KINGSTON — Aaron Kaufer has been cleaning up his old political campaign office at 258 Wyoming Ave. Now he may need the space for a future run.
Kaufer, 25, the Republican candidate in the race for the 120th Legislative District in 2012, ran well against Democratic incumbent Phyllis Mundy.
With Mundy’s announcement Monday that she will not seek a 13th term in the state House, rumors of possible candidates began to swirl.
“I guess you can say the rumors may be true,” Kaufer said Monday, adding he has received several calls urging him to run next year.
The 120th District was long a Republican stronghold until Mundy won in 1990, and she has held the seat since.
Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty, while declining to say whether he would be interested in seeking the seat, offered congratulations to Mundy.
“Despite being of different political parties, I can say that Phyllis has been an effective legislator who has always worked diligently for her constituents,” Haggerty, a Republican, said. “Let’s set aside politics for today and acknowledge Phyllis for a job well done.”
Wyoming Mayor Bob Boyer, chairman of the Luzerne County Democratic Party, expects a busy field with several candidates expected to vie for the coveted seat.
“Phyllis has done such a good job for such a long time that it will be very difficult to fill her shoes,” Boyer said. “She has done so much for the elderly, for children, for education during her tenure.”
Boyer, whose name has been mentioned as a possible candidate, quickly dismissed the idea. He said his priority is to remain in teaching. Boyer is a criminal justice professor at Luzerne County Community College.
Waiting on the party
Boyer said he has heard several names as possible candidates, but he reserved comment until he hears from the state Democratic Party.
“I’ve notified the county executive committee members about Rep. Mundy’s decision to not seek reelection,” Boyer said. “We will discuss it after the New Year. I expect there to be several candidates.”
Gary Mack, 55, Democratic chairman of Edwardsville Borough Council, said he has been approached about running, and he is giving it serious consideration. Mack, who teaches math and pre-algebra at the Wyoming Valley West Middle School, was elected to his second term on council in November. He thanked Mundy for her service.
“As an educator, I always found her to be very approachable and helpful,” he said.
That said, Mack said he feels he could move the district forward.
“I think my experience on council and as an educator provides me with the background for being a state legislator,” Mack said. “And my work ethic suits that of a state representative, which demands long hours and dedicated service.”
Mack said he will make his decision within a week or two, to give him time to prepare for the May primary.
Eileen Cipriani, legislative assistant to Mundy and president of West Wyoming Borough Council, is also giving serious consideration to entering the race. Cipriani, 50, worked in the toxicology department at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital until joining Mundy’s staff a year ago. She is also founder and president of the West Side Council of Governments.
“I intend to discuss it with my husband and kids and make an announcement after the holidays,” she said.
Cipriani lauded Mundy for her 23 years of service, saying she has done a fabulous job.
“We have been lucky to have her in Harrisburg for all those years,” Cipriani said. “Certainly hers are big shoes to fill.”
Laura Dennis, a 40-year-old attorney from West Pittston, also is mulling a run. Dennis said she has received calls from people encouraging her to run, and she congratulated Mundy on creating a great legacy and an example for others to emulate.
“I know the next chapter of my life will be in public service,” Dennis said. “If I do decide to run it would be because I would bring something to the voters that would be valuable — a strong commitment — coupled with my legal experience and my education.”
Dennis said she wants to run for elective office; she has to decide if the state legislature would be the best fit for her.
Kaufer, of Kingston, said Mundy is owed a debt of gratitude for her years of service.
“I wish her all the best,” he said. “Over the next couple of weeks, I will be talking with family, friends and supporters to determine our next step. My decision will be based on how I can best make a positive difference for our area.”