Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The LuLac Edition #170, March 7, 2007





People who don’t follow the passion play that is politics really don’t get how much fun it can be. Take the Commissioner’s race for Lackawanna County. Let’s start with the incumbent GOP. You have two elected officials, Robert Cordaro and A.J. Munchak, the duo who wrested control away from a Democratic majority that held office for two decades. How does their own party pay them back? By running candidates against them! They are being opposed by former Newton Township Supervisor Lee Jamison, former hardware store owner Phil Spinka of South Abington Township and former Blakely tax collector Rob Castellani. Castellani is related to former Democratic commissioner Randy Castellani who was serving his second term in office when he resigned to pursue a career in private business. The current Minority Commissioner Mike Washo replaced him.
The Democratic side is providing the most fireworks. A few weeks back, the County Democratic committee endorsed Mr. Washo and Chris Claus from Abington Twp. Clauss’ pick was a surprise since he was not the most visible and experienced of all the candidates. It was thought that his former athletic prowess as a Penn State football player and mid valley insurance executive would balance out the ticket.
Clauss’ decision to back out after an endorsement is by and large almost
unprecedented in Lackawanna County. Twice in Luzerne County it happened, in the 1967 Wyoming Area School Board race, Joe Rock who had won the Democratic primary begged out for business reasons and in 1991 Frank J. Trinisewski did not run after winning the Democratic primary for County Commissioner. He was replaced by Rose Tucker who ran in the 1991 General. But those two instances were of people who actually won a primary race and then opted out for personal reasons. The enduring question on Mr. Clauss will be this: did he decide alone or was he pushed?
Two candidates passed over for the endorsement was Moosic Attorney Corey O’Brien and Recorder of Deeds Evie Refalko McNulty. Both have filed for the office anyway along with Jessup policeman Robert Berta.
So this is what we have going on with the Dems. You have an incumbent, appointed Minority Commissioner not known for his charisma as the lone endorsee since Mr. Clauss stepped down. He needs a running mate. Do you just endorse him and see who he winds up with? That was done once in 1979 in Luzerne County when the Dems endorsed Ed Wideman for another term as Commissioner when his long time running mate Frank P. Crossin Senior ran his own ticket with Edd Brominski. (In future LULAC editions, we’ll go over the mechanics of that 1979 fascinating race). By doing this, the county Democrats would have a clean slate with the person who remains standing at the end with Mr. Washo. However this assumes that Mr. Washo wins a seat. What if O’Brien and McNulty win and Washo becomes the odd man out? You have to say that might be a long shot if indeed it happened because of the strength of the county endorsement, but political organizations are not as strong and loyal as they once were. And what happens if you get two candidates, one endorsed, one independent forced to team up? The ramifications of that in the general election could be downright ugly. Mrs. McNulty’s husband Jim can attest to that. In the 1979 spring primary, Mr. McNulty and Atty. Edmund Schechitti (I know I’m blowing the spelling on that last name) ran for Commissioner. McNulty prevailed but his running mate lost. McNulty was teamed up with then Clerk of Courts Chester LaSota, an endorsee of the party. Proclaiming that the two would run as a team, LaSota’s people, party regulars cut McNulty in certain wards in the mid valley worse than a one eyed, drunk butcher. On Election night, a disappointed McNulty on WDAU TV angrily called out LaSota for the vote cutting that cost McNulty the election and the Democrats a chance at the Majority in the County. So there are all types of pitfalls awaiting the Democrats regarding these new developments.
Here’s what appears to be the pecking order of the Democratic candidates.

