Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson launched her re-election campaign Tuesday night in what’s sure to be a hard-fought contest for the Democratic nomination.
City Controller Dan Miller is challenging her in the primary, saying the city needs a financial professional to lead it during these particularly challenging times. Other city leaders are mulling bids, but Miller has explicitly stated he’s running.
Thompson made her address to a crowd of dozens of friends, family and city employees in Uptown Harrisburg, displaying signs that read “Onward.”
“In order to govern, you’ve got to have experience. You’ve got to have knowledge. You’ve got to be smart, and you’ve got to be strong. And, you’ve got to have perspective,” said Thompson.
Thompson made history in the Capital City, when she became the city’s first black and female mayor. She defeated so-called “Mayor for Life” Stephen Reed in the 2009 Democratic primary. In the general election, she narrowly beat Republican Nevin Mindlin.
Since her election, critics have questioned her ability to lead the city, some even poking fun at her intelligence. She addressed them Tuesday saying, “I am a smart woman,” receiving a standing ovation from supporters.
During her address, the mayor repeatedly chided politicians and others who’ve supported declaring bankruptcy as a means for the city to get its finances in order.
“The cynics have failed,” Thompson said. She called bankruptcy “the coward’s way.”
She talked about the lessons she’s learned during her first term, including the conversations she’s had with residents in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
She praised the work of the city’s state-appointed receiver, Maj. Gen. William Lynch, and the efforts to enact the Act 47 recovery plan. Thompson has supported the plan, including the recent move to raise the city’s earned income tax by 1 percent.
Miller said he rejects the notion that a bankruptcy declaration would be bad for the city.
“Bankruptcy is a positive tool. It’s not something you strive for. It’s not something you want to do. But, when you’re in the terrible financial situation we’re in, bankruptcy is your friend,” Miller said.
Before being elected controller, Miller served on City Council. He said his career in accounting makes him strongly suited to lead the city.
“You can’t set the finances aside. Everything is about finances, and that’s what’s so crucial to our city. And, that’s why I think it’s important that I get elected,” said Miller.
Miller and Thompson have butted heads repeatedly, including in a long court battle over the sale of the city’s Wild West artifacts. After a Dauphin County judge recently ruled her way, the mayor had two court documents blown up and displayed in City Hall.
The primary is May 21.