Tom Muller calls Scott Ott a tea party activist whose proposals are “radical” and “dangerous.”

Scott Ott says Tom Muller repeatedly proclaimed himself a lifelong Republican, until Muller switched parties to become a Democrat months before announcing his candidacy.

Republican Ott and Democrat Muller are competing to become Lehigh County’s next executive in the November 5 election.

The animosity between the two candidates is more intense than you may have seen or read about.

Both men currently are part of county government.

Ott has been a county commissioner for nearly two years and currently is vice chairman of the commissioners. He was narrowly defeated by Democrat Don Cunningham when he ran for county executive in 2009.

Muller has been the county’s director of administration for more than seven years.

Earlier this year, he briefly served as acting county executive when William Hansell resigned for medical reasons shortly before his death. Muller also was acting executive after Cunningham resigned.

Muller labels Ott, and some of Ott’s colleagues on the nine-member board of county commissioners, as “extremists.”

“Ott is an extremist beyond tea party lines,” said Muller. “The focus has got to be on the citizens, not national ideology. As I've been campaigning, I try to remind my supporters that not all tea party thinking was/is wrong and I actually have some tea party supporters.”

Said Ott: “My supporters come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they all agree that government must find a way to do its essential work with integrity, with demonstrable results, and without constantly jacking up taxes.”

Ott said this late in the campaign he doesn’t “have enough time to deal with each of the many inaccurate statements my opponent has floated. I stand on my record, trust the wisdom of the voters who have seen these sorts of tactics before, and continue to run a positive campaign about the future of Lehigh County.”

Muller said he did not become a Democrat to run against Ott:

“I switched parties last year after Ott wouldn't vote for the pass-through grant to Meals on Wheels ‘to feed an 85-year old woman in Allentown with money borrowed from Communist China’,” said Muller.

“At that time, I had no plans to run for office. As the local Republican Party leadership became more and more extremist in their views, as represented by my opponent, it was clear to me that they didn't represent my views and concerns for our citizens' needs.

“I decided to run in January when the bloc Ott leads tried to stop Green Future grants to six municipalities and I saw no Democrats stepping up to the plate.”

Taxes and program cuts

Ott has a one-word answer when asked if taxes will go up under his administration: “No.”

“My plan is to not raise taxes,” said Muller. “I am committed to finding ways to increase revenue and to cut unnecessary spending in order to avoid raising taxes.
“However, no one can predict the future, and it is irresponsible for any candidate to guarantee that they will never have to raise taxes.”

Each man accuses the other of already raising taxes.

Ott calls Muller “the architect of the government's habitual overspending” and of the 16-percent tax hike approved in 2011, “having served as the county's top bureaucrat for eight years.”

Muller said taxes for county residents will increase in 2014, not because county commissioners have approved a tax hike in the new budget, but because Ott and the other commissioners did not include a tax credit that was in the 2013 budget, which saved homeowners an average of $44 in their tax bills.

Muller said Ott has failed to keep a 2011 campaign promise to cut taxes for county residents. “Promise made; promise broken,” said Muller.

Ott dismisses that 2103 tax credit as a “one-time gimmicky give back.”

Says Ott: “I'm committed to rolling back the 2011 tax hike, which we've already started to do, and to making county government live within the same economy that has forced many local residents and businesses to cut their spending.”