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Nick Wagner 

Law enforcement officials stand next to a covered body at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Election 2017
Election Preview 2017: Imprisoned, deceased mayoral candidates still on ballot in Cumberland County

Voters in the Carlisle and New Cumberland boroughs will be confronted with unusual situations in their mayoral races when polls open at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

One of Carlisle residents’ choices for mayor is currently incarcerated. One of New Cumberland’s options is deceased.

Carlisle’s Republican candidate for mayor Scott Robinson is currently in the county jail in relation to an incident in May that resulted in multiple criminal charges. He is running against Democratic candidate Tim Scott.

New Cumberland’s Democratic mayoral candidate, Natalie Gehosky, passed away on Oct. 28, according to her obituary. She is running against Republican candidate Doug Morrow.

Both candidates, however, will appear on their boroughs’ ballots on Tuesday, according to the Cumberland County Bureau of Elections.

Ballots had already been finalized before Gehosky’s death, said Cumberland County Elections Director Bethany Salzarulo.

“If she were to win, it would be handed back to the borough to handle vacancies however they do that, according to their code,” Salzarulo said.

“All we are doing is certifying the election results and returning them to the borough.”

There is also no statute barring an incarcerated person from appearing on a ballot, Salzarulo said. Robinson’s residency and voter registration were checked and found to be correct when he filed his petition for candidacy prior to the primary, Salzarulo said.


If Gehosky where to win New Cumberland’s mayoral race, the Pennsylvania borough code mandates that the borough council appoint an interim mayor within 30 days of the seat being vacant, said New Cumberland Borough Council President Jack Murray.

“She was my neighbor for a very long time,” Murray said. “We all feel terrible about it. Her husband served with us on the council for several years as well.”

In previous cases of vacancy in New Cumberland the council soutgh interim appointees of the same political party, Murray said, although it is not a requirement under Pennsylvania municipal law.

“There is no statute I’m aware of that says it has to be someone of the same party,” Murray said. “I believe that has been the case in every previous instance, but I don’t know there’s a law that says it has to be.”

Should Gehosky win the election and council is unable to reach a decision on an appointee to serve until the next election, the issue moves to the borough’s vacancy board — which consists of the council members plus an non-council chairperson — and can be further referred to the court of common pleas if still deadlocked.

The Carlisle situation is somewhat more complex, as Robinson has not retired or passed away, and thus the office is not vacant per se.


Rather, on the evening of May 16 — the night of the primary — Robinson was arrested by Carlisle police after allegedly getting into an altercation with the tenants of a rental property he owns in Carlisle. Police said Robinson allegedly broke a window at his property with a hammer and then proceeded to try to break down the door to the home with power tools, prompting the tenants to call police.

Officers described Robinson’s behavior as erratic and stated that he threatened to fight them, resulting in the use of a Taser. Robinson was known to officers from prior incidents and has a “propensity to fight with authorities,” according to the officers’ affidavit.

Robinson was charged with felony burglary, criminal trespass, misdemeanor resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and summary criminal mischief.

The Cumberland County Republican committee issued a statement that they had not been involved in Robinson’s nomination effort, and were unaware of his background. Robinson was encouraged to step down from the ballot, but apparently did not.

If Robinson is elected, the Pa. borough code has several potential ways for Robinson to be removed from office. Section 801 of the code states that, before being sworn into office, elected officials “shall present a signed affidavit to the borough secretary” stating that they have “resided in the borough continuously” for at least one year prior to election.

This raises the question of if Robinson would be able to present said affidavit and/or be sworn in from jail. And with him having resided at the county jail for several months, would that break the borough residency requirement?

If a candidate “fails to qualify” for office within 10 days of the beginning of their term, Section 903 of the code states that the borough council may vote to declare the seat open and appoint a successor. Failure to qualify could include inability to prove residency or take an oath of office.

Further, Section 904 states that elected officials can be removed “on conviction of misbehavior in office or of an infamous crime.”

