HAZLETON — Michael Marsicano, former Hazleton mayor and a pilot who flew key players in the Kids for Cash scandal to a Florida where their condominium was located, announced his bid Sunday for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta.
Marsicano read from a prepared text and did not take questions from the media in the brief announcement on the steps of the former Hazleton High School from which he graduated in 1966.
To date he is the only candidate to announce for the 11th Congressional District. Barletta, a Republican and also a former mayor of Hazleton, is serving a third, two-year term.
Marsicano, 67, used the school that’s been renovated and in use as an elementary school for the Hazleton Area School District as a metaphor for his campaign.
“In the same way that so many people thought this building behind me was done, unrepairable, I ask for your support to embark on a journey to a destination of fixing a broken Congress,” he told the crowd of approximately 100 people. “How? First and foremost by listening to you. Second by offering a new common sense bipartisan direction which offers solutions to the middle, and third by refusing to engage in a negative campaign of accusations and personal attacks.”
His announcement was short on policy and touched on popular themes of Washington gridlock, term limits and working to strengthen the middle class.
He acknowledged changing his party allegiance to support Republican candidates, but stressed he has always considered him “a blue-collar, traditional Democrat.”
The staged event came almost a year after Marsicano signed a declaration detailing his associations with Robert Powell and former Luzerne County Judge Michael Conahan, both involved in the scandal that led to a wider probe of corruption involving elected, government and school district officials in the county. The document, signed July 15, 2014, by Marsicano was filed in a civil suit between Gregory Zappala, the owner of the juvenile detention centers at the heart of the scandal, and Powell, who was a former co-owner and business partner of Zappala.
Neither attorneys Bill Vinsko of Wilkes-Barre nor James Senape of Hazleton, who attended the rally, said Marsicano’s history will work against him.
Vinsko, who lost in the 2012 Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District, said Marsicano’s call for “a new common sense” is something that’s needed in Washington, D.C.
“He’s a hardworking guy and he is out for the future,” Vinsko said.
Senape described Marsicano as lifelong friend whose families lived within a block of one another in Hazleton.
“Sometimes we’ve all had people who we confided in, who were our friends. We thought they were trustworthy and it turns out that they created a lot of problems,” Senape said.
“There’s no doubt about that Mike had put a lot of faith in Powell,” who served as the former mayor’s solicitor, Senape said. He pointed out that Marsicano was not charged with any crime despite an intense and extensive corruption probe by federal investigators.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLNews