WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County’s 11 school-board elections remain relatively non-competitive for the upcoming primary .
The overall numbers may not look too bad — according to an unofficial list released by the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections, there are 59 candidates running for a combined 48 seats.
But a close look shows the real competition is reserved for just a handful of districts.
Five districts have no competition at all, with an equal number of candidates and seats: Greater Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Lake-Lehman, Northwest Area and Wyoming Valley West. In fact, Northwest Area has only enough candidates to fill four open four-year seats, with no one running for an available two-year seat.
Wyoming Valley West did have a fifth candidate, Adam Morehart, but Director of Elections Marissa Crispell said Thursday his name will be removed.
Wyoming Valley West is one of only two districts in the county that elects school board members by region, and Crispell said Morehart filed to run in Region 2 but does not live there.
Two districts have only one candidate more than there are seats available. Crestwood has six candidates running for five seats, while Wilkes-Barre Area has five candidates running for four posts.
Things are a bit less competitive in Crestwood than the numbers suggest. The district has four seats for four-year terms and one seat for a two-year term, and Barry Boone has filed to run for the two-year seat and a four-year seat. If he wins a four-year seat, the two-year seat would be wide open for an independent candidate, or for write-ins. If he wins both seats, he would likely vacate the two-year seat.
The lack of competition in Wilkes-Barre Area may be a bit surprising, considering how much heat the current board has been taking for plans to consolidate Coughlin and Meyers high schools. Yet when it came time for prospective candidates to file petitions and get on the ballot, three who did so were incumbents who have firmly supported the consolidation: Joe Caffrey, Denise Thomas and Ned Evans.
Of the two newcomers who are running in Wilkes-Barre Area, only Melissa Etzle Patla has been a constant voice against consolidation plans. She is a member of the Save Our Schools organization formed in an effort to maintain some form of the current three high-school system. The other newcomer, Albert Horoszy, has spoken in support of consolidation.
School board candidates can and routinely do cross-file to run on both the Democratic and Republican tickets, as the incumbents did in Wilkes-Barre Area. Patla and Horoszy are running on the Democratic slate only.
Pittston Area and Wyoming Area both have six candidates running for four seats, while Hazleton Area — often the county’s most competitive race — has seven candidates running for four seats, including Dr. Robert Childs, a pediatrician and former board member who has routinely tallied some of the highest vote counts.
Dallas has eight candidates seeking five seats.