Brian Kelly offers Wilkes-Barre City a mayoral campaign wrap-up
I would like to thank all of my supporters and those who saw through the maze and chose to vote for my candidacy for Mayor of Wilkes-Barre. I sincerely appreciate your help.
Many of you still do not know who I am. I rarely made the blogs during the mayoral campaign. Mr. Yonki, WB’s most popular political blogger, quickly identified me as somebody Mayor Tom McLaughlin would not approve of as a JFK Democrat. Another guy from WB Truth claimed that there were at least ten reasons why I was a Leighton plant. “Tom Leighton said so,” was not one of the reasons, however. Nonetheless WB Truth came up with its own humorous top ten.
The two local papers predictably endorsed two Democratic candidates for mayor with funding who were already associated with City Hall as Councilmen. They still have seven months left. Voters apparently were not at all upset with any of the members on City Council during this four year period in which crime records in the City were shattered. Council was exonerated for having no crime solutions or solutions for solving property blight in the City. It was simply because Tom Leighton was so “bad, bad, bad!” Leighton took the heat for Council, though admittedly he had his own sins. Voters could not come to blame Council for one thing. It was all Tom Leighton’s fault? So, nothing has changed since the election other than the faces. You make the call. Maybe Tony George or Republican Frank Sorick will change things big time. That would be nice.
The TV stations for the most part did nothing to help the voters decide or to help motivate them to go out to the polls and vote. At least WBRE-TV interviewed everybody on election day but the time allotted for the interview was apparently reduced at air time so WBRE Management chose not to let any of the voice parts of the candidate recordings be aired. Instead, Andy Mehalshick, with the candidate apparently miming in the background, read stuff that was not ever said by some of the candidates. It was as if Andy was reading an inaccurate election news article while the candidates were silently mouthing in the background. So, only those who paid for a TV ad spot this campaign were heard on TV. Such is politics in NEPA.
The only people who voted for me and Darlene Duggins-Magdalenski were those who definitely wanted to change the City.
It did not matter, the Democratic and Republican voters had already made their decisions. The stay at home couch potatoes made their decisions easier by being no-shows. They more than likely made sure there was enough beer and fritos and dip to watch their favorite shows, with or without election news. One could conclude that Wilkes-Barre is not having a crime problem and few if any changes are necessary.
The winner of the Democratic Mayoral Primary in which I competed is already being touted as being our new Mayor to-be as that is typically what happens in Wilkes-Barre. Yet, George must face Frank Sorick in the Fall and the winner of that bout will be Mayor of Wilkes-Barre. I was on the Democratic Ballot and so I ran directly against Magdalenski, Brown, and George. Tony George, the Democratice victor is a fine man with many years of employment in Wilkes-Barre City Hall. He is very popular with everybody, including myself. Everybody likes him, including me.
His closest rival was another Democratic City Councilman who got about ten times the vote total as I got. The only people who voted for me and Darlene Duggins-Magdalenski were those who definitely wanted to change the City. Out of the voters who turned up at the polls, there were certainly very few wearing either of our buttons. There were a lot of politicos who were there to assure a Brown primary victory and their were a lot of friends of Tony George to assure a George victory. Tony George won the nomination because he has more friends than the huge political class of voters who were heralding George Brown.
Nobody from the community with big bucks came up to me or any of my campaign cohorts and said they would finance a non-political person for office — at least not to me. The contributions from just one of George Brown’s donors would have paid for all my campaign expenses. To be quite frank, I had little funding.
Ironically, when people who would have little funding themselves if they ran for Mayor saw that I had little funding, they lost hope. Funding had become a barometer for my worthiness to hold the office. The local papers, believe it or not, waited until the campaign finance reports to be released before they offered their candidate endorsements. The papers split their Democratic endorsements between the two most heavily financed candidates. Why was that?
I also ran as a write-in candidate on the Republican side. The total for write-ins was 252 while Frank Sorick, the Republican candidate, received 510 votes. The papers suggested that Frank Sorick was unopposed in the primary though this was not true.
Three out of the four incumbent Councilmen who ran were rewarded with either a Democratic nomination for reelection or were voted in as the Democratic Mayoral nominee.
