Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year! The Political Fireworks Begin

Montgomery County Courthouse/Mercury  Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.
Happy New Year readers! Let the fireworks begin - the political fireworks, that is.

Election season at the Montgomery County Courthouse kicked off with a bang this week when District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman announced she won't seek a third term as D.A. and instead will seek a seat on the county bench. Within an hour, Ferman's second in command, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, 47, of Lower Merion, announced his intention to seek a Democratic Party endorsement to move into Ferman's fourth-floor office. Just one day later, current county Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr., 53, of Lower Salford, who was D.A. from 2000-2008, announced he wanted his old job back and will seek the GOP endorsement this year.

It's definitely going to be an interesting, and potentially contentious, election season.

The candidates' press releases couldn't be included in their entirety in the newspaper stories announcing their intentions. So, I thought I'd share those entire statements here to let readers see how the candidates approached their decisions.


     Eight years ago this week, I announced my decision to run for District Attorney of Montgomery County. I did so based on my strong desire to keep our community a safe place to live, work, and raise a family. The overwhelming support of our community in 2007 and then again in 2011, allowed me to lead the District Attorney's Office and to continue doing the work I love and to which I have dedicated my career for the past twenty-two years.
     During this time, I came to fully appreciate the fact that our criminal justice system relies on competent and brave police officers to investigate crimes and tough professionals to prosecute them in the DA's office. Working alongside the men and women in this office, and our county's outstanding police departments, has been a privilege. The partnership between law enforcement and my office has enabled us to deliver justice to many, many victims of crime and their families, and that has been a true honor.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

     Looking in the eyes of a victim or their loved ones and being able to tell them "we got the bad guy" is a feeling that is unsurpassed in my professional life. Knowing that the work we've done has made this county safer for victims of domestic violence, abused children, and seniors vulnerable to scams and other crimes has been equally rewarding and fulfilling.
     Plato wrote, "The beginning is the most important part of the work." I have been very fortunate that the District Attorney's Office has provided me with many new beginnings - first as an assistant district attorney, then as chief of the trials division, later as first assistant district attorney and finally in my eight years as the county's top law enforcement officer. During this latest chapter, I take great pride in the accomplishments of our office, among them:
  • An incredible 98% conviction rate
  • Founding Mission Kids - our Montgomery County Child Advocacy Center to protect abused kids
  • Creating Montgomery County's first Elder Abuse Task Force to protect vulnerable seniors
  • Establishing Montgomery County's first Violent Crime Unit to target dangerous offenders
  • Building an unprecedented partnership with Montgomery County's school districts to keep kids safe
     What I have come to realize, however, is that in this office that I cherish, there are no new beginnings left for me. As much as I treasure my time in the DA's Office and the opportunity to protect the citizens of our community, I know that now is the time for me to move on. By the end of this year I will have served in this office for twenty-three years - fifteeen as a line prosecutor and eight as the District Attorney. Over those years, I believe I have accomplished every goal and challenge I had set for myself. Now I am ready to embark on a new chapter of my own life. As much as I love this place, I know that it's time for me to say "goodbye" and start a new journey - one sure to bring new adventrues, new challenges and new mountains to climb.
     With recent scandals in Pennsylvania's court system still fresh in memory, I am convinced it is critical we assure residents throughout Montgomery County that our judicial bodies are above reproach. We need tough judges who understand the criminal justice system and who will be firm, fair, independent and ethical. After much thought and conversations with my family and trusted colleagues, friends and neighbors, I have decided to seek a seat on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in 2015. My commitment to public service in our community remains as strong as ever, and I am hopeful that my years of experience in the criminal justice system will serve our citizens well - if I am lucky enough to earn a seat on our bench. It would be a great honor and privilege for me to continue my commitment to public serve on the Court of Common Pleas in my home county, the same courts before whom I have practiced for over two decades as a prosecutor.


Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin R. Steele announced his decision to run for Montgomery County District Attorney and is seeking the endorsement of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.

Earlier today, Steele registered the necessary paperwork with the Montgomery County Election Board to establish the Steele4DA Committee.”  His campaign is chaired by Joe Foster of Lower Merion, who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee.  The Vice Chairman of the Steele4DA Committee is Mike Barbiero, who also serves as Chairman of the Abington-Rockledge Democratic Committee.  The Treasurer is Anne OConnell Umbrecht of Lower Merion.

