Last updated: November 06. 2013 2:37AM - 4237 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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Luzerne County voters kept incumbent County Council members Linda McClosky Houck, Rick Williams and Harry Haas and chose newcomers to fill the two remaining seats — Democrat Eileen Sorokas and Republican Kathy Dobash.

Six other contenders did not make the cut: Democrats Michael Giamber, Renee Ciaruffoli Taffera and Richard “Kick” Heffron, and Republicans Paul DeFabo, Sue Rossi and Eugene Kelleher. Kelleher was an incumbent.

The vote tally, according to unofficial results: McClosky Houck, 18,353; Sorokas, 17,659; Dobash, 17,378; Haas, 17,109; Williams, 16,832; Rossi, 16,688; Heffron, 16,378; Ciaruffoli Taffera, 15,973; Kelleher, 15,935; Giamber, 14,824; and DeFabo, 13,261.

The five winners will begin their four-year terms in January and serve with Edward Brominski, Jim Bobeck, Rick Morelli, Tim McGinley, Stephen J. Urban and Stephen A. Urban.

Council members receive $8,000 annually. Council approves the budget and larger contracts, appoints members to outside county boards and revises the county’s ethics, personnel and administrative codes in addition to hiring and evaluating the manager.

McClosky Houck, a 55-year-old Democrat from Kingston, had stressed her attention to detail and her efforts to be an effective public servant.

“I’ve been honored to be on the first County Council and am equally honored in the trust people have put in me to move the county forward,” said McClosky Houck, a Wyoming Valley West School District teacher.

Campaign platform

Sorokas, 65, of Wilkes-Barre, is a retired factory worker rebuilding a farm with her husband. She campaigned on a platform to represent the average person and not raise property taxes — even if painful cuts are required. The proposed county 2014 budget calls for an 8-percent tax hike.

“I’d like to thank the voters for having faith in me. It feels good,” Sorokas said. “I’m anxious to get to work to make the county better for residents.”

Williams, 64, of Kingston, entered the race after the May primary because he is a registered Independent. An architect for more than 30 years, he has stressed his record of voting his conscience and pushing for changes that will improve quality of life.

“I’m honored to serve again,” Williams said after learning of his victory.

Williams said his re-election campaign was “very sobering” because many county residents expressed “anger and frustration.” He and other incumbents told voters they have made positive changes under the home rule government implemented in January 2012.

“The county’s in a difficult position, and I hope to make the tough choices so we can move forward and improve the quality of life for the people of Luzerne County,” Williams said.

Lost 2 years ago

Dobash, 53, of Hazleton, unsuccessfully ran for council two years ago and was elated to win.

“I am really humbled. This is a big surprise,” said Dobash, a private-sector inventory specialist who has emphasized her unwillingness to raise property taxes and her efforts to increase transparency.

Dobash urged citizens to get involved in county government and said she will share information she receives with the public.

“I want to work with the council to find other revenue to not burden the taxpayers,” Dobash said.

Haas, 37, Kingston, a teacher at Dallas Middle School, campaigned on his desire to continue implementing home rule and work with other council members to figure out solutions to tackle county debt and other problems.

Ciaruffoli Taffera, Giamber and Heffron had teamed up with Sorokas in a billboard campaign. They said they share similar views but insisted they would not be a voting bloc on council.

This team had received heavy support from elected tax collectors who were angry about council’s decision to switch to the in-house collection of county property taxes. Councilman Edward Brominski also publicly endorsed the four candidates.

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