Without proper financing compared with those well financed, two candidates were defacto unworthy. Thus 79% of Wilkes-Barre chose not to come out to vote for anybody. My discussions in 90% of the Wilkes-Barre neighborhoods where I walked myself, along with my keen adeptness at placing my campaign placards on the folks’ porches with a quick wrist flick action did not apparently motivate anybody to brave the sunny weather on election day to come out to vote for me or for anybody else.
Besides the two popular councilmen running for Mayor on the Democratic side, Wilkes-Barre voters also rewarded Democratic councilmen Bill Barrett and Mike Merritt with another four years on Council, even though members of Council see themselves having no role and no blame for any of Wilkes-Barre’s troubles. Wilkes-Barre voters clearly agreed. The irony is that Brown, George, Barrett, and Merritt were the only vestiges of the defamed Leighton Administration who were on the Democratic ballot. Wilkes-Barre voters gave them all an overwhelming vote of confidence. All received tons more votes than I did, a total newcomer to the City game, and how it is played.
Democrat George C. Brown got about 2000 votes himself in a valiant but losing effort to defeat the Mayoral primary victor Tony George. Nobody but the new guys — myself and Ms. Magdalenski were given get out of town fast tickets. From the Democratic Primary election results, one can only conclude that Wilkes-Barre likes its leaders. For those considering running against the Wilkes-Barre establishment in the future, my conclusion is that there is little reason for anybody not already in office to take a shot at making the city safe, affordable, and clean. I do hope that scenario changes for the good of the City.
Let me repeat this in a different way. Three out of the four incumbent Councilmen who ran were rewarded with either a Democratic nomination for reelection or were voted in as the Democratic Mayoral nominee. The only poor incumbent soul who was not rewarded with an opportunity for an office was George Brown, though he did receive 1700 more votes than Ms. Magdalenski, a smart lady in her own right, or myself. If I had not plodded through 90% of the neighborhoods, unaccompanied, and in my own shoes, I might suggest George Brown worked the hardest, but I have no evidence of that.
I did see Tony George trying to convince my wife and my neighbors in South Wilkes-Barre to vote for him. I saw him and his wife and even the family dog campaigning as I was walking the neighborhoods. Tony George, our new Democratic Mayoral nominee, worked hard for sure. Though in his four years on Council he was not in synch with Mayor Leighton, Mr. George has been part of Wilkes-Barre administrations for a long time and so I lumped both front-runners together as Councilmen when I made reference to my plans for the City. I will be sharing my plans with Mr. George or Mr. Sorick in the future if either chooses to entertain them.
The results of this election, in my humble opinion, suggest that either nobody in Wilkes-Barre is unhappy with its government and its handling of the issues, or that Magdalenski and Kelly have been flagged as dumb-ass buffoons for even trying to win a Democratic primary election as non-politicians in Wilkes-Barre. Thus, by reason of their insanity, a disease detected in time by the aligned voters, they were summarily identified and dealt with as only can happen in Wilkes-Barre politics.
By the way, besides George Brown, with an impressive vote total for Mayor, the only other currently sitting Council person to not win a nomination was Maureen Lavelle. She opted not to run for her second term. Her Democratic slot in the primary, which surely would have again been claimed as an incumbent if she ran, was instead gained by 20-year-old Beth Gilbert, who surely appears to be a breath of fresh air. She defeated two other Democratic newcomers.
Perhaps Gilbert would have lost her Democratic Primary bid in Wilkes-Barre if Lavelle had run as our citizens do like to reward their officials for time in office by giving them more time in office, regardless of the state of the City. I hope that if Ms. Gilbert prevails in the fall against Steven A. Urban, she shows all of Wilkes-Barre that new blood is like running old clothes through the washing machine lots more times than they need to be clean. There is no chance they come out dirty. Perhaps Ms. Gilbert would be able to teach a few old dogs some new tricks. Let’s hope so. I sure hope so!
Who is Brian Kelly?
Brian Kelly is a former IBM Senior Systems Engineer and college professor. Kelly ran for office so that Wilkes-Barre could have a Mayor from outside the current political system. Kelly’s campaign platform included making the city more open and friendly to business and making Wilkes-Barre a safe, affordable and clean city. Brian Kelly and his many ideas for a better city were soundly defeated on May 19, 2015.