The LuLac Edition #145, Feb. 3, 2007
WILKES BARRE CITY
Candidates for Wilkes Barre City Council are making their intentions known. This will be a historic election because despite the best efforts of the incumbents to get a judicial "do over", the size of the council will go from 7 to 5 with candidates running by district not city wide. Here's how it's shaping up:
This primary should be a quiet one since the two candidates have announced their intentions to run for the seat, but since they are from different parties, they won’t face each other in the May primary. However, it's early and you might see a newcomer taking a chance on the Democratic side.
Incumbent Democrat Shirley Morio Vitanovec, is in her eighth year on council and wants another term. She’s a lifelong resident of South Wilkes-Barre.
Frequent council critic and activist Walter Griffith Jr., 52, said he’ll run in the Republican primary. Griffith ran and lost in the 2003 election. He has been a frequent critic of council and ran a very credible effort last time. The key here is whether Vitanovec runs unopposed. Last time South Wilkes Barre resident Frank Hine mounted an effort for a council seat when he thought there would be re-districting. Hine is a popular business owner, has connections through marriage to the Namey machine and is a competent, personable fellow who might win if he decides to run.
Incumbent Tony Thomas Jr. is the only known candidate for District B, which includes the Iron Triangle and Rolling Mill Hill sections. It is early however and the district just might yield a minority candidate to run against Thomas. Recently local NAACP Chapter President Ron Felton said he felt blacks and minorties should become more involved in the political process.
Two current council members, McCarthy and Kathy Kane, live in the Heights and would face each other in the primary. GOP candidate Peter Gaglliardi has already expressed his intention to run. McCarthy recently has been miffed by his fellow council members especially Tony Thomas who said McCarthy was "nuts" for proposing a sex offender ordinance. If McCarthy does bow out, that will leave the retired school teacher Kane as the Democrat left standing. That would be ironic since Kane made such a fuss in trying to overturn the proposed district voting.
Councilman Tony Thomas Jr. said that people think McCarthy is “nuts” for proposing certain living restrictions for sexual offenders. Even though McCarthy is sometimes lampooned in the press and fellow council people, for his various comments on celebrities and historical figures, give the guy this. In his 16 years on council he has been one of the few true legislators the city body has seen. His frustration with serving with council members not willing to speak out or do anything might have finally been the death knell for him seeking another term. Kane is seeking her third term while McCarthy has had four terms in increments of eight years.
Councilmen Michael McGinley and Bill Barrett, will face each other in the May primary for District D. The district includes the Parsons section and shadows into a portion of the Heights.
Barrett, is seeking a second term. McGinley is going for a fourth term.
So far no other candidates have announced. It will be interesting to see if McGinley's seniority will be regarded as a double edged sword with people thinking 12 years might be enough as opposed to former Police Chief Barrett's one term.
Councilman and former educator Phil Latinski, who also lives in that district, has decided not to run.
At least three people have expressed interest in District E, which includes the North End, Brookside and portions of Miners Mills and more importantly does not include a current council member.
Virgil Argenta, a 46-year-old Democrat,and neighborhood advocate, said he wants to improve conditions in neighborhoods throughout the city. He commends council’s work on reinvigorating the downtown, but says officials have to step up as far as the neighborhoods are concerned.
Argenta, who has lived in the city for 30 years, ran in the last council election and lost. Argenta ran a sprited and high visibility campaign with a great deal of signage. He has a great personality and can win this race in a walk.
Republican John Yencha is also taking a stab at the empty council seat.
Yencha, a retired state police trooper and former Wilkes-Barre Area School Board member, is a member of the city’s zoning hearing board. He is an established vote getter but has a quirky personality which manifests itself in odd ways like last week refusing to disclose his age to a reporter.