1. Evie Refalko McNulty:

You have to make her the favorite for a number of reasons. She’s been elected to the Recorder of Deeds office. Her campaigns were organized and conceptualized by her husband, James McNulty. Her first effort had as its theme the Broadway hit song “Getting To Know You”. While the campaign ads were glitzy, Mrs. McNulty was not. She took that campaign to the streets appearing at Senior Centers, street corners and rallies carrying the persona of “a regular gal”. Plus her associations with the National League of Cities and Mayors (where legend has it she met the then Mayor McNulty telling him that if he lost his 1985 re-election bid he’d have to marry her) as well as various women’s organizations in the county give her a built in voting bloc advantage. The women’s organizations Mrs. McNulty belongs to span an entire social and economic spectrum from breast cancer research to dress for success for women in business. There are those who will tell you that Mrs. McNulty’s association with the former Mayor may hurt her politically because of some of his fiscal shortcomings. I totally disagree with that. First off, Robert Cordaro’s reluctance to readily pay his back taxes (he did finally) puts that issue for Mrs. McNulty off the table. Had Cordaro not been called out on that issue, maybe there’d be a negative but not after that. And let’s not forget that Jim McNulty has been, is and will be a political force in his own right. It is true he has only won one election out of 6 he contested for on a county and city basis. BUT if you look at the numbers on his losses, every single one of those losses were by less than 200 votes each time. Jim McNulty still has a base of people loyal to him and his family. Plus, let’s not forget the presence of Sister Adrian Barrett and the Barrett/McNulty axis of votes. Then, there is the historical significance of Mrs. McNulty being the first woman to be a County Commissioner. (Luzerne County has had two already). You combine all those forces and Evie McNulty looks pretty comfortable as the front runner in this race.

2. Mike Washo:

He has the Democratic endorsement, has been a very vocal minority commissioner and comes across in public as accessible, friendly, knowledgeable and dedicated to serve. He will have the bulk of the Democrats who helped get him appointed and then endorsed. Mr. Washo can capitalize on the fact that if he were in the majority, the Dems would get a leg up on some county jobs they’ve been missing out on.
His only pitfall is that he might be eclipsed by the “running on all cylinders” candidacy of Mrs. McNulty and the youth and charisma of Corey O’Brien.

3. Corey O’Brien:

Attractive, well spoken, a TV and Radio host who has been in the public eye for about two years. He has to tread carefully in order to succeed. Mr. O’Brien has to accentuate the positive in his race and not come across as an ambitious attorney on the way up the ladder. More than any other candidate, O’Brien needs to present a plan on how he will govern. I know, I know, it’s not fair but Mr. Washo and Mrs. McNulty are perceived by the public as having records, Mr. O’Brien to some is just a “pretty face who looks good in a suit”. O’Brien has to walk the fine line of running as an insurgent candidate but letting it be known with a velvet glove that he would not be adverse of any help from the cigar chomping backroom old school Dems who still control votes in the Lackawanna County world. He would be smart to cultivate the base of Joe Corcoran (the long time 20 year majority commissioner who lest we forget, lost the 2003 race by less than 250 votes). O’Brien, if he makes the right moves has a chance to overcome Mr. Washo but he has to make sure his answers to public questions (example: his disassociation from his law firm) are crystal clear.

4. Robert Berta:

The Mid Valley has always enjoyed a presence on the Lackawanna County Democratic ticket. For years, Ray Alberigi served as a County Commissioner. Mr. Berta needs to exploit that into one huge voting bloc for himself, utilize his position in law enforcement and his business connections to get himself better known. Right now, he is the longest of long shots but as we all know in Lackawanna County political history, that can be a small consideration when all is said and done.


Lackawanna County Controller:

John Mellow (D), Blakely; Glenn M. Cashuric (D), Olyphant; Kenneth J. McDowell (D), Scranton; and Michael J.Bodnar (R), Dunmore.

Treasurer: Edward Karpovich (D), Clarks Summit.

Clerk of Judicial Records: Mary F. Rinaldi, (D) Dunmore.

Coroner: Joseph J. Brennan (D), Carbondale.

City of Scranton Controller: Roseann Novembri­no (D), 1701 Washburn St.

Scranton City Council:

William Courtright (D), Todd Hartman (D), Lee Morgan (D), Robert E. McGoff Jr. (D), Greg Popil (D), Andrew M.Sbaraglia (D), Bob Bolus Sr.

