommodating. Youthful East Penn School Director Mark Prinzinger, incensed that Commissioners actually adopted a budget, has hopefully come to his senses.
David S. Jones Sr. (D, appt.; District 3). - When Kurt Derr suddenly resigned last year, Rev. Jones was appointed in March to replace him. He is the Lehigh Valley's first county-level legislator. Lehigh County's Republican-dominated commissioners selected a strong Democrat who will be hard to beat, and that was their intention. Republican Robert E. Smith, Jr., President of Allentown's school board, is supposedly interested in playing the role of Don Quixote.
Daniel K. McCarthy (D, District 4). - Solicitor to Allentown Parking Authority and regular Pawlowski contributor, McCarthy is finishing his second term in a heavily Democratic district. Mike Welsch is reportedly interested in going after this "pay to play" pol. Last Fall, Welsch embarrassed state rep. Jenn Mann in a televised debate over Allentown's crime problem. He also bluntly but accurately told The Morning Call there was no point in meeting its editorial board for an endorsement. Voters did not hear his message. I doubt they'll hear it now.
Glenn Eckhart (R, District 5). - When Lehigh County Commissioners threw up a temporary roadblock to Don Cunningham's community policing proposal, the normally affable exec was steamed, not over the defeat, but because he felt that Eckhart had gone back on his word. Then Eckhart petulantly mixed it up with Allentown City Council Prez Mike D'Amore, resulting in an Eckhart pledge to boycott all Allentown businesses.
Eckhart, whose district now has a 9% Democratic edge, is in trouble. His seat is vulnerable, and with it the balance of power in Lehigh County.