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2013 Mayoral Race in Harrisburg


Mayoral race in Harrisburg for 2013.

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Though there already have been a handful of debates in the fall campaign season, Thursday’s forum was the first to feature all four candidates in the race for Harrisburg mayor.

City Controller Dan Miller was quick to criticize the current administration, revealing a major error he says he caught earlier in the day related to the payroll.

Miller said an employee submitted a time sheet seeking to be paid for 396 hours of work in a two-week period. There are 336 hours in two weeks.

“And, that paycheck was $19,000. And, that’s the kind of incompetence, that’s the kind of bad management that we have in the city. No wonder we’re struggling financially,” said Miller, adding he stopped payment.

After the debate, the city’s chief operating officer, Bob Philbin, said the issue pertained to an employee in the city’s fire bureau. Philbin said he did not know how the error occurred. He said he has a meeting scheduled Friday to learn more.

Miller is on the ballot as a Republican even though he’s a registered Democrat. He won the most write-in votes on the GOP side during the May primary.

The Greater Harrisburg NAACP hosted the event at the community center in Allison Hill, which is where several teens were shot earlier this month following a youth party.

With people in the neighborhood concerned about what happened, many of the audience-submitted questions focused on crime.

Democrat Eric Papenfuse, who won his party’s primary in May, advocated for more community engagement and vowed changes in police management.

“We need to go back to block captains, and they need to be involved in neighborhood watches. And, we need to have a community actively playing a role,” said Papenfuse. “(Officers) don’t want to be just reacting from crime to crime, and racing to stop the bleeding.”

Miller added, “We need to get illegal guns off the street. We need a unit that focuses just on that.” He also said tackling crime, like many other issues in the city, ultimately relies on getting the city’s finances in order.

Write-in candidates Lewis Butts and Aaron Johnson also took part in the debate. They expressed their concerns about lifting the residency requirement for officers.

As part of negotiations with the police union, officers no longer will be required to live in the city.

“If you don’t live here, you’re not culturally competent to reflect what our society and our community is,” said Butts.

Johnson said, “If a white police officer, they got to have a talk with a black young man or a Latino young man, they’ve got to be able to talk to them.”

Election Day is November 5.

At the third debate of the fall election season, the candidates for Harrisburg mayor clashed again over the “Harrisburg Strong Plan,” disagreeing about its potential success of ridding the city of its massive debt.

“This plan is a plan that was created of, by and for the creditors of the city,” said City Controller Dan Miller. Though Miller is a Democrat, he’s running as a Republican because he got the most write-in votes among Republican voters in the May primary.

The Strong Plan, which the city’s receiver released at the end of August, outlines how the city will sell off its incinerator and parking assets, structure taxes for the next few years and make payments to the city’s creditors.

Debt on the incinerator alone is estimated to be about $362 million, a figure which has grown as time has passed.

Democrat Eric Papenfuse said he wishes there had been more community engagement in the creation of the plan, but he believes it’s a necessary path to financial recovery.

Without the Strong Plan, Papenfuse says, “We will go bankrupt. And, going bankrupt, we won’t be able to pay for essential services.”

He later said, “My question then to Dan Miller is, so what is your plan? It is simply not enough to say no, no, no. This is a bad plan.”

Miller cited his years on City Council and work in the financial sector as evidence of his ability to create a different plan.

“I have the ability to come up with a plan, and that’s the thing. And, I have the ability to understand that plan. And, I don’t know that everyone else has that ability,” said Miller.

The candidates largely agree reform of the city’s police bureau is needed. They also want to see the riverfront property better used to promote economic development in the city.

Lewis Butts, a write-in candidate who lost in the Democratic primary, has made the river the centerpiece of his campaign.

He told the other candidates, “Bring something new to the game. I’m going to spearhead the hydroelectric dam because the river never stops.”

Aaron Johnson, deputy director of public works, is also waging a write-in campaign. He did not participate in Thursday’s debate, which the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Central PA hosted.

Harrisburg Mayoral Candidate, Eric Papenfuse, stops by the FOX43 studio to talk to us about the other candidates and his plans if he should win the race.

A Dauphin County judge ordered Thursday two candidates be removed from the ballot in the race for Harrisburg mayor.

Both Nevin Mindlin and Nate Curtis filed to run as independents, but Judge Bernard Coates found separate issues with their candidacies.

In Curtis’ case, the judge ruled he hasn’t lived in Harrisburg long enough to serve as mayor. Though Curtis grew up in the city, he moved out and was registered to vote in Cumberland County as recently as this spring.

He returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in April and moved into Midtown Harrisburg. The law says a candidate must live in the city one year prior to election.

“This political machine, it may have won this battle, but it hasn’t won the war. I’m going to continue to fight for my city. I’m going to continue to be involved in this city,” Curtis said.

He added he’s weighing his options but did not say whether he would appeal the judge’s decision.

As for Mindlin, the judge found he failed to include a list of people who would form a committee to appoint a replacement for him on the ballot should he be unable to run at some point.

Mindlin says he thought that section of the nomination papers didn’t apply to him since he’s running as an independent and called the judge’s decision “a bit surprising.”

“I’m trying to file on the ballot, with the support of my fellow citizens, as an individual. I am not a political party,” said Mindlin.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mindlin cited a section of state code that says “No nomination petition, nomination paper or nomination certificate shall be permitted to be filed if–(a) it contains material errors or defects apparent on the face thereof, or on the face of the appended or accompanying affidavits….”

Mindlin argued the county’s Bureau of Elections should have informed him of the issue with his nomination papers.

Mindlin did not say if he’ll appeal but did say, “I will not go away.” In his opinion, the judge said Mindlin still could run as a write-in candidate.

Though Democrat Eric Papenfuse’s name does not appear in the petitions challenging Mindlin and Curtis, Mindlin believes Papenfuse’s campaign played some role in filing them.

“This whole structure, this is part of the old regime that’s been fighting with me here. Eric Papenfuse is the new face of the old regime,” said Mindlin.

When the petitions were filed, Papenfuse was the only other candidate on the ballot. Since then, Dan Miller announced he will run as a Republican. Should nothing else change, their names will be the only ones on the ballot.

Papenfuse denies his campaign had any involvement. However, he did say he “welcomes” the judge’s decisions.

“I was glad that the judge made a swift and clear decision. I respect the rule of law. I think it’s good we can now move on, and it sort of clarified the ballot,” said Papenfuse.

Judge Coates also ruled Thursday Jennifer Smallwood should be removed from the ballot in the controller’s race, citing the same issue as he did with Mindlin. The decision leaves Democrat Charles DeBrunner as the only candidate on the ballot in that race.

A Dauphin County Court judges rules Harrisburg mayoral candidates Nevin Mindlin and Nate Curtis names be stricken from the November election ballot. The ruling was handed down just after 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon.

The nomination papers filed by the two candidates were challenged in separate petitions.  The petition against Mindlin on the grounds that they failed to name three to five people who’d pick a ballot replacement, if needed.  And Curtis on the grounds that he had not established legal residency in the city.

WPMT Fox43 News sits down with Harrisburg mayoral candidate Dan Miller to talk to him about re-entering the race.

The field of four men on the ballot to be Harrisburg’s mayor could be reduced this week.

Dauphin County Judge Bernard Coates is hearing challenges to two men’s candidacies, including Nevin Mindlin and Nate Curtis. Both are running as independents.

Mindlin went before the judge Monday after city resident Donald Lee Coles, Sr., filed a petition questioning whether Mindlin had properly filled out the paperwork to get on the ballot.

In his petition, Coles cites a section where candidates are asked to list a committee of people “to fill a vacancy, should one occur, as required by the Election Code.” Coles points out Mindlin did not do that.

Since he’s running as an independent, Mindlin questions why such a move would be necessary.

“So, in fact, the question is do independents really have to fit in to this in some fashion, not that I wouldn’t have gladly done it if I’d known,” said Mindlin.

Mindlin added county election officials have contacted him a couple times over the course of the year to correct any mistakes or file any missing documents. He said election officials told him his nomination papers were fine.

“I’m an independent American citizen who’s trying to get on the ballot, so the idea of someone replacing me was…the idea wasn’t clear. It didn’t cross my mind,” said Mindlin.

Attorney Ronald Katzman is representing Coles. He declined to appear on camera but said, “We wouldn’t have brought the petition on behalf of our client if there weren’t grounds for it.”

Katzman said he wasn’t sure what compelled Coles to look into the issue in the first place.

Independent Nate Curtis believes Democrat Eric Papenfuse or his supporters are somehow behind these legal challenges.

Joyce Davis, a spokeswoman for Papenfuse, said the campaign is not involved. She declined a request for an on-camera interview.

In Curtis’ case, residents Autumn Cooper Joseph Lahr is challenging a few things about his candidacy, including whether he meets the residency requirement, his financial disclosures and whether he also should have included a committee to fill a vacancy should one arise.