(R), Giovanni Piccolino (R), Pat Rogan (R), and Jim Williams (R)


At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great analysis of the Lackawanna County race. You mention the power of radio and TV with Corey O'Brien but let's not forget Jim McNulty's long running show on WYOU TV and cable plus his time on WARM Radio in the ninties. It seemed like every Mayor in America was on the radio at that time including one of my favs the late, great Frank Rizzo. That media exposure has to rub off on the name recognition of Mrs. James Barrett.
Good stuff as always.

Mid Valley Millie

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Democratic party in Lackawanna County does not have it's feces together. With Clauss getting the nod then bailing out, the Dems may as well all be wearing a sign on their backs that reads, "I can't find my butt using two hands!"

Thing is, even when the dust settles (Washo/McNulty) the Democrats don't have a candidate endorsed or otherwise who can unseat the present majority. The Yankees alone might put them over the top.

Mix in the reassessment, emphasizing that the infamous 48% was essential to the county's future, a pair of tax rollbacks since, the fact that it's not just Republicans who are ending up with all the jobs, and how can you beat that?

Whatever the Dems do and whoever they field as candidates, they are essentially conducting an exercise in futility.

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You brought up some pretty good points about winners and losers. It is true Corcoran lost by about 200 votes so the GOP certainly had no big mandate. This thing can swing either way because no one was blown out. THe Yankees may help some but all the Dems have to do is make the arguement that a trained chimp could've brought the Yanks to town maihnly because they had the mindset to already do so. I mean were they gonna got to New Orleans 2000 miles away or Scranton 200 miles away? I'm not sure the Dems are ballsy enough to make that case though.

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great obs on the current deal. Lacka-dems have a long history of blowing their own toes off at every opportunity, yet continue to often keep the majority. One local D(a player from a prominent D family) recently said to me, "Give us any chance and we will F*** things up every time." Very true.

Corcoran's loss was a complete shocker to the Rs. A month before the general the county committee all but stopped spending money on TV, radio, and print. And the reason was simple - their research showed them losing big to Joe and Randy. Top of the loser list was Cordaro. Their very own, paid-for, and extensive research had him getting his head handed to him.

Sadly, I'm with the poster who says the Yankees alone could put the current duo back into a second term. Sorry, but I just don't think those two are good for the county.

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Cordaro is so disliked anything is possible. He and Tweedle Dum promised a 25% tax cut and came up with a 48% tax increase. "We didnt know how bad it was", they said. Well logic dictates that they shouldnt have promised the cut, but they refuse to be held to that or any logic. I dont think I could in good conscience vote for either one of em. Bob got my vote twice and thats enough. I dont think they are lisrtening to the people or are willing to. There runnin on bringin you and me the Yankees! The only thing in their favor is the sad ass Democratic bumbling by bunglers new and old. They ignored Evie because shes a woman. Maybe it was because she is a woman of size and not a reed thin cupcake like Linda Munley or Jill Moran. I like Washo, but he may not be returned to office. The Dems do not have an attractive candidate to add or the organizational skills necessary. I've had enough of Cord/Munch, but wouldnt be at all surprised to have em for another term in which case Bob will outKing King Joe Corcoran, an ass**** ,and display an arrogance unheard of this side of Bush/Cheney and the beltway. Look out if ya reelect him. Polish the Crown and build the throne, all bow down King Bob is in the County. He'll declare AJ the Duke of Earl!

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the hell did Bobby get away with that not knowing how bad it was crap? He was there, he was a commissioner, no one ever seems to remember that he was a part of the team, albeit the minority and powerless player, HE WAS THERE.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just because he was there doesn't mean he knew a thing. the minority commish is frozen out of much of what goes on behind the curtain. since a consenscous isn't needed they will leave out the minority commish and keep him/her completeley in the dark. to believe otherwise is extremely naive

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rumor has it that BIG BOB sold a building,that was owned by county taxpayers to his father for much less than other bids received.
Does anyone know about this deal?


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