Carlisle Borough Councilman and Deputy Mayor Sean Shultz said that there is some case law qualifying felonies as “infamous crimes” per the borough code, and thus grounds to remove an elected official. The council has briefly discussed the matter, Shultz said.

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Election 2017
Election Preview 2017: Judge races top ballot in off-year election for Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania voters will reshape the state's appeals courts this week, consider a change to the state constitution and decide races for mayor, district attorney and other local contests.

It's considered an off-year election for the state's 8.4 million voters, including 4 million Democrats and 3.2 million Republicans, so turnout is likely to be low.

The biggest statewide race is for the state Supreme Court, where an appointed justice, Republican Sallie Mundy, wants to keep her seat for a full 10-year term. Her opponent is Allegheny County Judge Dwayne Woodruff, a former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive star who currently handles family court matters.

Two years ago, Democrats swept three open seats on the high court, so the Mundy-Woodruff race will determine if the partisan breakdown will remain 5-2 or move to 6-1. That could prove critical in the coming years, as the court is likely to name the fifth and deciding member of the group that will redraw legislative district lines following the 2020 census.

Mundy and Woodruff were studiously collegial during a recent debate in Harrisburg, although they took different positions on the existing policy that allows judges to accept gifts. Woodruff wants a blanket ban on gifts, while Mundy supports limiting them, but would let judges continue to accept free travel and costs to attend bar association conferences.

More recently, Woodruff has objected strenuously to a Republican Party mailer that asks people to "vote for judges who share our values and stand for our flag." Woodruff's son is a Marine Corps officer.

The statewide ballot Tuesday also includes retention votes for two justices, up-or-down votes on whether Republican Chief Justice Tom Saylor and Democratic Justice Debra Todd should get new 10-year terms. Judges and justices nearly always are retained in Pennsylvania.

There are also contested races for four open seats on the state's Superior Court, an intermediate appeals court that handles criminal, civil and family court appeals from counties. One Superior Court judge also has a retention election. On Commonwealth Court, voters will elect two new judges.

The state bar association has posted questionnaires and ratings for all of the statewide judicial candidates.

The constitutional amendment involves property taxes, but a "yes" vote will not by itself change anything about Pennsylvania's tax structure. The referendum, if passed, would allow the General Assembly to vote to let counties, municipalities and school districts exclude up to the full value of residents' homes that they own from taxation.

It leaves unsaid how governments might make up the lost revenue, which generates a massive share of the funding that pays for public schools across the state.

The biggest city in the state that will elect a mayor this week is Pittsburgh, although the incumbent Democrat, Bill Peduto, faces no opposition.

In Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-largest city, the Democratic incumbent is seeking a fourth term despite facing federal corruption charges that could land him in prison. Ed Pawlowski has denied accusations that he accepted more than $150,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for city contracts. He faces Republican real estate developer Nat Hyman in what is expected to be a tight race.

In York, Democratic Mayor Kim Bracey has a challenge in her quest for a third term from Democrat Mike Helfrick, the city council chairman who won a spot on the fall ballot as a primary write-in on the Republican side. State College's mayoral race is between a Democrat who won the Republican nomination as a write-in and an independent candidate.

Five candidates, including three independents, are vying to be Lancaster's mayor, as three-term Democratic incumbent Rick Gray opted not to run again.

There are also contested mayoral races in Erie, Scranton and many other smaller cities, as well as district attorneys, school board members, county judges, district judges, borough council members, township commissioners and supervisors and some county row offices.

Associated Press  

Pennsylvania Supreme Court candidates Republican Sallie Mundy, a justice on the state Supreme Court, left, and Democratic candidate Dwayne Woodruff, a common pleas court judge in Allegheny County, shake hands at the end of a debate at the Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg Oct. 25.


Michael Bupp The Sentinel 

Northern's Marlee Starliper is assisted by race officilas after winning the girls 2A state championship in Saturday's PIAA Cross Country Championships hosted at HersheyPark.

Brazile stirs Dem party strife as bellwether gov race nears

WASHINGTON — Democrats are struggling to put the bitter 2016 election behind them as the party’s current chairman and his predecessor bicker over Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign, further exposing deep divisions two days before the closely watched Virginia governor’s race that could foretell Democratic prospects in 2018 and beyond.

