What Happened to Matt Dudish?

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People who attended the recent Schuylkill County Republican Committee endorsement meeting at the Shoeneman complex, came out scratching their heads in confusion last Thursday. It was there that the GOP slate of candidates was to be set. It was there that candidates were supposed to kickoff their push to elective office in November. Instead, the waters were muddied even more than when they exited their vehicles a few short hours prior.

In January, two candidates tossed their respective hats in the ring for the nomination in the 125th district state house race. Gary Hornberger, former County Controller and 2006 GOP nominee for that same seat, officially declared what political insiders had known for over a year . . . he wanted another crack at Tim Seip. Also, Dan Daub, former chairman of the county Republican party, announced publicly what he had been talking about privately for nearly four years . . . he wanted to be the heir to Bob Allen’s proverbial throne.

Hornberger v. Daub was shaping up to be a titanic battle. New guard vs. Old Guard. Reformer vs. Establishment. Rank and File vs. the War Board. However, something happened on the way to the ballot box. His name was Matt Dudish. Dudish, the popular Recorder of Deeds, who was one of only two Republican candidates victorious on the Bloody Tuesday in November 2007 was considering a run of his own. I had been hearing his name in Republican circles for months. Looking for someone, anyone, to carry the Republican mantle this fall, the gossip mills were reporting that the War Board was throwing the kitchen sink at him to coax him into a run.  Two weeks ago, it looked like a done deal. Just two days after announcing his candidacy, Daub withdrew from the contest and endorsed Dudish. This from a man who just days after the 2006 primary, reportedly bought up all internet domain name combinations having to do with Tim Seip’s name (a strategy that he passed along to Jason Ghergel in 07, but more on that at a later time), resigned his post as party chairman, and began forming a organization for a 2008 campaign. This from a candidate who had just received the endorsement of the Teenage Republicans and the night he withdrew had attended a campaign event in Berks County where he made no mention of dropping out. Nothing added up . . . until Bob Carl opened his mouth.

Carl, the recently deposed County Commissioner, is known to be a close ally of Big Jim Rhoades and the rest of the War Board. In fact, fellow War Board member and political moneyman Frank Shoeneman, had just arranged a well salaried position at Reading Anthracite for Carl. Anyway, Carl read a statement on Dudish’s behalf which stated, “I hope to make my final decision soon.” A few days later, T-102 and WPPA reported that Dudish would, in fact, run and Pat Murphy would chair his campaign. Classic War Board strong arming . . . or so we thought, until last Thursday.

At the endorsement meeting, Dudish shocked EVERYONE when he announced that he would not run for the 125th district seat. Some of my people who were there, said the air was completely sucked out of the room. So, what happened? Dave Argall happened, that’s what.

It is not a secret that the state GOP was none too happy that they lost the 125th district to Seip. Hell, it cost them leadership of the House. They want it back and the Harrisburg gossip mills reported that they made the first moves to make that happen. Rep. Argall, the House Republican Whip, was supposedly told prior to the Schuylkill endorsement meeting that he needed to deliver the 125th district or relinquish his leadership position. Moreover, the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC) told Argall that approximately $70,000 originally alotted to re-elect him, would be diverted to Dudish (who hadn’t yet raised a dime) to accomplish a victory.

Argall has a war chest of his own, he doesn’t need HRCC money, right? WRONG! It hasn’t been announced yet, but Argall WILL face a primary challenge in April. Out of respect for the candidate, I will not release his name before he declares (the announcement will come on Tuesday), but trust me that Argall will be in the most difficult battle of his political career. In short, Argall needs all the money he can get his hands on. Dudish was complicating things. Faced with a smaller campaign war chest, pressure from Harrisburg, and a genuine fear of his primary opponent, Argall did what any War Board member would do in the same situation . . . he pulled strings. Before taking on Seip, Dudish had to first beat Hornberger, who had an equal amount of name recognition, and popularity and who had already raised $30,000 on his own. Who was the better candiate for Argall? A broke Dudish or flush with cash Hornberger? The choice was simple.

I do not have any sources confirming it, but I have no doubt that the War Board, who had pushed Daub out and Dudish in the race to begin with, told Dudish that it was not in the cards in 2008 and ordered him to drop out so that Argall could collect his HRCC money for a primary fight.

Hey, I’m not complaining. I like and respect Gary Hornberger and believe that he is an excellent reform candidate for our party. But, to answer the question I posed in the title of this post: What happened to Matt Dudish? The War Board happened. Join the club, Matt, we’ve got jackets.

EDIT: After re-reading my post, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in NO WAY insinuating that Gary Hornberger is now the War Board choice for the 125th district. Hornberger did not seek, nor does he want their blessing.

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