Over the course of the last year, Ive spent time meeting with people all over Montgomery County exploring what they were looking for in a District Attorney. It is clear to me that they want someone with experience, vision and innovative skills to lead the office forward, said Steele.  Im excited to work with a great team of Democratic leaders to become the first elected Democrat to be the top law enforcement officer in Montgomery County, Steele continued.

Montgomery County First Asst. D.A. Kevin R. Steele/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Kevin is a committed public servant who has served as a prosecutor for almost 20 years where hes earned a reputation as a tough, skillful and innovative advocate for justice. He has worked tirelessly to safeguard our children, elderly, schools and neighborhoods.  Kevin has been at the forefront of new and vital criminal justice initiatives aimed at ensuring the safety and security of our community as well as the use of technology in the judicial process.

Kevin and his wife, Tracy, are raising their three children in Lower Merion, where he has served on his local fire department board since 1997, has coached youth sports and led his local civic association.. 


Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor, Jr. announced that he will seek to return to the office of District Attorney in the upcoming election, an office he previously held from January 2000 to January 2008.

With the recent announcement that the current District Attorney will be running for a seat on the Court of Common Pleas, he is excited to run for reelection as the county’s top prosecutor. Prior to his election as Commissioner in 2007, Mr. Castor was a prosecutor for 22 years, including two terms as District Attorney.

Mr. Castor is serving his second term as County Commissioner. He states: “although I enjoy the public service of the office of County Commissioner especially with my duties supervising the county’s public safety efforts, I admit that I have known for some time that my most professionally satisfying years with the County were spent in furthering the interests of law enforcement. Keeping our streets safe and those who would do us harm behind bars is a public service second to none.”

During his time in the District Attorney’s office, Mr. Castor received the Trial Advocacy Award from the National Association of Government Attorneys in Capital Litigation for his work investigating and prosecuting homicides, further receiving recognition by Governor Ridge, Governor Casey, and twice by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He was inducted in the Pennsylvania Police Hall of Fame in 2007, and named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer ten times including four while serving as District Attorney. He is the only Montgomery County prosecutor in history to have ever gained such multiple distinctions. He left the DA’s Office as the sitting President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, having unanimously been elected by his peers statewide. He holds that organizations’ Meritorious Service Award, garnered while still in office, an extremely rare honor.

Mr. Castor has bipartisan support in seeking a return to the DA’s Office office. John M. Elliott, Esquire, a Democrat and Chairman of the law firm Elliott Greenleaf endorses Mr. Castor stating that “Bruce is one of the finest prosecutors Pennsylvania has ever had, Republican or Democrat, and I have known quite a few.” Marc R. Steinberg, Esquire, a Republican, the Managing Partner at the law firm Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, past president of the Montgomery Bar Association, and chair of its Bench/Bar Committee, states: “I expect that the legal and law enforcement community, rightfully, will rally around Bruce as our candidate for District Attorney, beyond question the most qualified and proven lawyer in Montgomery County for that office.”

Mr. Castor knows that support from the law enforcement community is vital: “Through the years, I have maintained my many relationships with the men and women who live public service each day. Their backing will be critical to our victory.”

Bruce L. Castor Jr./Mercury file photo

Stephen Neufer and Robert Hegele, both former police officers with decades of experience, and each past presidents of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 14 for Montgomery County, support Mr. Castor’s return as District Attorney. Mr. Hegele says that “it has always been obvious that Bruce has a passion for law enforcement. I am happy that he wants to return to the office of District Attorney. In fact, I’m delighted.” A sentiment echoed by Mr. Neufer who added: “Bruce has the unparalleled respect of the law enforcement community in SE Pennsylvania.” Retired Horsham Chief of Police, and past president of the Police Chiefs’ Association of Montgomery County, Robert Ruxton, stated: “I worked with Bruce for many years while I was with Horsham Township, as chief and as president. I’m excited about the possibility of him returning as District Attorney of the County that we in law enforcement all love and serve. No one can do the job better than Bruce. I should know. I watched him at work many, many times.”

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