PLYMOUTH — Politics has always been part of the fabric of this West Side town, and this primary season is no different.
Nine Democrats are vying for four nominations on the Democratic borough council ticket and three Republicans will breeze through Tuesday’s primary and head to the November general election.
Two Democratic incumbents — Ronald Kobusky and Stanley “Tubby” Scibek — are running as a team with George Mizzer and current borough coordinator and Democratic Party Chairman Joe Mazur.
Three others are endorsed by incumbents Cliff Madrak and Bill Dixon: Gary Kochinski Jr., Adam Morehart and Steve Gerko.
Incumbent Frank Coughlin is running on his own, as is James Mahon, a former school teacher and basketball coach.
The three Republicans running are Mary Jarrett, Mark Ktytor and Matthew Hornick.
There are two distinct factions running on the Democratic tickets and two individuals not aligned with either.
Bonus an issue
The first group is headed by Mazur, the borough coordinator who makes $20,000 per year and who came under fire when he received a $7,999 bonus for long hours put in during three flood events in the borough. Mazur took home $5,000 of that bonus after taxes.
If elected, Mazur would have to decide to either keep the seat or resign his elected position on the Wyoming Valley West School Board. He would also lose his coordinator’s job if he assumed a seat on council.
Mazur is also a member of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority and Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority. Some of his critics say he’s involved in too much and it’s time for change.
The current seven members of council are: Madrak, Dixon, Tom McTague, Scibek, Kobusky, Coughlin and Al Petcavage. All are Democrats.
Madrak said Petcavage, Kobusky and Scibek always vote together and are usually joined by McTague and Coughlin, leaving him and Dixon as the consistent minority faction.
So how does Madrak, 67, see changing the political stripes of Plymouth?
“The people got to come out and vote,” he said. “The only place to beat this kind of political corruption and secrecy is at the ballot box.”
Plymouth is a town of some 5,800 residents — 2,100 are registered Democrats and 733 are Republicans. Madrak said the word he hears on the street is that it’s time to “get rid of Mazur” and his excessive influence.
Madrak said the bonus is a big issue in the campaign, along with the failed attempt to remove Dixon from council because of his background. The Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office declined to get involved and Dixon received a pardon from Gov. Tom Corbett.
“And there is the lack of transparency,” Madrak said. “That’s the reason there are so many candidates running. Those of us not in the majority agree on that.”
Madrak said — and he has said it before — that the town needs “new blood.” He said he and Dixon will support any candidate who opposes Mazur and the current majority.
“We’re not getting a fair shake,” Madrak said. “There are two governments in Plymouth — the one we and the public sees and the secret one that nobody ever sees or hears what is really going on.”
Mazur, 72, said if he gets elected in November he will then decide which seat to resign — the WVW School Board or borough council.
“That’s a long way off,” he said.
Mazur said he’s not surprised at all of the opposition candidates in the race. He said if his candidates lose the majority, he’s sure he will lose his coordinator’s position.
Police staffing an issue
Mazur said people in the borough want more police. The force currently has four full-time officers and six to eight part-timers. He said the town’s budget is $1.25 million and half of that is used for the police department.
“We can’t spend any more without raising taxes,” he said. “We need repairs to our buildings that haven’t been touched since they were built. Even if we had a police officer on every corner, we would still have crime.”
Responding to critics that say he wears too many political hats, Mazur said he’s brought more funding to the borough than anybody.
“If they think they can do better, let them try,” he said. “But none of them have the contacts or connections I have.”
Mazur said he deserved the bonus, saying he worked 14 to 18 hours per day during the three flood events. He said he has always worked long hours for the betterment of the town where he grew up and which he still loves.
“I love Plymouth; I’ve spent my entire life here,” he said. “I prepare the budget every year, but I never include a raise for myself.”