Democrat Ron Silkoski, who worked in the film and newspaper industries before retiring and returning to Wilkes-Barre, also plans to run for the District E seat. Sikoski has a website up and has some interesting ideas. The wild card in the Democratic primary might be James Hayward, former city administrator under Mayor McGroarty. Hayward ran for the State Representative seat of Kevin Blaum in the primary losing but pulling a very good vote in the Northend. The irony in this whole election process is that Christine Katsock, one of the movers and shakers who got the ball rolling on this council change has said she will not run for any city wide office this time. And Ted Wampole, the guy who got stuck drawing up the districts and who ran for council once before has yet to be heard from on whether he is in or out.
DEMS TAKE THE STAGE
Emboldened by November's electoral gains, Democratic presidential hopefuls voiced their opposition to President Bush and the Iraq war on Friday, with Sen. Hillary Clinton and other candidates pledging to withdraw U.S. troops if elected.
Clinton, one of several candidates to speak at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting, brought the party faithful to their feet when she forceful declared that had she been president, “I would not have started this war.”
“If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as president, I will,” said Clinton, D-N.Y.
Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, won equal praise from party delegates who gathered at the event to kick off the 2008 presidential campaigns.
“Democrats, this is our time to lead,” Obama, D-Ill., said to a standing ovation in the cavernous Washington Hilton ballroom. “Democrats, it is time for us to turn the page.”
The DNC event was the first chance for Democrats to measure their candidates for the 2008 presidential race, with the hopefuls parading before party delegates with short speeches to outline their positions on myriad issues.
Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, pounded the podium in an emotional speech that sounded populist themes and invoked the memory of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's call for social justice, racial equity and help for the poor.
“Will you stand up for them? Will you stand up for America?” he asked to chants of “Edwards, Edwards.”
The speeches took aim at Bush and Republicans, who have won and kept the White House with narrow victories in 2000 and 2004, defeating Vice President Al Gore Jr. and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
The Republican National Committee chastised the “déjà vu Dems” for going into the winter meeting with the same rhetoric and “over-the-top attacks” that failed to win over voters in past campaigns.
But Democrats are clearly energized by the party's sweeping victories in the mid-term elections.
Democrats reclaimed control of the House and Senate for the first time since 1994, riding a public wave of disapproval with the Iraq war and Bush's handling of foreign affairs.
“About a year ago, President Bush's approval rating stood at 40 percent, his party was in revolt and the vice president had just shot somebody,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said to laughter.
“President Bush now refers to those days as the good old days in America,” said Dodd, another 2008 presidential hopeful.
Democrats used the DNC meeting to celebrate their fortunes and candidates sought to bolster their exposure.
Four years ago, Howard Dean of Vermont was catapulted into the forefront of the 2004 field when he publicly opposed the war and declared: “I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”
Dean, the DNC chairman, opened the meeting saying “Democrats are back in charge, and we really will be back in charge in 2008.”
“Escalating the war in Iraq is not the answer and we will hold President Bush accountable,” Dean said.
The DNC winter meeting gave the 2008 hopefuls exposure to party insiders and “super delegates” who will vote at the presidential nominating Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Each candidate expressed their opposition to the war, but sought to distance themselves from others in the crowded Democratic field.
Obama said he was publicly opposed to congressional authorization of the war in 2002, even though he was not yet in Congress. That claim drew contrast to Clinton, who did vote to give the president authorization to invade Iraq.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Edwards joined Dodd, Obama and Clinton in calling on Congress to stop Bush's plan to send an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to Iraq.
Edwards drew a standing ovation when he criticized Bush for his war plan and his command of the English language: “I've got news for you Mr. President, you are not the decider – the American people are the decider.”
Clinton was heckled by women with the anti-war group Code Pink, who stood near the back of the ballroom.
But Clinton and Obama received the loudest applause from the audience, and clearly appeared to be the party favorites.
Delegates return today to hear other candidates, including Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, and former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska.
Biden is trying to recover from a gaff earlier this week, when he announced his presidency and then blundered through a description of Obama as the first mainstream, “clean” African-American presidential candidate.
Biden has apologized for offending previous black candidates and African-Americans who found the comment condescending.
Richardson, a former Clinton cabinet member, would become the first Hispanic president if he wins the nomination and the general election. compiled by various reports.