Commissioners Race Looming Bloodbath
Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley announced the obvious Wednesday: He’s running for re-election. Hundreds attended the announcement at Fiorelli Catering in Blakely, his family’s catering business and hall. If you went, you had to notice something else pretty obvious. O’Malley did not announce his running mate. He did not offer any clues about his intentions when asked about naming a running mate after an airport board meeting Thursday. Maybe it means he can’t find one, maybe it doesn’t. You would think the Democratic commissioner would want to get the running mate’s name out there as soon as possible, especially if he or she isn’t well known. In 2011, when Commissioner Corey O’Brien needed a new running mate because Commissioner Mike Washo decided against another term, O’Brien made a big show of announcing Blakely Mayor Jeanette Acciare-Mariani as his running mate. He aired a television commercial naming her before and during the Super Bowl, which was Feb. 6 that year and more than a month before the nominating petition filing deadline. In 2015, when O’Malley switched from Republican to Democrat and paired with Commissioner Jim Wansacz,he did it about two weeks before the petition filing deadline, but both had an advantage. Wansacz and O’Malley were well known. This year, the petition filing deadline is March 12, the primary election, May 21. Presumably, O’Malley will announce his running mate well before that because we’re betting his nemesis, fellow Democratic Commissioner Jerry Notarianni, will announce his running mate. With George Kelly announcing Friday he’s retiring as county economic development director as of Feb. 5, Notarianni moved a step closer to announcing his running mate. Multiple sources have told us Notarianni has tabbed Kelly, who wouldn’t confirm or deny Friday that he’s running with Notarianni. Notarianni only chuckled when Roderick asked if he would run with Kelly after the same airport board meeting. He told The Times-Tribune’s Jeff Horvath on Friday that Kelly would be a “major asset” if he were a commissioner. Kelly, 60, spent almost six years working for the county and surely knows where they buried the bodies. He should have the kind of insider knowledge of O’Malley’s operation of county government that Notarianni desperately needs. Boy, this primary election has the makings of a real bloodbath. As we’ve pointed out before, the bad blood between Notarianni and O’Malley has shown no signs of subsiding since they took office in January 2016. In case you missed it, Notarianni thought they had an agreement to hire county Recorder of Deeds Evie Rafalko McNulty as chief of staff, but O’Malley denied they ever agreed. Instead, he teamed up with Republican Commissioner Laureen Cummings to name Andy Wallace to the post. Speaking of Cummings, she’s definitely seeking re-election, but said she’s not actively looking for a running mate. “I’ve exhausted my search for a running mate (four years ago),” she said. Four years ago, when she searched for a running mate, the only one to call her back was Bill Jones, she said. The county Republican Party endorsed both, but sometimes it looked like they weren’t a unified ticket. The most obvious instance was when the state Republican Party sent out a mailer backing only Jones. “Nobody’s called to run with me,” Cummings said. In all the meetings of Republicans the last four years, she said, you would think someone would suggest teaming up with her. She acknowledged one key factor that may prevent her from finding a running mate: she opposes a countywide reassessment. She thinks it would raise taxes on the property taxpayers who can least afford to pay. The only announced Republican commissioner candidate so far, Chris Chermak, says he favors reassessment. So, obviously, does Scranton City Councilman Wayne Evans, the Republican most prominently rumored for commissioner. “I can’t run with someone who supports reassessment,” Cummings said. “I wouldn’t do that.” We’ve heard rumors that some longtime Republicans want Cummings gone and are working behind the scenes to make sure it happens, but that’s all hearsay for now. She certainly has taken some controversial stands in her first term and she took a pretty good hit over the last couple of weeks. She’s chairwoman of the Republican 114th House District committee, which narrowly recommended Old Forge School Director Frank Scavo as the party’s nominee to replace the late Democratic state Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich. Then, when the Republican executive committee met a couple nights later, Scavo only beat attorney Stephen Semenza by one vote and that took a second ballot to happen. That showed a lack of respect for the 114th committee’s opinion. Cummings told us this week many Democrats called Republican committee members and put heavy pressure on them to back Semenza. If Evans leaves... The Scranton City Council race could get especially interesting if Evans decides against running for re-election to run for commissioner. That would leave an open seat. Physical therapist and community volunteer Jessica Rothchild, 29, a Hill Section resident, drew a nice crowd Jan. 17 at Jack’s Draft House when she announced she would seek the seat. A Democratic state committeewoman, she already has the backing of state Rep. Kyle Mullins, the new 112th House District representative who represents part of the city. The seats of Evans and Councilman Tim Perry are up for election this year. Perry plans to run with Andy Chomko. They plan to kick off their campaign with a party Feb. 24, according to their Facebook page. BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune politics reporter, writes Random Notes.