Curtis was serving overseas in Afghanistan until this spring. He moved to Midtown Harrisburg in April.

“But, we had the intent of wanting to move back to Harrisburg for the longest time, even before my deployment,” said Curtis, who grew up in the city.

In their petition, Cooper and Lahr point out Curtis was registered to vote in Cumberland County until April 19. They also point out the law requires a candidate live in the city for one year before the general election. Election Day is November 5.

An attorney representing Lahr and Cooper did not return calls seeking comment.

“There are no secrets behind me. There are no strings attached, no conspiracy theories. I truly believe that I will be vindicated with all these issues surrounding this campaign,” said Curtis.

The judge will hear the case against Curtis Wednesday morning.

People involved in the two cases expect decisions from the judge some time this week.

Local News

A twist in the Harrisburg mayoral race

The race for mayor in Harrisburg seems to be changing every day.

Two independent candidates will go before a Dauphin County judge on Monday to face election petitions that may knock them out of the race.

FOX43 spoke with both candidates earlier and oddly enough this twist of fate has these two men on the same team.

Rewind back to last Tuesday when Dan Miller told FOX43 he wasn’t going to run.

Well between then and now he’s thrown his hat back in the race because he believes Nevin Mindlin and Nate Curtis will be forced out after Monday morning.

Independent candidate Nevin Mindlin says he found out Thursday night a petition was filed against him.

He says, “someone’s out to get him,” and he knows who it is.

“I have to believe this goes back to Eric Papenfuse’s political cronies one way or another,” says Mindlin.

Eric Papenfuse is running on the democratic ticket which he won back in May.

The petition filed claims that Mindlin didn’t name someone else to take his spot just in case he had to drop out.

“If I was unable to do it…there is no replacement for me. I’m an American citizen trying to run for office…this is simple and they’re saying no I’m sorry but you can’t do that,” says Mindlin.

The petition was filed by Donald Coles.

We went to his Brookwood Street home in Harrisburg to ask him why, but he didn’t answer the door.

Mindlin will face the same fight as his opponent, Nate Curtis.

Curtis tells FOX43, “This is nothing but the Papenfuse campaign and his supporters grasping at straws to make sure he walks into office on election day.”

All this is what prompted Dan Miller to change his mind about running for Harrisburg mayor.

“My understanding is these are fatal errors and they’re probably going to be knocked off the ballot and so there’d be no competition, there’d be a race with just one candidate,” says Miller.

Miller originally stated that he didn’t have the money to run.

But that seemed to be the least of worries at a Friday press conference.

He doesn’t want Papenfuse to run uncontested because of petitions he believes were filed by his supporters.

“This is definitely the Papenfuse campaign, you ask Nate, you ask Nevin this.. it’s him,” says Miller.

Mindlin and Curtis had nothing negative to say about Miller being back in it.

Mindlin wants Miller’s voice to be part of this race.

“Dan really knows that Eric Papenfuse is not good for this community. There are many of us who believe that,” says Mindlin.

FOX43 put calls out to Eric Papenfuse and his campaign, those weren’t returned.

But in the past, Papenfuse has said these petitions filed against Mindlin and Curtis have nothing to do with him.

City Controller Dan Miller (D) has found some love from Harrisburg Republicans.

He received the most write-in votes after Tuesday’s primary. Of 424 Republican write-in votes cast, Miller received 196, according to an unofficial results from the Dauphin County Bureau of Registration and Elections.

Eric Papenfuse, who won the hotly contested Democratic primary, received 162 Republican write-in votes.

No Republicans were on Tuesday’s ballot.

To be on the November ballot, a candidate not only had to get the most write-in votes, but that vote total had to be at least 100.

A letter will go to Dan Miller after the election results are certified. That will happen by June 10. He will have until August 12 to tell election officials if he wants to accept the nomination and appear on the ballot. If he does not respond, he will not appear on the ballot.

On Tuesday as the Democratic primary votes were being counted, Miller told the Patriot-News, “I don’t see myself running for office again. I’m not a politician.”

Papenfuse won the primary with 2,480 votes. Miller finished second with 2,084. Current Mayor Linda Thompson was in third with 1,816.

But on Friday, Miller’s campaign manager left the door open for a possible run this fall.

Chuck Ardo said, “Dan is taking a few days off and will decide what to do next when he gets back. But, I can tell you many of his supporters resent the negative and dishonest campaign Eric Papenfuse ran and feel strongly that Dan should stay in the race.”