I’m voting twice for Nathan Barrett in the race for the Scranton school board.
A dead guy is the favorite to win re-election in the Lake-Lehman school board race.
And a candidate rumored to have shot somebody years ago is ducking questions about whether bullets flew and found their mark.
Despite the certifiable madness involved in Northeastern Pennsylvania politics, each race in tomorrow’s primary election is crucial to where we go from here.
Barrett, by the way, is allowed to win two votes because he’s on the ballot for a two and a four-year term.
If the dead guy wins he’ll be replaced by a political appointment.
And the shooting story will be found to be either true or false and discussed down the line if the alleged shooter wins.
But of all the races – including the race for Lackawanna County commissioner, where accusations of public urination, fighting, campaign contributions from an ex-convict and other political pathology – the reason I’m voting for Democrat Liz Randol – one race stands out as the most important.
Luzerne County voters will choose six new judges for the Court of Common Pleas. Sixteen candidates are fighting for the jobs on a judicial bench sullied by crime, political corruption and depravity.
Three former county judges, men who once stood as examples of political power and community service, stand convicted of crimes they committed while members of the bench. Gangster judges all, they disgraced the law, ruined lives including their own and did their best to shred the public trust – the majesty of which might never be restored.
Michael Toole now sits in a faraway federal prison. Michael Conahan awaits sentencing after pleading guilty. Mark Ciavarella, perhaps the most notorious outlaw of this trashy trio, also awaits sentencing after a trial during which his ego allowed him to admit guilt to some crime but not all the crime of which stood accused.
These three grotesque bandits did more harm to the honor of our criminal justice system than most of the criminals who once stood before them.
Now 16 people say they want to make justice better. Trust us, they say. I will not betray you, they say. I am not a crook, they say.
He’s a really nice guy, you say.
I’d trust her with my life, you say.
Maybe none are crooked. Maybe none will barter integrity and turn bad. Maybe all 16 can do the job as well as the next man or woman. Maybe each one can well represent a new dawn for county justice.
But we don’t know the future. All we know is a past and a present from which Luzerne County voters must choose.
That’s why even the mere hint of scandal or serious weakness can, will and should disqualify candidates who otherwise might be proven winners. Even the mere appearance of impropriety should disqualify a candidate. The mere appearance of impropriety is so important that this behavioral concern is formally contained in the state judicial code of conduct.
Judges must live by a higher standard. So must judicial candidates.
Of course, longtime relationships draw people to candidates for any office. The gangsters even still have their cheerleaders.
But this race is different.
More rides on this race than on any other judicial race in the history of the coal region. Political crime has ruled our lives for generations. The culture of corruption must cease.
This judicial race is as much a beginning as it is an end.
Choose carefully in all the political races.
But when it comes to the next decade of new Luzerne County judges, you better exert extreme caution.
Ask yourself who the gangsters would like and why they would like them.
Then like somebody else.
Are the candidates too slick for their own good? Do they truly deserve confidence in their daily judgment? Are they truly deserving of your faith in their decision-making?
When it comes to judges, tomorrow is Luzerne County’s last chance to get it right.