The LuLac Edition #822, May 18th, 2009
PHOTO INDEX: DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTY LOGOS.
One of two things is going to happen in tomorrow’s elections in both Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties. It will either be an election for the ages, one of transformation and change. Or one that continues the tradition of politics as usual. Some races to watch:
THE JUDICIAL RACES
17 candidates are vying for 2 seats. This is a wide open race because too many candidates have too many advantages that will tend to cancel each other out. First geography, the 4 candidates with roots in Greater Pittston, Terrana, Musto, Sperraza and Bufalino may cancel each other out in terms of coming out of the Third District with a decisive majority. Add to the mix the candidacies of Menn and Rogers, who were both born in West Pittston and O’Connor’s family connections on his wife’s side. With that addition, the vote could be split 7 ways. The Hazleton area which has a hometown candidate with Zola, also has candidates Sklarosky, Marslio and Hughes making inroads there. Money should be an advantage in any race but it might be the candidate who uses the dollars most efficiently that will win. There has been more than 1.5 million dollars in spending in the Judge’s race but it is my opinion because there have been so many candidates, the effect of the spending might be diluted. Then there’s the experience factor. Do voters pick a Judge over 60 knowing that individual will only serve one term? Or do they go for a younger person who will be on the bench for at least two decades barring unforeseen problems? Will voters take Mike Blazick's youth into consideration for better or worse or will they be impressed by his endorsements from the two newspapers? What about gender as a voting criteria? With the Ann Lokuta seat still vacant, some voters may want to fill one of the seats with a female. How about ballot position? Will Musto and Bufalino’s ballot position help them in their quest? What of Rogers number 2 position on the GOP side? Will that plum help her offset her fundraising efforts which while admirable, have not been near the top of the heap? Then there’s the issue of the type of experience. Does Marsilio’s broad range of experience give him an advantage? Or does Amesbury’s or Musto’s role in the Judiciary give them an edge? How about the focused experience of Lumbis in one area for more than 25 years? In terms of community service, will O’Connor’s work with veterans, Gartley’s and Morabito’s volunteer work with local social services make a dent? Rogers forays into volunteerism in Jamaica? Will that matter? Background and stories of the candidates. Will Pendlophi’s family history or Sperraza’s compelling story of poverty as a child resonate? All of these factors go into the final decision making voters will have to face on Tuesday. Northeast Pennsylvania’s premiere political consultant Ed Mitchell told us the other day: “It is a complicated election with so many candidates. Plus many people who are running are new to the scene, not like before when you had a well known District Attorney going after the office. There are some candidates that seem to me might be rolling the dice in their bid with so many running”.
I asked Mitchell about voter turnout and he said that historically off year primary elections have a low turnout. Mitchell predicted a 20 to 25% turnout, Coulter Jones from the Citizen’s Voice heard estimates of about 25% and this writer thinks we’re looking at 30%. Mitchell indicated that there was polling data to suggest that voters in Luzerne County were extremely unhappy with politics in general and despite the scandals might shy away from civic involvement.
On ballot position, Mitchell pointed out that in 1991 one of the candidates who was his client, Hugh Mundy, was in the middle of the pack on both the Democratic and GOP sides and won a dual nomination. Another candidate in that race had top ballot positions and finished near the bottom of the pack.
Another big race of interest is the Lackawanna County Judicial race with Frank Castellano, Margaret Moyle, James Tierney and John Pesota facing off. Mitchell said, “That race was thrown into disarray with the recent story about Tierney and the uninsured motorists connection. That could be anyone’s race at this point”. A Lackawanna County political observer characterized the Judicial race as “a jump ball. Each candidate has a pocket of strength now. Tierney was up 10 points before the Times story broke and now that lead has gone away. Castellano is now reaching out to Democrats, Moyle has the advantage of being the only woman in the field which galvanizes a block of voters, Tierney despite his problems has the endorsement and this is after all a primary while Pesota has the entire mid valley and ethnic edge in his corner. So it’s anyone’s game”.
The Scranton Mayor’s race between Gary DeBilio and incumbent Chris Doherty will be a hot race to watch. Mitchell thinks Doherty will prevail but it will be close. Our source in Lackawanna County says there is a real possibility of a DeBilio victory mainly because the Doherty campaign spent too much money, mailed too many mailers, some of which were out of area pieces from the state Democratic committee, and did not articulate what the Doherty administration actually did. “The campaign got caught up in stretching its accomplishments instead of telling the people what they actually did. There are 25 square miles in the city of Scranton and there are people who are actively looking for those 6,000 jobs the campaign claimed the administration brought in. They should have highlighted the actual workers who did gain employment because of the Mayor’s policies. Plus the endorsement of the Governor, Ed Rendell, right in the middle of the Scranton School for the Deaf controversy might have done more harm than good because of the Governor’s active involvement in the closing process”. The effect of the Democratic party endorsement is also huge because in 2005 just 500 votes separated DeBilio from Doherty. This race will without a doubt go down in the history books of Scranton politics.
UP TO YOU.....
There are thousands of questions we can ask these hours before election. While it is fun to speculate for us political junkies, it is only that, guesses and suppositions. The real answers to these questions will not be up to the political observers, talk show hosts or website editors. The truth will come from the citizens who take the time and energy to get out and vote. That will happen Tuesday. We respectfully await your decision.