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While many voters will have their eyes on major ballot initiatives that could reshape the governor’s emergency powers for years to come, others will be focused on mayoral primary races in their city, with at least six major mayoral offices up for grabs this year.
In an effort to educate voters on which candidates are vying to be mayor in their respective cities, City & State has developed a guide to who will be appearing on ballots across the state in six of the state’s largest cities, from Erie to Allentown and Pittsburgh to Scranton.
Scroll down for more information about who is running in mayoral primary elections in your city.
Mayor Bill Peduto: Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, is looking for voters to elect him to a third term as Pittsburgh’s chief executive. In his first two terms, Peduto helped approve a paid leave program for Pittsburgh workers, while also creating a $120 million fund for affordable housing. Peduto, in a campaign video, said he wants to help Pittsburgh continue its climate sustainability efforts, while also focusing on financial stability and making the city an inclusive one for all residents.
Ed Gainey: State Rep. Ed Gainey, a Democrat, is mounting a competitive primary challenge to Peduto, with a platform focusing on overhauling the city’s police force, aiding small and minority- women- and disadvantaged-owned businesses and strengthening community benefit agreement, and expanding affordable housing opportunities.
Tony Moreno: A former police officer and law enforcement professional, Tony Moreno is also running to be Pittsburgh’s Democratic mayoral nominee. Moreno’s platform focuses heavily on public works and public safety, including the development of a community policing program. Moreno’s platform also underscores the importance of a collaborative city government that works with community organizations and businesses.
Mike Thompson: Mike Thompson, an activist and community organizer, is running for mayor of Pittsburgh on a platform that proposes a 50% cut to the city’s police budget, diverting that funding to social workers and establishing mayoral term limits. Thompson also outlines housing as a human right and is refusing donations from developers or corporations.
Mayor Eric Papenfuse: Incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse, a Democrat, is asking voters to elect him to a third, and final, term as Harrisburg’s chief executive. Papenfuse is touting his efforts to lead the city out of financial recovery, as well as his pandemic response efforts, which included executive actions to prevent evictions, as well as the development of a grant program to aid struggling businesses. Papenfuse is also proposing the development of a city guaranteed income program to help address poverty in Harrisburg.
Dave Schankweiler: The founder and former publisher of the Central Penn Business Journal, Dave Schankweiler is mounting a competitive primary challenge to Papenfuse, promising to address crime in the state’s Capital City by launching a Citywide Action Summit on Violence Prevention, while also establishing a Mayor’s Commission on Housing and Home Ownership and an Office of Minority Entrepreneurship & Small Business Growth to promote housing opportunities and economic development in minority communities, respectively.
Wanda Williams: Wanda Williams, the current president of Harrisburg City Council, is campaigning on making the city more “livable” and accessible no matter the form of transportation. Williams also has underscored the importance of municipal spending and public-private partnerships to foster economic growth in the city.
Kevyn Knox: Kevyn Knox, the general manager at HMAC, an arts and entertainment venue located in midtown Harrisburg, has also thrown his hat into the race for mayor. Knox is campaigning on defunding and reforming the city’s police department, cracking down on “slumlords” and advocating for a higher minimum wage.
Otto V. Banks: Otto Banks, a former Harrisburg city councilman who also worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during President George W. Bush’s administration, is looking to win the Democratic nomination in Harrisburg’s mayoral race as a champion of developing a more community-focused law enforcement system, while also promising to address blight, crack down on landlords and strengthen job training programs for youth and young adults.
Timothy Rowbottom: The only Republican running in the Harrisburg mayoral race, Timothy Rowbottom has been subject to a few controversies since entering the race, including a pending child abuse case, but identified issues within the criminal justice system as his primary concern, while also expressing conern over action from ocal political leaders.
Mayor Paige Cognetti: A former advisor to the Pennsylvania auditor general, Democrat Paige Cognetti was sworn in as the mayor of Scranton in January 2020 and is already looking to build off the work of her first term. A recent campaign ad for Cognetti touts her efforts to patch up streets and balance the city’s budget, while also looking to create a welcoming environment for businesses. Cognetti’s campaign outlines a three-point plan for the city’s future, focusing on the recruitment of high-wage jobs, growth strategies and turning Scranton into a regional focal point — a vision she hopes will propel her to another term.
John Murray: Currently serving as Scranton City Controller, Democrat John Murray is mounting a primary challenge to incumbent Mayor Paige Cognetti focused on reducing the city’s real estate taxes, making the city’s garbage fee more equitable and creating a friendlier environment to the city’s small businesses.
