How Pennsylvania City Mayors Fared In The Primaries

May 17, 2017

Lancaster Councilwoman Danene Sorace won the city's Democratic nomination for mayor Tuesday, and will face Republican Cindy Stewart in the fall.

Urban areas tend to lean left. But the mayor's office in Lancaster has changed parties multiple times over the years.

So Sorace and her supporters say they have a legitimate contest ahead, despite an increase in Democratic voters and major improvements in Lancaster since outgoing Mayor Rick Gray took office. This also was Lancaster's first contested mayoral primary in at least 30 years and turnout was high.

"Our voter profile in the city is different than it was 12 years ago," Sorace said shortly before one of her opponents Kevin Ressler called to concede the race. "We are optimistic going into the fall just based in that, but nothing can be taken for granted."

Ressler, who got 30 percent of votes to Sorace's 47 percent, agrees.

"The argument [that] we're moving in the right direction, that didn't resonate with the community in an overwhelming fashion," Ressler said. "A third of the community is in poverty. ... Someone should be very motivated to listen to the community that has often been underrepresented and that has not felt heard — or that the system allows them to participate."

The Allentown mayor's race will be one to watch as well. Mayor Ed Pawlowski cleared the first hurdle Tuesday in his bid for a fourth term despite the FBI probe of City Hall that ensnared other officials. Investigators described Pawlowski to a T in case documents, but didn't name him. They also haven't charged him, although Pawlowski’s lawyer expects he will be charged.

Pawlowski was forced to abandon a fledgling U.S. Senate campaign early on in the investigation, which also prompted him to rack up legal bills that have spawned a lawsuit.

Nat Hyman, a real estate developer focused on historic conversions, secured the Republication nomination Tuesday to challenge Pawlowski this fall.

Familiar faces

Incumbent mayors in in Harrisburg, York, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Latrobe in Westmoreland County, won Democratic primaries in cities with no Republican ticket to speak of, putting them in position to hang onto their seats (absent a write-in candidate).

Jeanette Mayor Richard Jacobelli, who won handily in 2013, was ousted by city sanitation worker Curtis Antoniak, according to Westmoreland County's unofficial election results.

Democratic mayors were unopposed Tuesday in Bethlehem, Nanticoke, Pottsville, New Kensington and Connellsville. Republicans ballots were blank in those cities as well.

And mayors who have been serving out unexpired terms also were alone on the ticket in Gettysburg and West York, where former Mayor Charles Wasko was forced to resign amid public outrage over his racist social media activity.

In Pittston, former mayor Mike Lombardo will return to office. The Democrat, who was in office during 1998-2005, has been the sole contender for the seat being vacated by Jason Klush.

Fall contests

Former Erie City Councilman Joe Schember won a seven-way Democratic primary and will run this fall against Republican John Persinger, an attorney who also had a contested race Tuesday. The city's three-term limit prevented current Mayor Joseph Sinnott, a Democrat, from seeking re-election

Councilwoman Beth Kremer defeated former mayor Jesse Woodring for the Republican nomination for Sunbury mayor, a slot held for about a decade by David Persing. Kremer will face Democrat Kurt Karlovich, who was unopposed Tuesday, in November.

Mahanoy City's mayoral primaries were uncontested. The general election pits incumbent Patricia Schnitzius, a Democrat who was a councilwoman when she was appointed to serve the second half of former Mayor Nancy Pietritsch's term, against Republican Dennis Wiessner. The Schuylkill County District Attorney has vowed to remove Wiessner from any office he might win due to Wiessner's felony theft conviction. Wiessner, however, has said he'd fight the removal because the offense occurred in 1972 when a theft over $50 was considered felony-grade.

Repubilcan Scott Robinson will challenge incumbent Democrat Timothy Scott to serve as Carlisle's mayor; neither faced challengers Tuesday.

Republican Louis Radkowski and Democrat Lyle Garner also were unopposed in the mayoral primaries in St. Mary's, Elk County. Whoever wins the general election will replace outgoing Republican Bob Howard, who defeated Garner in 2013.

For more results, visit our partners at Keystone Crossroads