Voters reject two WBA independent candidates who oppose consolidation

By Mark Guydish -

Wilkes-Barre Area School Board will have at least one member in December who has consistently questioned the planned high school consolidation. But voters rejected two independent candidates who have been fierce critics of the idea, opting to give three of four seats to incumbents who have always supported it.

Sam Troy and John Suchoski faced an uphill battle from the start, having bypassed the primary to make a bid as independents Tuesday, and the odds were probably made worse when three of the four other candidates won both party nominations in May. Incumbents Joe Caffrey, Ned Evans and Denise Thomas had all cross-filed.

Melissa Etzle Patla had run on the Democratic ticket. Critical of the consolidation of Meyers and Coughlin high schools since the board first voted in 2015 to merge the schools, Patla offered voters the only anti-consolidation option in the primary. At the time, she out-polled fellow Democrat Albert Horoszy, who had spoken in favor of consolidation.

Tuesday night, Suchoski and Troy nabbed more than 2,000 votes each, but still came in fifth and sixth. Unofficial results showed Suchoski at 2,714 votes, well behind Patla’s fourth-place tally of 3,551, and more than 200 votes ahead of Troy’s 2,485.

The challenge by the two independents made Wilkes-Barre Area the most competitive race in the county, giving voters six choices for four seats. But “most competitive” was an easy title to claim Tuesday.

Of 11 school boards, six had an equal number of candidates and available seats: Greater Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Lake-Lehman, Northwest Area, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Valley West.

The other districts had one candidate more than seats available, and in two cases the competition was for a two-year seat, with no competition for the four-year seats. All numbers are unofficial.

Crestwood had four, four-year seats and four candidates running for them, giving voters no choice other than write-ins. It did have one two-year seat, with Amanda Modrovsky on the Democratic ticket and Anna Hollock Bibla on the Republican side. Bibla tallied the most votes, 1,895 to 1,664.

Dallas had five seats and six candidates, with four of them having better odds by appearing on both party slates: Sherri Newell, Gary Youngblood, Susan Allen and Christine Swailes. Scott Francis ran on the Democratic ticket and Edward Dudick Jr. on the Republican side. Dudick took the fifth seat with 2,288 votes, not only outdoing Francis at 1,324, but getting more votes than Allen’s 2,115.

Hazleton Area voters faced a similar ticket: Linda DeCosmo, Ed Shemansky and Bob Mehalick cross-filed and appeared on both slates, while Dr. Robert Childs ran only as a Democrat and Alexander Van Hoekelen as a Republican. Childs was bidding to return to the board, and had historically been a high vote-getter, but didn’t succeed; he came in fifth, with van Hoekelen ahead by 580 votes for the fourth and final seat available.

Pittston Area mirrored the situation in Crestwood, with four candidates — Lori Cooper, John Adonizio, Marty Quinn and Bruce Knick — cross-filed for four available four-year seats. The only real competition was for a two-year seat, where Joseph Salvo appeared on the Democratic ticket and John Lombardo on the Republican side. Salvo won, with 2,714 votes to 2,384 for Lombardo.

By Mark Guydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish