Scranton’s New Mayor to Face Difficult Challenges
[Editor’s Note: The Lackawanna County GOP announced in a press release July 10 that Gary Lewis had withdrawn his candidacy for Scranton Mayor. A replacement Republican nominee is currently being sought]
The November elections will decide who will guide Scranton through some turbulent waters as the Electric City’s next mayor. Currently on the ballot are Republican nominee Gary Lewis and Democratic contender William Courtright. An independent challenger has yet to emerge, but has until August 1 to do so.
Outgoing mayor, Christopher Doherty, told the Gazette, “The biggest challenge facing the new mayor will obviously be the financial hurdles the City of Scranton faces. I am proud of what has been accomplished during my tenure in office: crime is down, the parks have been restored and cleaned, and the quality of life in Scranton is up.”
Doherty continued, “Government has a role to play. If we are not willing to invest in ourselves, why would anybody else.” Finance will have a major impact in how the next mayor governs and tackles the distressed status of Scranton, now extending into its third decade.
So who are these candidates, where are they from, and what is their vision for the city over the next four years?
Republican Gary Lewis is a native of Scranton, where he attended Scranton public schools before graduating from Scranton Prep and then the University of Scranton, completing a bachelor’s in accounting. He is 27 years of age and single.
Working in the accounting field since graduating from the University of Scranton, Lewis began researching and documenting municipal distress and municipal finance in 2012. He recently took a two-week tour across the United States visiting other distressed cities of sizes similar to Scranton’s to observe how they’re coping, including North Platte, Nebraska, and Hammond, Indiana.
“I am running a very issue-centric campaign. I just want to see the budget balanced and I have the knowledge to do that,” said Lewis in an recent interview with the WBIG. “I am in this for the city and truly not for myself.”
On his website, Lewis lays out his platform: implement an emergency budget designed around the city’s current cash flow, begin cataloging and selling city-owned property, implement alternative revenue measures with the cooperation of the city’s business community, and work with DCED (Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development) and state legislators to overhaul Act 47, the Financially Distressed Municipalities Act governing the city’s debt restructuring.
Lewis’s website is www.GaryLewisForMayor.com.
William ‘Bill’ Courtright is also a Scranton native and the Democratic nominee for mayor. Bill is 56 years old, has three children, and has been married over 30 years. He is the current tax collector for the city, has served on city council for six years, and owns a karate school in Scranton.
Mr. Courtright agrees with his counterpart Gary Lewis that the number one task facing the incoming mayor will be to get the city’s finances in order. “We need to do an in-depth review and look to refinance some of our debt. I want to restore our relationships with local banking that might have waned over the years,” said Courtright. “The current administration has done a good job with the downtown area, but now is the time to invest in our neighborhoods.”
On his website Courtright lays out his key campaign points, which include debt reduction by negotiating lower rates on bonds, establishing a community panel that would make recommendations to move the city forward, and conducting an independent forensic audit to determine the true fiscal state of the city. Courtright also aims to make Scranton business-friendly by streamlining inspections to encourage new business, and to improve communication among city stakeholders by working with council and others to solve Scranton’s problems and finally operate with transparency. The mayor is the steward of the city, and it is the people’s city.
Courtright’s website is www.CourtrightMayor.com.
To date no independent candidate has thrown their hat into the mayoral race, but if one is to emerge they have until August 1 to do so. According to Marion Medalis, supervisor for the Lackawanna Voter Services, an independent or third party contender would need 175 valid signatures to appear on the November ballot.
If a candidate wishes to run as an independent in November’s General Election they will need to affirm that they did not belong to any political party within 30 days of the most recent municipal primary election in May. If a candidate wishes to run on the Libertarian Party ticket the only requirement would be that they did not appear on the primary ballot as a candidate, although they could have been registered with any political party at the time. The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania has secured minor political party status in Pennsylvania and as such, operates with different guidelines from the D’s and R’s when it comes to running candidates. As an example of running as a Libertarian consider Dallas resident Michael Lacey, a registered Republican who ran as a Republican on the Libertarian ticket in the 2011 Luzerne County Council General Election.
Longtime political activist and firebrand Betsy Summers, of Wilkes-Barre, ran as an endorsed Libertarian candidate while registered as a Libertarian in a hotly contested three-way race for Wilkes-Barre mayor, also in 2011. “Competition is good for the political arena. We need more people running and I would encourage citizens to do so. As a Libertarian I drew my support from all groups and do not believe I drew more support from one party or the other but rather, equally across the board,” she told the Gazette.