Following his win Tuesday in Harrisburg’s Democratic mayoral primary, Midtown Scholar Bookstore owner Eric Papenfuse sat down with FOX43 to discuss the campaign and what’s next.
“We were asked repeatedly over the campaign, are you going to be able to come together when this is all over? And, the answer is yes. It’s not going to be a problem at all,” said Papenfuse.
Papenfuse won the race with 2,480 votes. City Controller Dan Miller finished second with 2,084. Current Mayor Linda Thompson was in third with 1,816.
Papenfuse said he has reached out to the mayor and plans to meet with her and the state-appointed receiver next week.
Should he win the November general election, he would take office next year. He pointed out key decisions in the city’s financial recovery will be made sooner than that.
“So, the role of the next mayor is going to be to implement these plans. And, by plans I’m also including the recovery plan for the school district,” said Papenfuse.
The primary was contentious, with Papenfuse running television ads attacking Thompson and Miller for their roles on City Council as the city’s financial situation deteriorated.
Thompson said her legacy as mayor would be beginning the process of turning around the disaster that awaited her when she took office in 2010.
Papenfuse said, “The difference in my style is, perhaps, that I’m going to be consensus-based. I’m going to be trying to bring people together.”
He said that carries over into crime issues as well. The city has already seen eight homicides this year. He said he envisions himself as a “crime czar,” going into communities when major crimes happen.
Fox43 asked, “Should we expect some significant changes in how the police bureau is run, should you take office?”
Papenfuse responded, “Yes, I think so. But, I’m going to lead on the crime issue in a way which really seeks to engage the community and engage the grassroots.”
To take over as mayor, he’ll have to fend off a challenge from independent candidate Nevin Mindlin, who is also on November’s ballot. He ran as a Republican in 2009, losing to Mayor Thompson.
Mindlin came out swinging Wednesday, criticizing Papenfuse’s ties to former supporters of Mayor Stephen Reed.
“He has decided to buy into the same political powers and funders that really ran us into this difficulty already,” said Mindlin. “Game is on.”
Papenfuse responded to Minldin saying, “Steve Reed was elected for 28 years. A lot of people supported Steve Reed over those 28 years. And, we need to bring them into the fold along with the supporters of Mayor Thompson.”
But, Democrats enjoy a significant voter registration advantage in the city, leaving them confident Papenfuse will win. He talked about wanting a smooth transition of power from Mayor Thompson. He plans to have listening sessions throughout the city and to put together a leadership team.
Fox43 asked, “Do you anticipate bringing in a whole new team to run the city?” He said, “I think we’ll have a lot of new folks with talent, and I hope to recruit the best and the brightest.”
County officials are also counting write-in ballots on the Republican side. They haven’t released results yet.