Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The LuLac Edition #1684, July 19th, 2011




The last 13 days have been very active concerning the race for Wilkes Barre Mayor. Now all of this has been pretty much under the radar but things have been brewing since it was revealed by the Citizen Voice’s Andrew Staub that Mayor Tom Leighton hired a few family members for summer jobs. Another added component to this is the behavior of City Council President Kathy Kane who wants to have a set of rules and guidelines for citizens to speak at City Council meetings. The talk radio hosts have been beating the drums and encouraging public comment. WILK’s Steve Corbett’s interview with GOP nominee Lisa Cope two Fridays ago set a few things in motion that had the phone lines and e mail machines humming.
After Cope’s tentative performance with Steve Corbett, the phone lines across Wilkes Barre started to burn. Many people, frustrated with the Leighton administration or those politicos just hoping for an interesting race were dismayed by Cope’s lack of fight. It was said in some circles that even though Linda Stets Urban was beaten nearly 3 to 1 by Mayor Leighton in ’07, she at least made it interesting.
I posted one of my anonymous “Interview” features which nominally is the least read and commented feature on my blog site. I had interviewed an old school political observer and he made some very negative comments about the Cope conversation with Steve Corbett. The article had 24 moderated comments and a few dozen more I would not put on the site. A few of the comments even wanted me to consider a write in campaign against Cope and Leighton.
In the meantime, Corbett on his radio show floated the idea of Wilkes Barre City Tow Truck driver Bob Kadluboski making a write in effort. Corbett went so far as to endorse the city gadfly and promised his support saying that the Tom Leighton era had to end. The following Monday when it was revealed that Kadluboski was employing former Judge Mark Ciavarella as a handy man and painter, Corbett withdrew his endorsement saying that while he could respect Kadluboski’s decision he could not go along with it on a moral basis. By the middle of the week with both Sue Henry and Corbett opining about the City Hall hires as well as the way City Council was conducting meetings, there were rumblings to get someone to mount a write in campaign. Steve Corbett himself brought up the name of another proposed candidate, that being Jack Smith Junior. Smith, an imposing figure ran in 1991 against then Mayor Lee Namey. He mounted an old fashioned campaign complete with sound trucks, door to door campaigning and pressing the flesh. Smith lost and then went on to other endeavors. In an interview with Corbett, it was evident the two men shared a great bond and friendship. However Smith, acknowledging the need for change, told Corbett he was in another place and had other spiritual commitments.
By that night, after Smith’s conversation with Steve Corbett, my e mails and calls stared to inquire as to my interest. I was honored to be asked but when I had similar inquiries prior to the county council race, I gave the same answer last week as I gave in the spring. When one comments on politics, whether it be a blog or in my case on TV you, in effect, represent the process. You can't be a candidate because you are already invested in disseminating information and opinion. You can’t do both. Very few broadcasters/writers/bloggers have made the transition from pundit to candidate. In Pennsylvania Al Benedict and Ron Klink were the exceptions. Locally Frank Andrews Shimkus and Sid Michaels Kavulich made the move but Shimkus and Kavulich Michaels were removed from broadcasting for a few years before they made the run. Plus my feelings on a write in campaign are at best dubious. It takes an arm and a leg to get people to just vote and to get them to do a write in (even though it is easier than before) is challenging.
On Thursday of last week the Democratic challenger against Mayor Leighton Charlotte Raup talked to Steve Corbett. Corbett encouraged her to run and came up with some pretty good ideas. Charlotte said she’d have to think about it and would give him an answer by Monday. In the meantime I ran the numbers from the primary and saw that in a two person race the Mayor could be vulnerable. Leighton polled 2764 votes in the primary. Raup, Nick Punko, GOPers, Lisa Cope, Karen Ceppa and Frank Sorick polled a total of 2963 which is 200 votes more than the Mayor. I had a conversation with Raup on Thursday night and offered her (as I have with other candidates some ideas in my association not as a blogger but with WYLN TV 35). She said she was 95% there and was leaning toward it. But she also advised me that she had great respect and admiration for Lisa Cope and might feel uncomfortable running against her. Raup also brought up the large pluralities that will come out of South Wilkes Barre in the general for Leighton and the 6th District penchant for voting straight Republican in the general, thus splitting up the vote three ways. Over the weekend Raup ran some numbers and determined she could not get in the race. Raup noted in a phone message that she would continue to work for change in the city, but would not interfere with the Cope candidacy. So there’s the story of the machinations that have been going on in the last few weeks as of this afternoon.


