In my Sunday Times story, I mentioned this is the first Democratic primary for the seat representing the 112th state House District without Kevin Haggerty as a candidate since 2008.
I want to recap here how differently the elections for the seat have gone since 2006, the first election after the controversial late-night pay raise that the state General Assembly voted itself.
Before all the post-pay-raise turmoil, Rep. Fred Belardi held the seat for 28 years.
Since Belardi lost it in 2006, the seat has regularly turned over.
Belardi first won it in 1978 as a Republican, defeating incumbent Democrat William McLane.
Belardi defended the seat in 1980 as a Republican, beating Democrat Joel Fink.
For both elections, the district sat entirely in Scranton in what were then different voting wards –– Wards 6 through 14, Wards 16 through 20, and Wards 22 and 24.
For the 1982 election, the district changed dramatically. The Scranton part included only ward 7, wards 9 through 12, two precincts in ward 13, wards 16 through 20 and ward 24. Reapportionment also added Elmhurst, Madison, Roaring Brook and Spring Brook townships and part of Dunmore — three precincts in ward 2 and wards 3 and 5, and Dreher, Lehigh, Salem and Sterling townships in Wayne County.
Belardi ran as a Republican again in 1982 and walloped Democrat Joseph J. McIntyre.
By 1984, he had switched to the Democrats and faced one of his last really tough elections until his last one. He defeated Republican John J. Luciani Jr. by about 2,100 votes.
He breezed over Republican Aaron K. Jones in 1986, ran unopposed in 1988 and beat Republican Len Altier Jr. by about 2,300 votes in 1990, his last really tough election until his last one.
For the 1992 election, reapportionment changed the district again. In Scranton, the district had wards 7 and 9 through 12, two precincts in ward 13, wards 16, 17, 19, 20 and 24. In the rest, it had Elmhurst, Jefferson and Roaring Brook townships plus part of Dunmore — three precincts in ward 1, wards 2 through 5 and two precincts in ward 6.
Belardi breezed in 1992 by more than 10,000 votes over Republican Ron Kulick; in 1996, by almost 9,200 votes Republican Don Alward; and in 2000 against Reform Party candidate Elizabeth Hubbard by almost 14,800 votes. Republicans didn’t even field a candidate in 2000. Belardi ran unoppposed in 1994 and 1998.
For the 2002 election, after reapportionment, the district’s Scranton part included wards 7 and 9 through 12, three precincts in ward 13, wards 16 and 17 and six precincts in ward 19 and ward 20. Reapportionment also made Clifton, Covington, Elmhurst, Madison, Roaring Brook and Thornhurst townships and all of Dunmore and Moscow part of the district.
Belardi ran unopposed in 2002 and 2004, then made the mistake of voting for the 16 to 34 percent legislative pay raise in the early morning hours of July 7, 2005.
The next yearq, Scranton restaurant owner Ken Smith easily beat Belardi in the Democratic primary election, sending the veteran legislator packing. Part of that election also centered on Belardi leasing a Cadillac Escalade on the taxpayers’ dime. I’ll never forget the great Bob Harper “Deal or No Deal” TV commercial. “It’s a Cadillac Escalade!”
That started the turnover.
Smith ran unopposed in 2008.
In 2010, with questions regularly swirling about his failure to pay property taxes on his restaurant and make payments on a state loan, Smith faced three Democratic opponents, Kevin Haggerty, John Keeler and Bob Lesh. Smith won rather handily, but it was a tough election.
He easily beat Republican Lee Morgan in November 2010.
In 2012, a court challenge prevented the regularly scheduled reapportionment, but Smith couldn’t win re-election. Haggerty beat him in the Democratic primary by about 300 votes. Haggerty walloped the late Republican Ray Nearhood in November.
Reapportionment finally kicked in for the 2014 election and merged parts of the old 112th and 115th into a new 112th.
Now, it includes all or parts of Center City, the Hill Section, East Scranton and South Scranton in Scranton and Archbald, Blakely, Dunmore, Jessup, Olyphant and Throop boroughs. The North Pocono towns are gone.
Because of the new district lines, Haggerty and Frank Farina, the 115th representative, both wound up in the new 112th.
Farina beat Haggerty by about 900 votes in a bitter three-way primary election battle with Bob Munley finishing a distant third. Farina won unopposed in November.
Haggerty came back in 2016 and beat Farina by more than 300 votes in the primary with Throop Council President Thomas Lukasewicz finishing a distant third. With concerns about his military discharge history popping up just before the November election, Haggerty still beat Republican Ernest Lemoncelli by only 1,800 votes, a narrow margin in a staunchly Democratic district.
Last year, Haggerty’s personal life fell apart, which led to him missing 300 roll call votes and his ultimate decision against running again.
That’s how we went from 28 years of one guy to three guys in a decade.
— BORYS KRAWCZENIUK