Can a Republican Win For Erie Mayor? - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Can a Republican Win For Erie Mayor?

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The Last Republican Mayor The Last Republican Mayor

Democrat Joe Schember and Republican John Persinger will face off in the race for Mayor of Erie in the general election. For a republican in Erie the odds are long.

Each candidate won his party primary decisively. But in mayoral general elections, you have to go back more than 50 years to find a republican on the wall of mayors at city hall. That is because registered democrats outpace republicans nearly two and a half to one.

Charles Williamson is the so-called "last republican mayor." He won in 1961, with big help from the democrats after a  primary split when Mike Cannavino narrowly lost to incumbent Art Gardner.   Longtime print journalist Pat Cuneo, now Publications Director for the Jefferson Educational Society, just edited the new book, "Erie, Pennsylvania Mayors - 150 Years of Political History," written by Dr. William Garvey.  "Cannavino had lost by just 140 votes in the primary," Cuneo said. "They each had more than 10,000 votes and as a result, a lot of Cannavino's people went to work for Williamson in that general election."

Cuneo called the 1961 election the perfect storm, a democratic fracture that allowed a republican to overcome the registration edge that has only widened over the years.  He does not sense a split coming after this primary, but says both candidates have work to do, and soon. "Persinger needs to actually sow some kind of relationship very, very quickly with a lot of the democrats who lost yesterday (Tuesday) to have a reasonable chance," Cuneo said.  "And to have a really lightning, catch fire campaign behind him, so that's why it is so daunting," Cuneo added.

Cuneo also had advice for the man with the registration advantage.  "Joe Schember won decisively in a huge field, but he also now has to go try and attract support among the vanquished."

Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott spent plenty of time at the polls on Tuesday, but for the first time in a dozen years, he was on the sidelines. "It's a time of mixed feelings, obviously I've been doing this for a long time, there certainly are parts that I'm going to miss, but it's time to pass it on to new leadership," Sinnott said.

As to the low turnout in the primary and what it bodes for the fall, Sinnott had this to say.  "I think all elections are important in Erie's future, especially when we elect the top leadership, but the way it was portrayed, that this was times of crisis and things, it is not times of crisis, we're doing fine and I think people know that and I think that's why you saw the low turnout," Sinnott said.  He made no prediction for fall, but commended the candidates for running a civil campaign and said his office is focused on preparing for the transition to the next mayor.

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