A battle is brewing in the Montgomery County Republican primary campaign, with three candidates seeking the party's two nominations for county commissioner.

West Norriton Commissioner Steve Tolbert, 37, and Lower Merion Commissioner Scott Zelov, 57, were endorsed for the county's top posts at the party convention Wednesday in Plymouth Meeting. They had previously won the backing of the party's executive committee.

A younger opponent, Joseph Gale, 25, of Lansdale, has promised to give them a run for their money.

"We can no longer afford to squash our best and brightest by telling them to sit on the bench and wait their turn," said Whitemarsh Supervisor James Totten, who nominated Gale for endorsement. "Joe embodies the qualities that Montgomery County desperately needs."

Gale said he would run despite losing the endorsement.

The race for Common Pleas Court went the opposite way, with one candidate withdrawing after it was revealed last week that three seats are up for election instead of the expected four.

Maureen Coggins, a former prosecutor who was highly recommended by the county Bar Association and has run for the bench twice, said she would step aside because "we have to be unified as a party."

Coggins and Wendy Rothstein, a Democrat who withdrew for the same reason, said they would run the next time a judicial seat opened up.

Aside from commissioner, the only contested endorsement was for clerk of courts. The party endorsed Rockledge Councilman Jason Showmaker over Lee Falgoust, a businessman and longtime GOP committeeman. Falgoust said he would not run without the endorsement.

For the remaining races, the party endorsed the candidates backed by its executive committee:

County Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. for district attorney; District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and lawyers Steve Heckman and Greg Cirillo for County Court judge; Hatfield Commissioner Tom Zipfel for controller; Towamencin Supervisor Chuck Wilson for treasurer; incumbent Nancy Becker for recorder of deeds; incumbent Russell Bono for sheriff; Horsham Councilman Bill Whiteside for prothonotary; Pottstown Mayor Sharon Thomas for register of wills; and anesthesiologist Phil Mandato Jr. for coroner.


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