The LuLac Edition #1456, Jan. 31st, 2011
Former state Representative Bernard O’Brien died Sunday morning in Wilkes Barre. O’Brien was the second retired State Representative to pass away this weekend. O’Brien was first elected State Rep in 1962. His only real challenge in the 60s came in the 1966 election. Both O’Brien and Martin L. Murray opposed then Wilkes Barre Mayor’s wage tax. The Mayor with the help of a few Democratic party insurgents challenged O’Brien in the ’66 primary with William McAneny. O’Brien, according to the old Wilkes Barre Record scored “a smashing victory over his opponent.” O’Brien would be instrumental in the rebuilding of downtown Wilkes Barre in the aftermath of the Agnes Flood. His seniority as well as his ties to then Governor Shapp gave the city an opportunity to coordinate statewide efforts with those of the Federal Government. Throughout his legislative career, O’Brien enjoyed good relationships with the press. Some of it was almost fawning. In an editorial from the Times Leader Evening News O’Brien was compared to then popular Congressman Dan Flood. The paper editorialized, “Representative O’Brien has all the makings of another Dan Flood”. O’Brien pretty much steam rolled over all of his opponents on the Democratic and Republican side. It wasn’t until 1980 that his electoral luck ran out. O’Brien was opposed by a young Bishop Hoban school teacher who had won election to Wilkes Barre City Council in the 70s. That was Kevin Blaum. During the pivotal election year of 1980, it was the classic young Turk vs establishment candidate. Blaum did an extensive door to door effort while O’Brien saturated the neighborhoods with union personnel and reminders of his 18 years of constituent service. Despite a determined effort, O’Brien lost to Blaum. O’Brien retired from the State House and quietly offered political advice when asked. But he never really was active again in the forefront and preferred that people judged him by his contributions to the city and his district. Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this hour. Bernie O’Brien was 96. Voters of a certain age will remember and never forget the contributions of Bernie O’Brien.