Tom Leighton appears to be on the verge of gaining a third term as Wilkes Barre Mayor. If he does win, it will not be the smoothest ride ever to a re-election. Even the most ardent Leighton backer is befuddled by the way the Mayor handled the summer intern hirings. But consider his mindset. I truly believe the Mayor placed these individuals in those jobs because he saw it as a way for them to understand what public service is all about. Right or wrong, in Pennsylvania and especially here in LuLac land, politics is the family business. Consider the Caseys of Scranton. I think in Leighton’s mind it was just another hire. Was he a tad tone deaf in this new era of government? Certainly, which is why many of his friends are faulting him for doing this in an election year. Then there are the towing contracts, and the questions about land sold to the owner of L.A.G. towing. These two issues are fodder for any candidate wanting to make a run. But you need a strong candidate and organization to even unseat an incumbent. Here’s why Leighton will win:
1. You can’t beat someone with nobody. And right now there is no candidate surfacing that can make a stand, a presence against Leighton. His naysayers say what an ornery man he is, I quite honestly have never witnessed that personally. Leighton represents the city professionally. He’s good with most of the media.
2. Things have broken right for him. Leighton took over for the beleaguered Tom McGroarty who I believe was a victim of some, not all, some staff disloyalty. McGroarty had two projects under way that were blocked by the City Council. When Leighton took over, the Council, freed up the constraints and the new Mayor’s tenure coincided with newly elected Governor Ed Rendell who was hellbent on being friendly to cities of all sizes in the Commonwealth. Leigthton got a few projects moving. Luck combined with skill. Plus the cooperation of what is essentially a lapdog city council.
3. A few years ago when the City Council was redistricted, holy hell broke out from all the council incumbents. But in retrospect that redistricting consolidated all the power in each district. Before it was the top 7 that needed to get city wide pluralities. Now in a small district a candidate could win with less than 900 votes in a one on one race and less than that in a fragmented race. If the Mayor picks up just 700 votes from each district, that’s 3500 already in the bank. And you know in District A he’s going to poll more. The incumbent Democratic candidates for Council are not going to turn their back on Tom Leighton, it would not be in their interest.
4. Leighton has money in the bank. Cope spent $50.00 in the spring and there is no evidence of a web site, any fundraising or even a skeleton of an organization. And counting on Raup’s crime watch organization for any media play is out of the question since Raup and her people don’t mix politics with what they do as citizens for the city.
5. The Mayor has done neighborhood outreach. But not many citizens have shown up to his town meetings. Maybe if Tom Leighton created a job with a non relative for neighborhood outreach, he’d win this thing in a landslide. The perception is that anytime there is a bad actor in a neighborhood, it’s Leighton’ fault. That comes with the territory. But it wouldn’t hurt him to cruise the area streets some night and be visible.
6. There is an anti incumbent sentiment out there. After 8 years, people get tired of a Mayor. Tom McLaughlin was defeated by Lee Namey after 2 terms, Namey was smart enough to get out while the getting was good. McGroarty stubbornly stayed too long at the fair before being bested by Leighton. There is Leighton fatigue in the city. It comes with being in that office for so long. Plus there are no flamboyant or strong City Council members or school directors like the old days in Wilkes Barre. All of the current office holders, on Council and School Board are shades of gray. At one time Wilkes Barre Area had strong school board members like Tom O’Donnell and Tony Mussarri to balance the Mayor’s political exposure. Not so anymore. Tom Leighton’s show is up for renewal, if it is cancelled by the voters of Wilkes Barre, it will not be because of any wounds inflicted by a party or write in candidate. It'll be his own fault.



At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, Steve Corbett is little more than a joke! This effort to find a write in candidate cannot work because candidates can't be recruited, they have to have the fire in the belly to win.

Will the Republican candidate stand a chance? Well, if we want to have the wife of a police officer negotiate her husbands union contract then that would be a great idea. In reality, it stinks! The lady had done nothing but offer a few old political cliches that mean nothing and quite frankly I'm sick of hearing. Show me the beef? What is she going to do beside be available and negotiate her husbands contract? The police and firemen in Wilkes Barre have shown themselves to be nothing less than greedy and they could care less about tax payers. "Give us the money", that's their motto. Can you imagine that the firemen fought for and received through arbitration pay for meter maids collecting coins and giving out tickets? Could their be a stronger sign of pure greed? Sure there is, we had the police start the whole thing when mayor Tom in an effort to fight crime assigned traffic cops to police duties and hired meter maids to do the unskilled work of parking detail. The cops and the firemen are all supporting Republican Cope so what does that tell you? VOTE TOM LEIGHTON if for no other reason, than simple SANITY and of course, throw in the fact that he is doing a good job. Signed, Citizen for Continued Good Government

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People forget how the police and firemen stuck it to Leighton's administration when he tried to free up police from traffic/parking duties to do actual police work. They charged the city a fortune because they saved money using meter maids and the firemen demanded equal pay. These are the same people who are supporting anyone but Leighton. There are people who will support and vote for the Republican even though she will be negotiating her husband's union contract. It must be something in our drinking water. Makes me sick!

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, once more incredible insight into the goings on in local politics. And what I like is the way you share what people want you to do. I think you should run for office but then there are days like today and especially during the Ciavarella trial when I appreciated your reporting and commenting as well as your decision to stay on the observation post of the fence.

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elections are seldom about voting for a great candidate, it is often about voting for the better of the two. Like Tom Leighton or not, agree with some of what he has done or don't agree with any of it, is it better to allow Cope to win? If enough people take hold of the idea that neither is any good so they simply skip the mayor's election, she will win. Why? Because Republicans vote in the General election and they vote straight Republican (as a rule) so that makes Cope a winner by default. Bad idea! If you don't vote at all, there are a few decent Council candidates who will not get your votes and there are 6 judges, some council people and school board candidates at risk.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the inside baseball stuff you bring to your site. Leighton's problem is that he has no Gary DiBileo like Doherty has in Scranton to beat up on.

At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about DiBelio? He finally got elected to something again and I'll bet he does a better job than the previous occupant of the chair who got promoted by the voters for screwing up Scranton's office to where they still havent got it squared away! Go Gary!


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