Election Preview: Harrisburg mayor's race

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | May 20, 2013 4:00 AM
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Photo by Scott LaMar/witf

(Harrisburg) -- Voters in the capital city will cast their ballots for mayor in Tuesday's primary election.

Incumbent Linda Thompson and three Democratic challengers are vying for their party’s nomination to lead the economically troubled city.

The four people on the ballot say they have plans to improve the city and deal with a crushing debt crisis that's grabbed headlines around the world.

Mayor Linda Thompson says work begun during tenure will pay off soon - including an economic recovery plan laid out by a state-appointed financial custodian for the city.

"Me and my administration, we've worked well with the receiver, we've worked well with city council, we've worked well with county commissioners, our creditors," Thompson explained during a recent debate sponsored by Harrisburg Young Professionals. "We're really trying to tackle the tough decisions, and we've kept our hand to the plow and stayed focused."

Thompson's comments were posted on Roxbury News.

She's also pushed a public safety agenda, leading to the creation of so-called "neighborhood safe zones," where increased police presence is aimed at reducing violent crime.

Thompson's tenure has been polarizing, with conflicts between the mayor and other elected officials often playing out in public.

She's clashed with city Controller Dan Miller.

He says his current position and his career as an accountant give him a leg up in creating a financial recovery for the city.

Miller’s also the only candidate to support the city filing for municipal bankruptcy to deal with its debt.

"We have a really clear choice," Miller says. "We can continue to follow the patterns that we've got, or we can really go in another direction, where there's hope for Harrisburg, and I'm the only guy that's really fighting for that, and let's use bankruptcy, let's use every tool we've got."

Harrisburg businessman and former teacher Eric Papenfuse owns the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.

He says his priorities, if elected, are improving community relations and tackling crime.

He says he'll also be able to address the city's financial issues by coming to the problems from an outside perspective.

"If we're going to have meaningful change, we've got to elect new leaders, and new leaders who are committed to uniting the community and bringing people together in a way that re-brands Harrisburg for the future," Papenfuse says.

Another contender is community activist Lewis Butts.

He's proposed ambitious revenue-generating projects for the city, like a hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River.

"The hydroelectric dam will produce over $240 million annually. Our budget is $67 million," Butts explains. "Our creditors want to see that we can create a revenue stream and we can pay back our debt."

A fifth candidate, Nevin Mindlin, has previously run for mayor as a Republican, but registered as an independent this year, and therefore is not on the primary ballot.

Published in Harrisburg, News

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