Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The new Harry Albert

The question everyone here in the patch is asking themselves -- and one we hope you are asking, too -- is this: Why is Republican challenger Dave Lohr running against fellow Republican incumbent Angela Zimmerlink for Fayette County commissioner, instead of against Democrats Vincent Zapotosky or Al Ambrosini?

The only plausible answer, of course, is that Lohr recognizes that given the Democrats' huge voter registration edge, there's only room for one Republican to sit at the Fayette County commissioner table. And the independent insurance salesman Lohr, who's failed in three previous attempts to secure the job, has no problem casting party unity aside if it finally benefits his ascension to the office.

Here in the patch, where we pride ourselves on having a little bit of political insight, it's plain to see that Lohr is quite willing to suit up as the new Harry Albert, the former Republican commissioner who was often the subject of Lohr's ire, back in the days when Lohr was railing against the county establishment rather than snuggling up to it.

Back in 2003, when Lohr was wearing his own clothes, he said this about then-competitor Joe Hardy: "I'm going to beat him," says Lohr, 46, who ran for commissioner in 1995 and 1999. "He can bring his money to the table all he wants, but this election's going to be won by sweat and hard work by the candidates."

The same primary election story that appeared in the Herald-Standard on March 26, 2003, entitled, "GOP hopes for political rebound in May primary," contains these continguous paragraphs:

Lohr also believes that Hardy was put in the race to "to knock me out," because back in 1995 he told the county political powers that he wasn't "buyable" as a candidate. Lohr predicts that if Hardy were elected, he would resign shortly thereafter, paving the way for appointment of a "hand-picked puppet" who would do the bidding of the old-guard political establishment.

Lohr also believes that Hardy was inserted into the race as a complement to one of the Democrat challengers, with hopes that electing both of them would return political power to the old guard.

It was Dave Lohr who once proclaimed that he wasn't "buyable" as a candidate, Dave Lohr who scoffed at Hardy for bringing all his money to the table, and Dave Lohr who warned against a "hand-picked puppet" and of a Republican running as a complement to a Democrat in order for the old guard to retain power.

With that curriculum vitae, it makes perfect sense that Dave Lohr, version 2011, would choose to unveil billboards and newspaper advertisements that show him shaking hands with ... Joe Hardy?

My, how the worm has turned. If Hardy is such a strong supporter of Lohr, why didn't they roll out this ad campaign back in 2003, instead of running against each other? Back then Lohr, based on his comments, wasn't too interested in shaking Hardy's hand, unless he intended to squeeze it hard enough for old Joe to reveal the name of his "hand-picked puppet."

Hardy certainly wasn't interested in shaking Lohr's hand in 2003, or in either of the other two times Lohr ran for commissioner and lost. If Hardy were interested in pressing the flesh with Lohr, he would have decorated the county's FACT buses with the handshake photo, instead of those garish historical scenes and painted-over windows.

As for Lohr's 2003 warning that Hardy was in the commissioners' race as a complement to a Democrat, we think that same trend is relevant today. And it's not Zimmerlink that we're concerned about.

Before anyone goes all ga-ga over Hardy's visual endorsement of Lohr, it is important to ask one question: What is a Hardy-endorsed Lohr going to do for Fayette County that Hardy himself could not do in four years as county commissioner? Hardy was swept into office with high hopes that he would use his business acumen and connections to turn the county around, at least economically.

That never happened. Not even close.

The biggest thing remaining from Hardy's tenure as a county commissioner is the controversial renaming of the county airport to the Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport.

Perhaps Lohr can build on that legacy, and they can change the name again, this time to the Dave Lohr/Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport.

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