Bob McDonald looks to regain 120th District seat for Democrats; other incumbents will have opposition in November
WILKES-BARRE — Come November, a relative newcomer will try to unseat an incumbent legislator and return the 120th Legislative seat to the Democratic Party — a seat it previously held for more than 24 consecutive years.
Democrat Bob McDonald, 59 of Kingston, was unopposed in Tuesday’s primary but managed to receive more votes than first-term Republican Aaron Kaufer.
According to unofficial results, Kaufer received 6,741 on the Republican ballot, while McDonald got 7,251 Democratic tallies. Kaufer won the seat in 2014 after former State Rep. Phyllis Mundy decided not to seek a 13th term.
What this will mean in November remains to be seen, but Kaufer said Wednesday there are more Democrats than Republicans in the district and Tuesday’s vote totals don’t concern him.
“I appreciate all who supported me,” Kaufer said. “I know there are a lot of Democrats who have supported me in the past.”
Kaufer, 27, of Kingston, said he has been working across the aisle since he went to Harrisburg and said he represents all residents of the 120th District. He said he will again knock on doors and talk to people as the campaign heats up.
“I appreciate the broad support I have had,” he said. “I see the main issues as jobs, property tax relief and help for those with intellectual disabilities, like autism. I have been out there talking about the issues that are most important to our community and I am addressing them. I will continue to keep doing that.”
McDonald said he was encouraged by the number of votes he received, noting the 120th District is predominantly Democratic in voter registrations.
“Many are calling this the main event race,” he said.
As the campaign moves forward, McDonald said he won’t say anything bad about Kaufer, whom he called, “a nice young man.” McDonald wants to “get rid of the dysfunction” in Harrisburg.
“That being said, this is the real world and we need to find real solutions to some very important issues facing Pennsylvania and the 120th District,” he said.
McDonald said he had no intention to run for office but, after watching the state budget drama unfold, he became concerned, especially about education funding.
“It was a fiasco,” he said of the budget battle. “It actually drove me to run.”
Calling himself “a middle of the road Democrat,” he wants to assure schools are “funded properly” and he wants to bring sustainable, family-supporting jobs to the region.
“We need to move into the 21st century by attracting high technology manufacturing jobs,” he said. “And we have to teach our students the skills to do those jobs. I will also seek private investors to help grow our economy.”
119th Legislative District
Another interesting race could be in the 119th District between Democrat incumbent Gerald Mullery and Republican challenger Justin Behrens.
Mullery, 45, of Newport Township, received 7,018 votes to Behrens’ 4,235.
“My focus remains unchanged,” Mullery said. “I will continue to work for the issues that are important to the people of my district, such as attracting family-sustaining jobs, reducing/eliminating school property taxes, providing for quality public education, protecting the environment and making certain our local officials have the resources they need to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
Mullery said, over the last six years in office, he has proven he has the ability to work with members of both parties to get things accomplished.
“At the same time, I’ve proven my political independence, most recently evidenced by breaking from the governor to get the budget enacted to prevent our schools from closing,” he said.
Behrens, 37, of Wright Township, works for Northeast Counseling as a mental health program supervisor.
He said he is opposed to tax hikes, saying high taxes “only hurt families.” He said he will work to bring good-paying jobs to the district and to eliminate the property tax. He said he will also work to address the drug epidemic and the mental health crisis.
“I’m willing to work across the aisle to get things done so we don’t have another budget hangup like we did this year,” he said. “I want to reform government and eliminate politics to get positive results for the people.”
11th Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, received 91,729 in Tuesday’s primary. His Democratic challenger, Mike Marsicano, received 57,531. Both Barletta and Marsicano are former mayors of Hazleton.
“I’m looking forward to the campaign and talking about the issues,” Barletta, 60, said. “It’s important that the voters know where we stand, so they can compare our records.”
Barletta said the best way to know what someone will do in office is to closely examine what he or she has done in the past.
“I look forward to that conversation,” Barletta said. “We need to tell the voters where we stand on the issues and talk about our records.”
Marsicano, 68, issued a statement following the primary, saying 2016 “is no ordinary election year and for good reason.” He said the people have sent “a clear and unequivocal sign that they are tired of politics as usual, tired of career politicians, tired of special interests calling all of the shots and tired of their voices being drowned out by party elites and big money.”
He said he feels it’s time to “change direction” in the 11th District.
Marsicano proposed a series of nine 1-hour debates with Barletta — one in each of the 11th District’s nine counties. He said the main issues in the campaign will be jobs, the economy, taxes, Social Security, crime, drugs, education, care for the elderly and support for those who are now caregivers, child care for those who are working or want to work but can’t afford the exorbitant costs and veterans.
State/Congressional races and primary vote counts:
• 116th District: Incumbent Republican Tarah Toohil, 7,104; Democratic challenger Gary Gregory, 4,080.
• 117th District: Incumbent Republican Karen Boback, 10,041; no Democratic challenger.
• 118th District: Incumbent Democrat Mike Carroll, 9,449; no Republican challenger.
• 121st District: Incumbent Democrat Eddie Day Pashinski, 6,558; no Republican challenger.
• 27th Senatorial District: Incumbent Republican John R. Gordner, 3,658; no Democratic challenger.
• 17th Congressional District: Democratic incumbent Matt Cartwright, 73,093; Republican
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.