ELECTION RESULTS: George Concedes In Wilkes-Barre Mayor Race
WILKES-BARRE — Tuesday’s election proved more than a turn of the tide for George Brown as he scored a tsunami-sized win over Mayor Tony George in their battle for the Democratic nomination to be the city’s next chief executive.
“The outpouring of voters who came out today and voted for Brown for mayor and the confidence that they showed in me makes me feel wonderful,” Brown said during a gathering at CrisNics Irish Pub on Barney Street in South Wilkes-Barre after the polls closed.
Brown swept up 2,721 votes to George’s 845 in their second primary face-off in four years, giving the retired businessman a more than 3-to-1 margin of victory, according to unofficial election results.
The margin was much more narrow in the 2015 primary election, when George bested Brown by only 151 votes, winning 2,098 to Brown’s 1,947 in the four-way race. Brian W. Kelly collected 242 votes and Darlene Duggins Magdalinski took 186 in that race.
George went on trounce Republican Frank Sorick in the general election that fall by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
On Tuesday, George called Brown to concede the race and congratulate his opponent less than an hour after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
Brown said he owed his victory to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers and supporters who helped him knock on the doors of more than 1,500 registered voters and make a case for electing him, make phone calls on his behalf and place yard signs.
Brown said he thinks voters chose him over George because they wanted change, based on “a commonality” in complaints he heard about crime, blighted properties, dirty streets, city infrastructure and economic conditions while out knocking on doors and campaigning.
“I think they see someone coming in with fresh, new ideas, a background leading businesses, a background in human resources, a person with a master’s degree in operational management, the ability to make the decisions to make sure we bring the city along with safe streets, clean streets, reduce the crime,” Brown said.
George said he has no plans to attempt a write-in campaign in the fall.
“The people spoke. That’s who I work for. If they want somebody else there, let him take the reins. I work for the people, not for myself,” George said during a gathering at Best Western Plus Genetti Hotel and Conference Center, across the street from city hall.
But, the mayor said, he is not finished working to make the city better.
“I still have six months to try to finish as much as I can what I started,” George said.
While George, 67, campaigned on having made “progress as promised” in the city, Brown, 68, attacked the mayor on a number of fronts.
As George touted his ability to secure funding and start work on the long-awaited Solomon Creek Flood Control Project, Brown lambasted him for hiring an inexperienced department head to oversee the project after it hit a snag.
George’s administration missed some federal advertising and public comment requirements on the flood wall replacement project, which led to a two-month work stoppage that began March 8.
And while George, a retired city police chief, had campaigned on a “law and order” platform in 2015, Brown criticized him for appointing a police chief that didn’t have union support and was deemed to not have adequate credentials for the post in a state police chiefs association review.
While ignoring some of the initiatives George had touted, such as his “Taking It To the Streets” building and health code sweeps and the demolition of nearly 40 blighted properties, Brown pointed to complaints about other blight and potholes in the streets.
Brown also blamed George for the city losing its A- credit rating after George unsuccessfully requested financially distressed status from the state. And Brown touted his own business experience, boasting degrees in human resources and organizational management.
Brown promised to meet with department heads to determine proper staffing for police and fire departments, claiming George had them understaffed for far too long.
And he vowed to seek input from department heads, residents and business owners to develop a “strategic plan” for the city’s future, to attend council meetings to hear concerns and answer residents’ questions, as well as invite groups to his office for discussions.
Brown also pledged to forego the mayor’s budgeted $82,000 salary and health insurance, which costs about $30,000 annually, and instead take a salary of $60,000 and continue on Medicare benefits, saving the city $200,000 over four years.
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