Oh, Brother — Sibling Rivalry On 112th Ballot

March 10, 2018

Well, they did it. Former Lackawanna County Commissioner Randy Castellani, 51, of Archbald, and his brother, former Blakely Tax Collector Robert Castellani, 52, of Blakely, filed nominating petitions to run for the Democratic nomination to the 112th House District seat. Barring a successful challenge to either of their nominating petitions, both names will appear on the May 15 primary election ballot. Oh, brother, right? They won’t be alone on the Democratic ballot. Kyle Mullins, 33, of Blakely, Tom Carlucci, 32, of Dunmore, and Francis McHale, 67, of Scranton, also want the nomination. Ernest Lemoncelli, 62, of Archbald, is unopposed for the Republican nomination. All the veteran politicians we talked to this week can’t remember two family members so closely related ever running for so major an office at the same time. Long ago, when party machines dominated politics, they never would have allowed it. More recently, we know it just hasn’t happened. Back in 1998, rumors developed that Gov. Robert Casey’s sons, Chris and Pat, wanted to run for Joe McDade’s congressional seat. Only Pat ever ran. Speaking of Pat Casey, he lost that 1998 race by 515 votes — the closest House race in the nation — to Republican Don Sherwood and came back two years later to try again. A lot of people forget, but Casey had a Democratic opponent in his 2000 rerun — Francis McHale, the same guy trying for the 112th House seat this year. Casey swamped him. More recycling — who’s better at it than we are? We went through the Castellani family electoral history last month so no need to recap that here, though we did forget that Rob Castellani once ran unsuccessfully for county recorder of deeds in 1997. Evie Rafalko McNulty beat him and two others in that Democratic primary, won the seat in November and has won re-election five times. Rob Castellani hasn’t won a race since tax collector so he starts this one as a decided underdog. He has to beat his better-known older brother just to get to November. Randy Castellani hasn’t won a race since finishing first in the 2003 county commissioner election. In fairness, he’s only 0 for 1 since, but it’s a big 0 for 1. With his built-in name identification advantage, Randy Castellani somehow managed to lose to unknown landscaper Frank Farina in the 2012 Democratic contest for what was the 115th House District seat, which had a lot of the same towns as the current 112th. Castellani lost by 108 votes, but really should have won easily. Farina worked his butt off campaigning, and Randy didn’t, is the way we heard it. Just in case you don’t know, the 112th includes all or parts of Center City, the Hill Section and South Scranton in Scranton and Archbald, Blakely, Dunmore, Jessup, Olyphant and Throop boroughs. The Castellanis have a problem in common with Mullins. All three live in the Midvalley. They could split up the votes there, opening up things for Carlucci, who lives in Dunmore, the single biggest 112th voting bloc outside of Scranton. McHale lives in Scranton and could benefit from that but he’s really unknown and he’ll have to prove himself as a campaigner. Carlucci is insurance executive Chuck Volpe’s candidate. Volpe told us that and he already had him on his weekly politics television show. Mullins, state Sen. John Blake’s legislative director, is Blake’s guy. Volpe finished second behind Blake in the 2010 Senate primary after Sen. Robert J. Mellow retired before being convicted of misusing office resources. In case you’re wondering which Castellani their family supports, well, their sister and another family member (looks like an uncle, but we’re not sure) circulated the nominating petitions of Randy Castellani. Six other people named Castellani signed his petitions. Randy Castellani did not circulate his petitions, but his wife, Laura, did. Robert Castellani and his wife, Iris, circulated his petitions, but no one else named Castellani did. It looks like five people named Castellani signed his nominating petitions. Though we didn’t count them all, Mullins seems to have topped everybody in the number of signatures. He also had the most people, 25 besides himself, circulate his nominating petitions. Randy Castellani had 15 circulators besides his wife, Carlucci had 10 besides himself and Robert Castellani had four besides himself and his wife. McHale circulated all of his petitions. If you’re looking to guess who wins, some of that could signal what will happen, but we’re two months out, a lifetime in a campaign. At least voters are guaranteed races in May and November in the 112th, an open seat because embattled incumbent Rep. Kevin Haggerty decided against running again. The other incumbent House members whose districts include at least part of Lackawanna County — Rep. Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton, Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor, Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, Avoca, and Rep. Karen Boback, R-117, Harveys Lake — have no competition on the Democratic or Republican ballots. A Republican could get on the ballot through write-in votes. Blake has no Democratic competition, but will face Republican Old Forge School Director Frank Scavo in November. At least, the Senate race is contested, but Scavo has lost in three previous Senate runs so he has a lot to prove. Scavo has a potentially strong issue. He favors eliminating school property taxes and Blake doesn’t, but translating that into a winning campaign is a different matter. BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune politics reporter, writes Random Notes.