AP NEWS

Analyis: Margin Of Victory In W-B Democratic Mayoral Primary Surprises Many

May 23, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — The magnitude of George Brown’s win over incumbent mayor Tony George in Tuesday’s primary election surprised pundits, the campaign chairs and the candidates themselves, especially given George’s advantages in the campaign.

Brown bested George in all of the city’s 20 voting precincts, winning 2,721 votes to George’s 845, not including absentee or write-in ballots, according to unofficial results.

Even in George’s own 20th Ward, where he whipped Brown by a 7-to-2 margin in the 2015 primary election, Brown won with three votes for every two cast for George.

“In politics, it’s expected a candidate should carry the candidate’s own ward or district, just as in a presidential race it’s expected the candidate will carry his home state,” said Tom Baldino, political science professor at Wilkes University.

“If the home region rejects that candidate, it doesn’t bode well for his chances,” Baldino said.

It’s also unusual for an incumbent to lose in a second election, especially if the candidate raised and spent more money on the campaign than the challenger, Baldino said.

Campaign cash

According to campaign finance reports, Brown’s campaign started 2019 with $1,714 and raised another $38,329 by May 7. During that same period, the campaign spent $26,983, leaving a cash balance of $13,060 to spend in the two weeks before the election.

George’s campaign started 2019 with $30,643 in the bank and raised another $23,060 by May 7. In the same period, the campaign spent $17,328, leaving a cash balance of $36,375.

Even if he has considerable money left in his campaign fund, George said he won’t mount a write-in challenge this fall. With no Republican on the ballot, Brown is almost guaranteed a win in the general election.

 

Notable is that George had about $13,000 more in his war chest than Brown did this year but spent $9,655 less than Brown in the four months leading to the election. Unknown is their spending in the final two weeks because those finance reports aren’t due until June 10.

“When the candidate with more money loses, research suggests that the candidate was weak in many other areas,” said Baldino, who thinks George’s “most glaring” misstep was asking the state to declare the city financially distressed last year.

“That’s a very drastic step, and kind of shocking. Residents likely thought … the state was going to come in and take drastic steps like raising taxes. I’m not sure city residents were ready for that,” Baldino said.

Stunned by margin

Ted Wampole, George’s campaign co-chairman and former city administrator, said the election results were “very humbling and very disappointing.”

“I expected it to be a close race and that we would come out on the plus side of it. I was stunned by the margin,” Wampole said.

“I don’t think there was any one thing we could have done to change the outcome. It was definitely a wave and a message sent that people want someone else in there,” Wampole said. “It’s tough to try to pinpoint. I think people are just looking for a different leadership style.”

Wampole said George had to make some difficult decisions regarding what he thought was best for the city, and residents didn’t agree with some of those decisions.

Grass-roots effort

Jenis Walsh, campaign co-chair for Brown, said she was “surprised at the number” of votes Brown received over George, “but I think people remember when you come to their door.”

Walsh said Brown was out every Saturday and Sunday knocking on people’s doors on every street in the city to ask about their concerns and listen to their answers.

“We made sure nobody felt like they weren’t a part of Wilkes-Barre,” Walsh said. “We weren’t out there making empty promises. We listened to their concerns. People want to be heard and know they’re going to have an active mayor.”

“There’s no better way to campaign than to roll up your sleeves and listen and look people in the eye when you talk to them,” she said.

As for other strategy and spending, Walsh said much focus was put on social media. Other than that, “money was spent where it needed to be and at the right time without bombarding people too much,” she said.

What’s next

Baldino recommended that Brown pay “very close attention to what’s going on in city hall” over the next eight months, as should council and citizens who follow the state of the city.

George “needs to be monitored so he doesn’t leave a bigger mess than there is in trying to make the city better. I’m not suggesting the mayor would do something like that, but with his requesting Act 47, I question his judgment,” Baldino said.

Wampole said the mayor and his team “always did what we and the mayor thought was in the best interest of the city. It’s tough when you have limited resources financially. I thought the mayor was pretty clear on that.”

He believes Brown will come to the same realization.

“It’s easy to say hire more police, hire more fire, pave more streets, demolish more buildings. But when you’re there and have to perform, it’s tougher,” Wampole said.

“We’ll be watching to see if the next administration can deliver on everything they’ve been promising,” Wampole said. “Obviously, the people who voted think that they can, and I hope they’re right.”

Contact the writer:

smocarsky@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV

 

The mayors of Wilkes-Barre

Mayor Tony George is the first one-term mayor since Walter Lisman

Ira M. Kirkendale, 1871-1874

M.A. Kearney, 1874-1877

W.W. Loomis, 1877-1880

Thomas Broderick, 1880-1886

C.B. Sutton, 1886-1892

Francis M. Nichols, 1892-1902

Charles H. Price, 1902-1905

Frederick C. Kirkendall, 1905-1908

Lewis P. Kniffen, 1908-1911

John V. Kosek, 1911-1920

Daniel L. Hart, 1920-1933

Charles N. Loveland, 1933-1944

Con McCole, 1944-1948

Luther M. Kniffen, 1948-1960

Frank Slattery, 1960-1968

John V. Morris, 1968-1970

John B. McGlynn, 1970-1972

Con “Firpo” Salwoski, 1972-1976

Walter Lisman, 1976-1980

Thomas McLaughlin, 1980-1988

Lee Namey, 1988-1996

Thomas D. McGroarty, 1996-2004

Thomas Leighton, 2004-2016

Anthony George, 2016-present

2019 Primary Election Results

Incumbent Tony George lost in every ward to challenger George Brown in Tuesday’s race for mayor of Wilkes-Barre.

Ward George Brown

1 39 159

 

2 49 228

3 50 78

4 38 162

5 35 138

6 38 108

7 43 87

8 37 61

9 22 66

10 39 82

11 74 150

12 52 116

13 44 111

14 27 117

15 48 270

16 42 310

17 13 103

18 29 105

19 42 138

20 87 131

Totals* 848 2,720

Source: Tony George campaign

* The totals vary slightly from numbers Luzerne County provided. A breakdown by ward was not immediately available from the county.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.