The dueling across Sunday news shows was triggered by the disclosure that Donna Brazile, the interim Democratic leader during the final months of the campaign, considered an effort to replace Clinton as the presidential nominee because of health concerns.

“The charge that Hillary Clinton was somehow incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous,” said Tom Perez, who took over as Democratic National Committee chairman after Donald Trump won the election.

Brazile, who claimed “tremendous pressure” to devise a backup ticket led by then-Vice President Joe Biden after Clinton fainted at an event, pushed back: “Go to hell. I’m going to tell my story.”

The dispute was spurred by revelations by Brazile in a memoir being released Tuesday and reported on by The Washington Post. It reflected simmering tensions between establishment and insurgent wings that will set the party’s future course on issues from its platform to the primary schedule and use of superdelegates — party leaders and elected officials who get a say in the nomination — in the 2020 presidential race.

“One of the things, as we go forward, is to give more power to the grass roots in all this,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, urging Democrats not to “relitigate elections.”

Brazile writes that she considered initiating Clinton’s removal after the candidate collapsed while leaving a 9/11 memorial service in New York City, and Brazile contemplated a dozen combinations to replace Clinton and her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Brazile wrote that she settled on Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker as having the best chance of defeating Republican Trump.

Brazile says the larger issue was that Clinton campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure.”

But, she says, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

The revelations elicited a strong weekend rebuttal from Clinton’s former campaign staffers. An open letter signed by more than 100 people said they “do not recognize the campaign” that Brazile “portrays in the book.”

The Clinton staffers responded they were “shocked to learn” that Brazile would consider overturning the will of Democratic voters. “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”

On Sunday, Perez echoed the complaints, saying Brazile never had authority under DNC rules to replace the ticket because Clinton was not incapacitated.

Under party rules, a DNC head can call a special meeting to fill a “vacancy” on the national ticket in the event of disability in coordination with Democratic leaders of Congress and Democratic governors, but only the full DNC can fill the vacancy. At the time, Clinton had revealed she was suffering from pneumonia.

“I don’t know what Donna Brazile fell for,” Perez said. “Hillary Clinton was anything but incapacitated. She was tireless.”

“I think people who read that charge, which is just without merit, are going to perhaps start wondering about other claims in the book,” he added.

The book’s revelations come just before Tuesday’s Virginia’s governor race, where Republicans have not won a significant statewide election since 2009. The Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, is casting the race to voters as a way to repudiate the policies of Trump against Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman. But Northam has received lukewarm support within his own party from the progressive group Democracy for America.

A win for Democrats could help defuse Brazile’s book and give the party important momentum. A loss would be a big blow to other Democrats plotting a similar anti-Trump strategy in the 2018 midterm congressional races and likely louder calls for radical changes in the DNC heading into 2020.

In an excerpt published earlier by Politico, Brazile had written that she believed a joint fundraising agreement signed between Clinton and the DNC “looked unethical” and that she felt Clinton had too much influence on the party during a competitive Democratic primary with rival Bernie Sanders.

Over the weekend, Perez issued a statement saying he and the DNC leadership were committed to ensuring that the nomination process in 2020 will be “unquestionably fair and transparent.”

Among the reforms he said he developed after listening to Democrats across the party spectrum was ensuring that “no candidate participating in our presidential nominating process gains any unfair advantage — real or perceived — during our primary season.” He also said the debate schedule would be decided in advance rather than negotiated after all candidates had entered the race.

Perez pledged to ensure that all joint fundraising agreements would be transparent, including the new Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund agreements developed with the 50 state parties.

Still in play are recommendations of a Unity Reform Commission, created in a concession to supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to re-examine the nominating process, including the role of superdelegates and primary scheduling.

“We have to make sure that everybody feels at the end of the process that everyone got a fair shake,” Perez said.

Perez spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Brazile appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” and Pelosi was on CNN’s “State of the Union.”