Darwin Lee Shaw II: Darwin Lee Shaw II, the only Republican candidate on the ballot for mayor, is a minister pledging to clean up blight and fix roads throughout the Electric City, while also creating an economic environment that helps small businesses thrive. Shaw’s platform also includes developing outreach programs for Scranton’s youth, as well as reducing taxes in the city.
Mayor Joe Schember: Incumbent Mayor Joe Schember, a Democrat, first took office in January 2018, and is looking to continue the work of his first term if re-elected to office. In his re-election announcement, Schember touted his first-term accomplishments, which included the creation of the city’s first-ever Planning Department, securing $5.8 million for Erie’s Downtown Streetscape Master Plan, $85 million for the city’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Program and paying down roughly $85 million in city debt. As for his vision moving forward, Schember said his plan can be summed up in six words: “Build Opportunity. Restore Hope. Transform Erie.”
Sydney Zimmermann: Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Democratic candidate for mayor, has put community-input at the front of her campaign for mayor, advocating for a city hall that uses citizen input to make decisions regarding budgetary decisions, housing policy and addressing systemic racism. Zimmermann is also advocating for strengthened community benefit agreements that baseline wage, benefit and diversity requirements for economic development projects and job opportunities throughout the city.
Tom Spagel: A veteran of both the U.S. Air Force and Army and a member of the Erie City School Board, Democrat Tom Spagel is running on a campaign platform dedicated to fiscal responsibility, crime reduction and transparency. Spagel’s campaign website divides his platform into four key parts, including not raising taxes, encouraging economic growth through a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, cracking down on crime and making city hall more transparent.
Mayor Ray O’Connell: After assuming the reigns as mayor in 2018 following the resignation of former Mayor Ed Pawlowski, incumbent Mayor Ray O’Connell told the Allentown Morning Call that he hopes to focus on further economic development initiatives in Allentown if elected to another term, and said the city’s police department is working with county, health care and nonprofit leaders to determine ways in which the city can improve its responses to nonviolent emergency calls.
Ce Ce Gerlach: A member of Allentown City Council who has worked as a teacher and mental health worker, Democrat Ce Ce Gerlach is looking to continue work within Allentown City Hall as mayor. Gerlach’s campaign touches on everything from revitalizing local communities and approving a “Community Benefits Ordinance” to updating police use of force policies and developing a year-round shelter for Allentown’s homeless population.
Matt Tuerk: A former vice president of economic development for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Democrat Matt Tuerk’s campaign for mayor is focused on retaining and expanding the city’s business community, as well as creating local partnerships that increase access to job training for Allentown residents. Tuerk also plans to develop a Climate Action Plan, and identify sources of state and federal aid to help rehabilitate the city’s housing stock.
Julio Guridy: Democratic Allentown City Councilman Julio Guridy’s campaign for mayor focuses on three core tenets: including creating economic prosperity, improving the quality of life for city residents and restoring integrity in city hall. His platform specifically identifies the need for city officials to incentivize economic development and cut red tape, while also cleaning up the city and rehabilitating blighted properties.
Tim Ramos: Tim Ramos, the only Republican on the ballot for the Allentown mayoral race, is pledging to keep taxes at bay, develop after school programs and mentorship opportunities for Allentown youth, establish community policing and fine-tune the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone to work better for Allentown residents.
J. William Reynolds: Bethlehem City Councilman J. WIlliam Reynolds, a Democrat, is seeking to replace the term-limited Robert Donchez, who is leaving office at the end of this term. Reynolds’ campaign is dedicated to continuing the city’s redevelopment and revitalization efforts through investment and tax incentives, while also trying to plot Bethlehem’s future by making sure city officials keep environmental sustainability in mind.
Dana Grubb: A lifetime resident of Bethlehem who was employed by the city for nearly 30 years, Democrat Dana Grubb’s mayoral platform focuses on rebuilding morale within the city’s workforce, implementing community policing within the city, building on the city’s economic development efforts and creating a city-wide affordable housing task force.
John Kachmar: John Kachmar, the only Republican running for Bethlehem’s open mayoral office, was formerly Lehigh County Administrator. If elected, he would be the first Republican mayor of Bethlehem in 24 years. Kachmar told the Morning Call and WLVR that he’s concerned with recent tax increases in the city and would commission a study on the city’s finances if elected.
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