“I suppose every elected official would like to never have any challengers, but that’s just not realistic,” said Erie County Executive Barry Grossman in reaction to the news that former U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper confirmed her intentions Monday, Feb. 25 to challenge him in May’s upcoming Democratic Primary Elections.

“My feeling is that you don’t worry who your opponents are,” added Grossman, 66, who’s seeking his second four-year term as county executive. “You’ve done the job for three years; the voters have a chance now – you have a record – they have a chance to evaluate you. That’s how democracy works and I’ll happily abide by their decision.

“I think it’s a good idea in democratic government – unlike other places, we have a chance every four years and give the officeholders a report card. And I’m looking forward to my report card. I feel that I’ve done the best job I can. I have some unfinished business, and I’ll leave that decision up to the residents of Erie County.”

Dahlkemper, 55, confirmed her plans to run for the position of county executive in an email received by the Erie Reader just after 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25.

In that email, Dahlkemper wrote: “I would like to confirm and clarify my plans. I intend to run for Erie County Executive this year. I have spent recent months pursuing various options, including a run for [Pennsylvania] Governor. I have decided that serving the people of northwest Pennsylvania as county executive affords me the greatest opportunity to help advance the region I love so much.”

Her official public announcement is slated for the week of March 4.

So did the decision to run for county executive come as a surprise to Grossman?

“Only because I heard during the summer that she was running for mayor and then she was thinking about another run for congress, and then more recently governor or lieutenant governor,” Grossman said of hearing the news he wouldn’t run unopposed in the primary. “So I guess it’s like any other surprise when you just keep getting different messages, but as they say in politics, there are no surprises, so that’s held true.”

Grossman said that he’s confident in his bid for re-election, citing his most proud accomplish of having three budgets in a row come in on-time with no tax raises and no curtail of services. He added that he doesn’t plan to change anything in his platform, stating that he plans to continue doing what he’s doing.

Grossman took office in January 2010 after defeating incumbent Mark DiVecchio in the 2009 Democratic primary. Grossman went on to narrowly defeat Republican challenge Mike Kerner that November.

Dahlkemper, who is currently out of the country, travelling on an educational trip with her colleague, the Rev. Charles Brock, from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, was elected as the freshman representative for Pennsylvania’s 3rd District after winning the 2008 election. She lost her second bid for the seat to Republican challenger Mike Kelly, who is currently serving as the district’s freshman representative.

Ben Speggen can be contacted at bSpeggen@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter@ERBenSpeggen.


Content originally published by the Erie Reader.