Despite Matt Wertz’s initial enthusiasm to run for Congress, he experienced some difficulties while campaigning. His decision to stop actively campaigning for the 17th Congressional District seat was made public on Wednesday, September 20th. The Lebanon Daily News reported that Wertz’s decision to withdraw was due to health and family reasons. Chris Tarsa, the Lebanon County Democratic Committee Chairman, made some allegations that Wertz was treated poorly by the Republican Party. But in response to this, Wertz said, “I got as much support as any other candidate, although I was told that I was running against the Timothy Holden.” This statement implies that although Wertz received support from the Republican Party, the Party did not hide the fact that it would be difficult to unseat Tim Holden.
The Morning Call newspaper of Allentown reported that Wertz would not elaborate on his decision to withdraw from the race. Earlier information indicated that Wertz’s campaign was going to be difficult from the start. Charles Gerow, a Harrisburg political consultant who briefly served as an advisor to Wertz, said, “I told him, you’re starting several months late and you have no name recognition; other than that, you’re doing fine.” The Reading Eagle reported that Berks County Republican Party Chairman, Ronald C. Stanko said, “All indications were that Wertz should have made his decision (to withdraw) right after he won the primary because he didn’t seem to enlist the support of anyone in the party to marshal an effort that would have made him a credible candidate.” Also, the Reading Eagle reported on July 30th that Wertz was “hobbled by fundraising woes” comparing his campaign cash to that raised by Tim Holden.
When Tim Holden was asked by the Reading Eagle what he thought of the situation in late July, Holden said, “I’m taking the race seriously, but obviously it’s different looking at a candidate with $1,200 in the bank than looking at a candidate with $1 million in the bank and a famous last name.” Also according to the Reading Eagle, upon hearing the news of Wertz’s withdrawal in September, Holden said, “I’m sorry to hear about his health problems and wish him the best. I know there wasn’t much of an active campaign going on, but the reality is that Mr. Wertz’s name will be on the ballot, and I intend to campaign as I have always campaigned.”
But the simple fact remains that it would have been difficult for any Republican to unseat Holden in the 17th District. Most Democrats and Republicans agree that Holden has a lock on the 17th Congressional District. The Reading Eagle reported that when John C. Davies, a former Republican state representative from western Berks County, asked former lawmakers and lobbyists to donate to Wertz’s campaign, the response was that “most believed that Holden had a secure grip on the district, declined to donate, and admitted they were even backing Holden.”
Republican officials admit that if Wertz would have announced his withdrawal in August, then they could have scrambled to find a replacement candidate. Yet, the chairman of the Lebanon County Republican Committee, Joe McDonald, said, “We just won’t have a candidate in November.” More on Holden’s campaign tactics will be presented in the next web log.