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Sunday, April 28th 2013

2:44 PM

Primary Preps

Pennsylvania's primary election is just over three weeks away. My POLITICS page has been updated, and I am in the midst of coordinating coverage for my TV station.

At the moment, it appears that Lackawanna County will be the hotbed of primary activity. Around the viewing area, there are some 120 contested races that we'll be following. But, with a few exceptions, the most interesting are in Lackawanna County: five candidates for one open seat on the county bench; contested races for Scranton Mayor on both sides of the ballot; and five very intriguing ballot questions.

One ballot question asks voters if a government study commission should be formed. The current form of county government is three elected commissioners. The DRIVING FORCE behind the referendum supports a county executive/county council, like Luzerne County adopted. If the referendum passes, the government study commission could recommend that form, an alternative, or opt for the status quo.

The other four questions concern the row offices of Sheriff, Clerk of Judicial Records, Recorder of Deeds and Register of Wills. Voters will be asked to decide if each elected office, individually, should be eliminated and its duties and responsibilities deemed "legislative powers." The current commissioners say that eliminating these elected offices would save money (they still want a sheriff, but want the position to be appointed). Opponents see the move as a power grab.

As the ballot stands now, there are candidates from both parties running for three of these offices (Clerk of Judicial Records is not on the ballot this year). The race for Sheriff is contested on both sides; the race for Register of Wills is contested on the Democratic side. All three offices are set to be contested in November.

Thing is, the ballot questions propose eliminating each office at the end of the current elected term. So, the possibility exists that the candidates for Sheriff, Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds would become irrelevant after the primary.

My guess is that voters in Lackawanna County will say "yes" to the government study commission and "no" to eliminating the sheriff as an elected office. As for the other three row offices, I don't have any particular sense of how things will go, but I won't be surprised if voters say "yes" to some or all of them. These offices don't seem as politically charged as the Sheriff's office.

Tune in May 21 to find out.
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