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Pair Beats High Card, Whether It’s Ace Or Joker

March 30, 2019

Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings never found a running mate for the May 21 primary election, but her two opponents for the Republican commissioner nominations may have. It looks like Scott Twp. Supervisor Michael Giannetta, 57, and heating, ventilation, air-conditioning company technician Chris Chermak, 55, might run as a united ticket. They sat together at the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday night, and posed for a picture that Giannetta posted on his “Elect Mike Giannetta Commissioner” Facebook page. “I didn’t know Chris before, but I’ve gotten to know him,” Giannetta said Friday. “I think he’s a great guy. I think he has a lot of great ideas.” At the chamber dinner, “we got a lot of good responses from people,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people who want change in the county.” On their possible pairing, Giannetta said only, “Stay tuned.” Chermak used the same two words. He said he would have loved a running mate earlier, but he and Giannetta never met until a couple of weeks ago. “We hit it off,” Chermak said. “He’s on the same page as me. We’ll see how this is going to work out.” Their pairing would surprise a bit because Chermak announced his candidacy a couple of years ago while Giannetta did just a few weeks ago. If Republicans really want change the way Giannetta says, it could mean dumping Cummings. “The good old boys network is back in town,” Cummings said of the pairing. Feel free to hold off on believing Republicans want Cummings gone until you see it. Say what you want about Cummings, but she has an audience and she’s the county Republican Party’s 114th state House District chairwoman. Cummings, 54, of Old Forge, claims she couldn’t find a running mate, and the lack of one can hurt in a primary election. In 2015, longtime Throop Councilman Tom Lukasewicz ran solo for the Democratic nomination and got thumped. He was just the latest example. Of course, that same election also proved you don’t always need a running mate to win a nomination and having one can sometimes hurt. Jerry Notarianni wanted to run on a Democratic commissioner ticket with county Recorder of Deeds Evie Rafalko McNulty, but she declined. Notarianni ran alone and won a nomination. Newly re-converted Democratic Commissioner Patrick O’Malley ran with fellow Democratic Commissioner Jim Wansacz. O’Malley won as he and Notarianni clobbered Wansacz for the two Democratic nominations. O’Malley and Notarianni teamed up for the general election, but their falling out led to O’Malley teaming up with Cummings in the unusual bipartisan majority that still survives as we enter this primary election season. We will soon find out if Cummings can survive the primary on her own, like Notarianni, or if she’ll falter like Wansacz. Undoubtedly, the chances of Republicans or Democrats winning the commissioners’ office majority in November get better with a strong, united ticket. You can argue that Notarianni and O’Malley never really united four years ago, but they had the massive Democratic voter registration majority to help them overcome any disunity. That, and Cummings never really uniting with the other Republican commissioner candidate, Bill Jones. By the end of the campaign, different people openly backed one or the other, but too few backed both. Think about all the commissioner majorities in just the last 50 years — Bob Pettinato and Charles Luger in 1971, 1975 and 1979, Joe Corcoran and Ray Alberigi in 1983, 1987, 1991 and 1995, Mike Washo and Corey O’Brien in 2007 and O’Brien and Wansacz in 2011. O’Brien/Washo and O’Brien/Wansacz weren’t paired in the primaries, but once they won the primaries, they ran unified races to win their majorities, though neither pairing faced a strong Republican ticket. You can argue that Republicans Bob Cordaro and A.J. Munchak made a strong pairing in 2007. They were definitely unified but their behavior in office, especially Cordaro’s, cost them against Washo and O’Brien. Republicans were anything but unified in 2011 and 2015. Cordaro and Munchak definitely paired strongly in 2003 when they defeated Corcoran, whose 1999 and 2003 running mate, Commissioner Randy Castellani, survived the 2003 election. For the moment, what works most against Giannetta and Chermak is that voters know Cummings better. They can change that by spending substantially to raise their profile and really getting around. Obviously, there are two Republican nominations so both will have to beat Cummings to continue their pairing into the fall. What may work against Cummings’ re-nomination are some of the things she has said in office — her position on transgender people and bathrooms and her opposition to marijuana legalization, a bike lane study and a special property tax to fund the arts. She also sometimes raises issues commissioners really don’t need to worry about. She’s already running on what works for her — her votes in favor of consolidating major county offices at the former Globe store without cost overruns, never raising property taxes and having quarterly commissioner meetings in local towns. She also touts her votes against a countywide property reassessment, a $5 vehicle registration fee and raises for county officials. Cummings also points out she’s the only woman seeking a Republican nomination. BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune’s politics reporter, writes Random Notes.

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