Group raising money for Erie City Council candidates has ties to - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Group raising money for Erie City Council candidates has ties to Breneman campaign

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ERIE, Pa. -

Three Erie City Council candidates and two businessmen are forming one group, the Erie Refocused Political Action Committee.

"We're doing this because we want to see good things happen in this city," said Chuck Peters, treasurer of the Erie Refocused PAC.

The PAC is funding a slate of Democratic candidates -- Kevin Otteni, Liz Allen, and John Reitinger -- who are calling themselves "Erie's Next City Council".

They're led by Peters, a managing partner at Altair Real Estate Services, and Velocity Network President and CEO Joel Deuterman, men who have invested millions of dollars into Erie and are now investing money into one of the biggest local races of 2017 with one goal: to implement the PAC's namesake, the city's comprehensive plan aptly called Erie Refocused.

"We made a commitment that what we wanted to focus on was the mayor's race and city council," said Peters.

But critics of the PAC believe that's a problem.

Deuterman, who deferred comment to Peters following Wednesday's announcement, chairs Erie Refocused and has openly endorsed Erie County Council Chairman Jay Breneman, 1 of 7 Democrats on the May 16 primary ballot.

"I made my case to them, and to have their support means I'm on the right track," said Breneman.

And they're concerned this bloc of candidates would give Breneman a majority of votes on city council, if elected.

"I think you'll see that they're very closely tied, related to things like neighborhood redevelopment," said Peters.

There's no word on how much the Erie Refocused PAC has raised so far, and Peters declined to give an amount. The group filed with the Pennsylvania State Department March 8.

A political action committee for a city council race really is quite new to Erie. But the candidates and the Breneman campaign say it's simply a response to voters' demands.

"Voters have told me for years that they're tired of the status quo," said Breneman.

The comprehensive plan would ultimately change the status quo. But first, a bigger challenge: winning the primary election, now just two months away.

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