At least a dozen Luzerne County residents have confirmed they are running for county council in the May 16 primary, including two incumbents.
Five of 11 council seats are up for grabs this year. Tuesday was the first day Democrats and Republicans were permitted to start circulating and filing nomination petitions for an estimated 891 ballot nomination slots, including some school board and municipal seats.
The expiring council seats are held by Republicans Kathy Dobash and Harry Haas, Democrats Linda McClosky Houck and Eileen Sorokas and Independent Rick Williams.
Sorokas is not running again, and Dobash said Tuesday she picked up a petition packet but is still undecided. Independent contenders enter the race after the primary, and Williams, an architect, said he will decide at that time.
Haas and McClosky Houck both said Tuesday they will seek a third term. They have served on the council since the customized home rule government structure took effect in January 2012, initially in two-year seats that were established to create staggered four-year vacancies every two years. The home rule charter imposed a limit of three consecutive terms for county council, controller and district attorney.
A teacher from Kingston, Haas said the county has made financial gains under home rule, including paying down 25 percent of its debt, and he wants to continue focusing on reducing reliance on property taxes, a new blight-targeting committee he pushed to create and increasing dialogue with state and federal legislators about county needs.
McClosky Houck, also a teacher who resides in Kingston, said the county has made significant progress toward financial stability and effective government during her first five years on the council, but there is still work to be done.
“Since I am eligible for one more four-year term, I would like the opportunity to continue building a better government that works for all of us,” McClosky Houck said.
At least six other Democrats said they are running:
• Wendy Cominsky, of Dallas Township, owner of Au Salon in Dallas and previously owner of Country Scissors from 1995 to 2002.
• John Gadomski, of Wyoming, a union contractor for more than 44 years who is active with the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 645, of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
• Philip Gianfarcaro, of Pittston, owner and operator of Phil’s Clip Joint in Pittston, prior owner of Bottom Of The Ninth Sports Cards in Duryea and a city Democratic committee member for 12 years, currently serving as city party chair.
• David Popiak, of Hazleton, owner and operator of Hydrodynamics in Hazle Township for 22 years and city Democratic chairman.
• Sheila Saidman, of Kingston, a retired lawyer who has worked as a county assistant district attorney, as legal counsel for various corporate entities, in private law practice and as a labor representative for the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
• Matthew Vough, of Pittston, who works as marketing manager at Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. in Exeter.
Four Republicans have said they will run to date:
• Mark Dixon, of Wright Township, director of business development for Kodak Alaris in the Americas for 13 years.
• Chris Perry, of Fairview Township, a former Hazleton Area School District athletic director and teacher for 36 years.
• Stephen J. Urban, of Wilkes-Barre, an IT support coordinator with a major food distributor who previously served on county council for four years.
• Gregory S. Wolovich Jr., of Newport Township, who has worked in customer service at Wegmans for eight years and at the Wegmans Warehouse for more than a year.
Wilkes-Barre resident Eric Bieski, a social worker for Catholic Social Services, also said he plans to enter the race after the primary as an Independent.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.