Rated one of Pennsylvania's top blog/sites, the LuLac Political Letter delves into issues of politics on all levels (with special concentration on Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties: thus the name LULAC) and pop culture.
Friday, August 17, 2012
The LuLac Edition #2163, August 17th, 2012
Mercedes Leighton (left) at just one of her many appearances when national figures came to town. Included in the photo are the late Christine McLaughlin, then First Lady of Wilkes Barre, Attorney Carl Frank, and then Vice President Walter Mondale stumping for the re-election of President Carter in 1980. Photo: Citizen's Voice.
She was the grand dame of Luzerne County politics. Mercedes Leighton passed away this afternoon at the age of 90. Her death was released by her grandson, Attorney Bill Vinsko. During Vinsko’s recent campaign for Congress, we exchanged many opinions and stories. But we always got around to a story about Mercedes Leighton. And the stories were always entertaining and always a testament to her unofficial role as the political goodwill Ambassador of Wilkes Barre.
Leighton was the City Controller for over two decades. She succeeded her husband Carl Leighton as City Controller when he died in office in 1978. That office was previously held by Walter Lisman who became Mayor in 1975. Serving her husband’s unexpired term was a given. During the tumultuous 1979 primary between Tom McLaughlin and Tony Mussari, the Democratic leaders were going to run another candidate for the Controller’s Office. But Mercedes Leighton did her best imitation of former Football coach Lee Corso and proclaimed, “Not so fast my friend”. She campaigned hard in the primary and General Election and stayed in the Controller’s job for the next twenty years.
Leighton took her duties seriously and always, and I repeat always was at City Council public meetings. She also relished the political life of the city turning up at events large and small. She charmed the national and statewide media as well as the major candidates coming through Pennsylvania. Our state is now dubbed a “battleground” state but Mrs. Leighton knew that long before the pundits did.
The last time I sat down with her for an extended period of time was during the 2002 primary between Bob Casey and Ed Rendell for Governor. (I have a hysterical story that I will not share here, but I’ll be glad to tell anyone I see in person. Writing will not do it justice). Mrs. Leighton’s observations on the race were dead on and she critiqued the room, the program and the decorations with the eagle eye of one politico who saw many a state fair herself. When Rendell entered from the back of the ballroom instead of the front, she leaned toward me and said, “Now that was one smart idea. He’s in a sea of people so it looks like he’s being mobbed. And then when he leaves, he can go out the side door to the bus over there”. She not only knew politics but she knew logistics too.
Even though she had been out of office for over a decade, Mrs. Leighton was a presence at various events as her health allowed. As the upcoming Presidential and 2013 local elections heat up, a few of us will be scanning the crowd for the little lady in the business suit to get her take on who’s up and who’s down. At a future political event, when we see an empty chair with pretzels and chips, we’ll realize we will no longer see that conspiratorial leaning forward pose from the demure lady who will ask, “I wonder how this thing is going to turn out?” Our condolences to her entire family. She was a gem in the Diamond City.
Location: Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Author of the book "A Radio Story/We Wish You Well In Your Future Endeavors" and "Leges Vitae" "26 Rules of Life" and the new novel, "Weather Or Knot". The blog editor also writes various news articles and columns as well as upcoming literary projects. The blog editor was a frequent guest on WYOU TV'S INTERACTIVE NEWSCASTS when political issues were discussed on the national, state and local level. Currently, Yonki is a weekly panelist on WYLN TV 35's Friday Topic A program. He also appears on the Hazleton, PA. stations Election Night coverage and does special projects and stories for WYLN TV 35's 10PM Newscast "Late Edition".